Lesa France Kennedy

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NASCAR completes merger with International Speedway Corp.

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NASCAR announced Friday morning it had closed on its merger with International Speedway Corp.

Jim France will serve as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. Lesa France Kennedy will be the executive vice chair. Steve Phelps has been appointed president and will oversee all operations of the company.

“The merger of NASCAR and ISC represents a historic moment for our sport,” France said in a statement. “There is much work ahead of us, but we’re pleased with the progress made to position our sport for success. Delivering for our race fans and partners is job number one, and we look forward to doing that better than ever for years to come.”

As part of the new organization, the Board of Directors will consist of France, France Kennedy, Mike Helton and Gary Crotty, chief legal officer Phelps’ direct reports will include Ed Bennett, executive vice president & chief administrative officer; Jill Gregory, executive vice president & chief marketing and content officer; Craig Neeb, executive vice president & chief innovation officer; Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president & chief racing development officer; and Daryl Wolfe, executive vice president & chief operations and sales officer.

Helton and John Saunders will serve as senior advisors under the new leadership structure.

“With great racing across all of our series, an exciting 2020 schedule on tap, and the Next Gen race car in development, we are better positioned than ever before to lead the sport into a new era of growth,” said Phelps in a statement. “We have a strong, experienced leadership team in place with incredibly dedicated employees at every level throughout our organization. Our best days are ahead of us and our new organization is going to allow us to better deliver great racing to our fans everywhere.”

Jim France reaffirms that France family is ‘committed’ to NASCAR

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR Chairman Jim France spoke briefly to competitors at the start of the driver’s meeting Sunday, reaffirming the France family’s commitment to NASCAR and asking drivers to join Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott on the bottom lane during the Daytona 500 to “put on a good show today” after days of single-file racing at Speedweeks.

France, who took over for Brian France in August after his nephew’s arrest for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, represented NASCAR’s leadership in speaking to the drivers before the first race of the season.

It was one of his few public appearances. He has yet to grant an interview since becoming NASCAR’s Chairman.

France spoke to competