Sunday, September 14, 2003

Younger France is named NASCAR CEO

The Associated Press

LOUDON, N.H. - Bill France Jr. turned over control of NASCAR to his son Saturday, ending a three-decade run in which stock car racing expanded from its backroad roots to a multibillion dollar industry.

Brian France was appointed NASCAR's board chairman and chief executive.

The elder France will remain co-vice chairman and an active member of the board of directors.

Jim France, the younger son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., will also be co-vice chairman and remain executive vice president of the sanctioning body, series vice president Jim Hunter announced at New Hampshire International Speedway.

"Brian is well prepared to lead this sport and this company into the future," Bill France Jr. said in a statement. "I am confident the future of NASCAR is in very capable hands.

His father, known as "Big Bill," started the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1948 to organize and promote what was then a chaotic sport that began with ex-moonshiners looking for a place to display their skill.

When Bill Sr. turned day-to-day management over to his eldest son in 1972, NASCAR was established.

Bill France Jr., 70, has led the transformation of NASCAR into the nation's second-most popular professional sports league behind the NFL.

Supporters have called the leadership by both "Big Bill" and Bill Jr. a "benevolent dictatorship," saying that has been a major reason for NASCAR's popularity.

While other sports split into warring factions, the Frances have been able to control the direction and growth of stock car racing with little opposition.

Brian France, 41, has had a diverse career at NASCAR, acting as a racetrack manager to help develop and manage the company's Weekly and Touring Series division, and launching the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He also was a key figure in launching NASCAR's new research and development facility.

He took over NASCAR's marketing responsibilities in 1994 and has been a big part of the series' dramatic growth in the last decade, including signing Nextel as the series sponsor beginning in 2004.

The telecommunications company will replace longtime sponsor Winston.

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