Former champion Brad Keselowski’s comments this week that NASCAR’s leader needs to be at the track more often is a refrain that has hounded NASCAR Chairman France throughout his reign.
Unlike his father, who was at the track each race and ruled from a perch near the NASCAR hauler, France has repeatedly said that the demands of running the sport are different and require him to be elsewhere. France, who became NASCAR Chairman in Sept. 2003, also notes that NASCAR executives are at the track each week when he isn’t.
Even so, Keselowski raised the issue when asked Wednesday what he would change if he was a NASCAR official for a day.
“If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport is at the race track every weekend,’’ the 2012 Cup champion said. “That would be my change.”
Keselowski explained why:
“It is important for any company that relies so heavily on outside partners to have a direct interface. This is such a big ship with so much going on week to week. With some respect, I would say that it is impossible for the sport to be managed with someone being here every week because of the travel situations being what they are and different things that come up. I completely understand that. But to some extent you have to be here.”
Asked about the sport’s future, Keselowski said: “There are some bright spots and some dark spots too. I think we would be arrogant to not think there aren’t some spots that could use some work. The sport isn’t going away tomorrow.”
Keselowski’s comments about NASCAR’s leadership come two years after Tony Stewart told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that drivers “never see Brian France” and were worried that he was not hearing their concerns.
“I want to see Brian France at the track more,’’ Stewart said in Jan. 2016. “I want to see him walking through the garage more. I want to see him being more active than just showing up and patting the sponsors on the back and going up in the suite. I want to see him down in the trenches with everybody and understanding what’s truly going on. I think that’s where he needs to be for a while.’’
Stewart also called for France to attend a driver’s council meeting. France indicated he had not attended those meetings to avoid stifling discussions between drivers and NASCAR.
“I want to see he cares enough to be there, not sit there and get a report from somebody,’’ Stewart told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio then.
France attended a driver’s council meeting in April 2016 at Talladega Superspeedway. France was in the meeting for about an hour before leaving for a prior commitment.
“There’s a tremendous amount of good faith that is earned when Brian comes to a meeting,’’ Keselowski said after that meeting.
This week wasn’t the first time Keselowski has raised questions about how NASCAR’s leadership operates. In 2013, Keselowski discussed his vision of the sport to USA Today and raised questions about how well France and his sister, Lesa France Kennedy, then president of International Speedway Corp.) worked together for the sport. Shortly after his comments, he met with both Frances separately.
In Nov. 2008, amid questions that were growing more prevalent about his absence in the garage, he was at Phoenix and spoke to the media for about 25 minutes in one of the longer sessions with the media that year.