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Dale Jr. Download: Richard Childress’ fighting advice: ‘Always take off your watch’

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Richard Childress learned a valuable lesson in the 1970s when it came to getting into a brawl. Take off your watch.

“We used to go out to the bars and have a good time and everything,” Childress recalled on this week’s Dale Jr. Download (airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “We were up at an old bar at Daytona one night and a big fight broke out. I happened to be in it. I had a Rolex. First Rolex I ever had in my life. I lost it in that fight. Ever since that you always take your watch off.”

That creed is now synonymous with Childress thanks to a 2011 altercation with Kyle Busch.

But the buildup to that confrontation began the previous year in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We were running for the (Cup) championship,” Childress said. “The 18 (Busch) was kind of holding Kevin (Harvick) up. Kevin wrecked him coming off of (Turn) 4.

“That night, hell, I was good friends with Kyle. We were eating at a place and him and I think his girlfriend at the time, this was before he got married, and a guy from Toyota was there. (Toyota) had won the (Truck) championship.”

Childress went over to congratulate them on the Truck championship.

“You know I’m going to wreck your car?” Busch said, according to Childress.

“What do you mean?” Childress asked.

“Kevin wrecked me today. I’m going to wreck your car,” Busch repeated.

“What you need to do is wreck his Xfinity car, don’t wreck my car,” Childress said.

Kevin Harvick wrecks in the 2011 Southern 500. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“Nope, I got to do it in Cup,” Busch said, according to Childress.

That didn’t sit well with Childress.

“If you wreck my car I’m going to whip your ass,” he told Busch.

Six months later, Busch and Harvick were in a wreck in the closing laps at Darlington. The fallout spilled onto pit road, where Harvick reached into Busch’s car and Busch sped away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.

“So they carried us over in the (NASCAR) trailer,” Childress said. “Got on to all four of us. I think Joe (Gibbs) was in there. Kyle and me and Kevin. I just told them what I was going to do and I kept my word.”

Three race weekends later, Busch was upset by how RCR driver Joey Coulter raced him in the closing laps of the Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway. That led to Busch rubbing fenders with him on the cool down lap.

Afterward, a watchless Childress confronted Busch in the garage and put him in a headlock

During Childress’ visit to the Dale Jr. Download, he also recalled a feud from Dale Earnhardt’s heyday.

Childress doesn’t remember how the late 1980s rivalry between Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine started, but he’s sure of one thing.

“It was one of those deals where whatever he gave that guy, Bodine, he deserved,” Childress said. “It was one of them deals we didn’t want to be run over and they started it. In my opinion, he started it. Once it started, we wasn’t going to be the ones to give up. Mr. France helped us give up.”

“Mr. France” was Bill France, Jr., the president of NASCAR at the time who played a hand in diffusing the rivalry that inspired Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns’ feud in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder.

“A lot of the story part was true,” Childress recalled. “But it didn’t all go down like that. I remember Bill France bringing us in there and telling us, ‘I want to see you guys running and if you have to run on each side of the race track, you’re not going to get together again.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to destroy our sport.'”

There is one detail about the film, which Childress has only seen once, that he took issue with.

“They had some fat guy doing me as the owner (actor Randy Quaid) and I didn’t like that,” Childress said.

Friday 5: A final quest at a ‘childhood dream’

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Elliott Sadler is blunt when he considers his NASCAR career ending without a championship.

“(It) would be a huge void in my life,” he said.

The 43-year-old driver, in his 22nd and final full-time NASCAR season, makes his last run at an Xfinity title beginning with tonight’s playoff opener at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Four times in the last seven years Sadler finished runner-up for the Xfinity crown, including last season when he lost the title in the final laps to JR Motorsports teammate William Byron.

“Last year really hurt,” Sadler said. “Really, really hurt. We were in position to win that championship. I don’t know if I’m 100 percent over it yet.”

Sadler was upset last year with Ryan Preece, who slowed Sadler by challenging him for position as Sadler tried to hold off Byron with 10 laps left. Byron got by Sadler. Any hopes Sadler had for a title ended when he made contact with Preece’s car and cut a right front tire. 

Sadler’s anger bubbled after the race and he yelled at Preece on pit road as NASCAR officials stood between them.

Sadler, who competed full-time in Cup from 1999-2010, has called it a “childhood dream” to win a NASCAR championship.

“If we’re not able to win a championship, it would definitely be a scar in my mind of not being a NASCAR champion after putting 20 years of effort into it, after being a kid and a fan and dreaming of being a part of this sport,” he said. “Now, that will not define me as a dad or define me as a person. I’ll still be able, hopefully, to do good things in my community, but it will definitely leave a mark.”

Before he gets to that point, he will have to get through his final race at his home track tonight. Richmond Raceway will honor the Emporia, Virginia, native by having Sadler’s children help with the command to start engines.

Even better for him would be going to Victory Lane with his family. Sadler has never won at Richmond in 56 starts in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. Asked to recall his biggest moment at the track, he instantly brings up the 2005 Xfinity race when Carl Edwards bumped him out of the lead on the last lap to win.

“I’m probably more nervous about going to Richmond, trying to win the race than I am trying to make it to Homestead,” Sadler said.

When the season ends in two months, don’t expect to see Sadler at the track often in the future.

“I don’t see myself involved in any racing at all,” Sadler said of his post-driving career. “I’ve been offered a job to come do TV, but I don’t see traveling away from home to talk about racing.”

Instead he’ll coach youth sports teams.

“My dad was a huge coach growing up,” Sadler said. “My brother is a wonderful coach and I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I love it. We’re at the facility every night hopefully changing kids’ lives. It would be hard for me to do both at 100 percent. It’s not really that I’m retiring from racing, I’m retiring to coaching and to my kids.”

2. What might have been

Jimmie Johnson has witnessed how fine a line it is between winning and finishing in the pack the past two weeks.

At Indianapolis and Las Vegas, Johnson ran with Brad Keselowski during parts of those races only to see Keselowski win both and Johnson finish far behind.

After the end of stage 2 at Indianapolis, Keselowski was 16th and Johnson was 17th. About 30 laps later, Keselowski was third and Johnson fifth. Keselowski went on to win and Johnson finished 16th.

At Las Vegas, Keselowski was sixth and Johnson seventh with just over 100 laps left. Keselowski won. Johnson was headed for a top-five finish before contact late in the race with Kurt Busch’s car cut a tire and forced Johnson to pit. Johnson finished 22nd.

Keselowski has said that he has not had the fastest car in each of the three races he’s won heading into Saturday night’s race at Richmond (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team seek to perform the way Keselowski’s team has.

“Drivers make mistakes,” Johnson said. “Pit stops can go wrong. Unfortunate racing luck can happen. To get all of that to rise together, it takes a little bit of time. We have made a nice jump in speed. I still think we have some room to go there, but now we need to execute on all levels and take advantages of those opportunities that (Keselowski) has.”

While the team seeks to find that speed and execute, Johnson has gone winless in a career-long 50 races.

“I’ve been in a deeper hole before, my own personal experiences in motorsports,” Johnson said, referring to early in his career in off-road racing and then in NASCAR when he “risked it all” and moved to North Carolina to pursue a career in stock car racing.

“I didn’t have as big a spotlight on me and wasn’t a seven-time champion, so nobody really remembers those except me. So I know I will get through this. I’ve been through worse.

“We are moving the right direction. I believe we have hit the valley and are climbing back out.”

He’ll need to do so to advance to the next round of the playoffs. Johnson enters Richmond six points behind teammate Alex Bowman for the final cutoff spot to the second round.

3. Cole Custer’s self-assessment

With no driver announced for the No. 41 Cup car next year at Stewart-Haas Racing, it was easy for some to think that Cole Custer could move up to that ride.

Car owner Gene Haas seemed to quell such talk last weekend at Las Vegas. While saying he believes Custer “is a good talent,” Haas said of the young driver: “He needs to prove that he can win consistently in Xfinity before I think we’ll consider him for a Cup ride.”

Custer has one Xfinity victory in 64 career series starts. He’s placed second or third in five races this season.

So where does Custer believe he needs to improve?

“I think there are little things that I can do better,” he said. “Having the Cup experience this year has helped me with what happens in that series.

“I think for the most part I have speed every single weekend (in Xfinity). It’s just a matter getting the restarts right and working traffic better and controlling the race when you have the fastest car.”

Custer, who is in the Xfinity playoffs, also will run in Saturday’s Cup race. He’ll drive the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing. It will be Custer’s third career Cup start.

4. Going for 4 in a row

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are the only drivers to win four consecutive Cup races in the last 20 years. That’s the feat Brad Keselowski will seek to equal Saturday night at Richmond.

Since NSACAR’s modern era (1972), eight drivers have won four consecutive races: Cale Yarborough (1976), Darrell Waltrip (1981), Dale Earnhardt (1987), Harry Gant (1991), Bill Elliott (1992), Mark Martin (1993), Gordon (1998) and Johnson (2007).

5. NASCAR’s 5th President

Steve Phelps will become the fifth president in NASCAR’s history on Oct. 1.

Bill France Sr. held the position from 1948-72. Bill France Jr. took over from his father until 2000. Mike Helton was in that role from 2000-2015 before he was promoted to Vice Chairman of NASCAR.

The president’s position was not filled after Helton’s promotion until Brent Dewar took over that role July 13, 2017. Phelps is replacing Dewar, who will remain with NASCAR through the end of the season and transition to a senior consulting and advisory role in 2019.

Phelps will oversee all competition and business operations for the sanctioning body in his new role.

He has been more visible at races lately and presented Kyle Busch the regular-season champion’s trophy at two weeks ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In January, Phelps, as NASCAR’s chief global sales and marketing officer at the time, was thrust into the controversy about how NASCAR marketed younger drivers after Busch complained about the tactics and Clint Bowyer raised questions about the sanctioning body’s actions.

In July, Phelps defended the sport’s ability to attract sponsors.

“I think there’s a misconception out there that sponsorship in NASCAR is not doing well, and that’s not true,” he said at Pocono Raceway during an announcement that Gander Mountain will sponsor the Truck Series beginning in 2019. “We have more sponsors in this sport today than we’ve ever had. We’ve got almost half the Fortune 100, almost a third of the Fortune 500. It’s a lot of large companies who are in the sport not because it would be really cool to go racing. It’s because it works.

“So people tend to focus on, ‘Oh, my gosh, sponsor A left and sponsor B left,’ and for us, it’s like, ‘Okay, well, C, D, E and F also came on board as brand new sponsors.’ And then a plethora of others have renewed or extended for a period of time.

“I think this industry tends to focus on the negative. I’m not really sure why.”

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France arrested, takes leave of absence

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France is taking a leave of absence after he was arrested by the Sag Harbor Village (New York) police at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday night for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree, the police stated in a release.

NASCAR issued a statement at 5 p.m. ET Monday announcing an interim leadership change: “Brian France has taken an indefinite leave of absence from NASCAR as chairman and chief executive officer. Effective immediately, NASCAR Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President Jim France has assumed the role of interim chairman and chief executive officer.”

Jim France, 73, is the son of NASCAR founder William H.G. France. He was vice chairman/executive vice president of NASCAR and is chairman of the board at International Speedway Corp. Jim France founded Grand-Am Road Racing in 1999 and played a role in the merger of that series and the American Le Mans Series in 2012 into what is now known as the International Motor Sports Association.

Police stated that Brian France, 56, was observed operating a 2017 Lexus northbound on Main Street and failed to stop at a posted stop sign. Upon the traffic stop, according to the release, police determined that France was operating the vehicle in an intoxicated condition. Police stated that a search revealed that France was in possession of oxycodone pills. Newsday, citing charging documents, reported that France had five yellow pills that were later determined to be oxycodone.

France, the grandson of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, was arrested and held overnight for arraignment Monday morning. He was arraigned in Harbor Village Justice Court and released on his own recognizance.

Said Brian France in a statement: “I apologize to our fans, our industry and my family for the impact of my actions last night. Effective immediately, I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from my position to focus on my personal affairs.”

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicle website lists the penalties for alcohol and drug-related violations. It states that aggravated driving while intoxicated is where an individual has a Blood Alcohol Content of .18 or higher. In New York, a person is considered driving while intoxicated if they have a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or higher or exhibit other evidence of intoxication.

The mandatory fine for aggravated driving while intoxicated is $1,000 – $2,500. The maximum jail term is one year. The mandatory driver license action is to revoke it for at least one year.

New York law defines criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree when a person knowingly and unlawfully possesses a controlled substance. It is a Class A misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor in New York is defined as an offense other than a traffic infraction in which a sentence in excess of 15 days but not greater than one year may be imposed. Upon conviction of a Class A misdemeanor, a court may sentence an individual to a maximum of one year in jail or three years probation. In addition, a fine of up to $1,000 or twice the amount of the individual’s gain from the crime may be imposed.

Sag Harbor Village is on Long Island, New York, and is located about 100 miles east of New York City.

France also had a previously reported driving incident in Daytona in 2006.

France became NASCAR’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in September 2003, taking leadership from his father Bill France Jr.

Under NASCAR’s Substance Abuse Policy, France could face disciplinary action. The policy states that “all NASCAR members are responsible for whatever goes into their body.”

TMZ.com first reported France’s arrest.

Nate Ryan and Daniel McFadin contributed to this story

Report: NASCAR memo: France family ‘dedicated to the long term growth’ of sport

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NASCAR President Brent Dewar told employees that the France family “remains dedicated to the long term growth of our sport” in an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

The memo was issued a day after a report by Reuters, citing unnamed sources, that the France family was in the exploratory stages of possibly selling their majority stake in the sanctioning body.

Dewar said in the memo that NASCAR does not comment on “industry rumors,” but did not mention a potential sale by the France family, which owns the sanctioning body founded by Bill France Sr. in 1948.

Bill France Jr. replaced his father as NASCAR President in 1972, a position he held until 2000. He was NASCAR’s Chairman and CEO until 2003 when Brian France took over from his father and has held the position since.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that “we do not have a comment on this.’’

In a February 2017 story, The Wall Street Journal reported the Brian France had sold his stake to other family members more than a decade earlier.

The WSJ story said Jim France, Brian’s uncle, and Lesa France Kennedy, Brian’s sister, still hold stakes in the privately held company, and that they must approve any “major changes” in NASCAR.

Jim France also is chairman of the board of publicly traded International Speedway Corp., which has Lesa France Kennedy as its CEO. ISC owns 12 tracks which play host to races on NASCAR’s premier circuit.

Report: France family exploring possible sale of NASCAR

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Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that the France family is exploring the possibility of selling their entire stake in NASCAR.

The report states that the France family is working with investment bank Goldman Sachs Group to identify a potential deal for the company, according to unnamed sources. Those sources also stated, according to the report, that the deliberations are at an exploratory stage, and no agreement of any kind is certain.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that “we do not have a comment on this.’’

Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1948 and the family’s heirs have run the organization since. Bill France Jr. replaced his father as NASCAR President in 1972, a position he held until 2000. He was NASCAR Chairman and CEO until 2003 when Brian France took over from his father and has held the position since.

In a February 2017 story, The Wall Street Journal reported the Brian France had sold his stake to other family members more than a decade earlier.

The WSJ story said Jim France, Brian’s uncle, and Lesa France Kennedy, Brian’s sister, still hold stakes in the privately held company, and that they must approve any “major changes” in NASCAR.

Jim France also is chairman of the board of publicly traded International Speedway Corp., which has Lesa France Kennedy as its CEO. ISC owns 12 tracks which play host to races on NASCAR’s premier circuit.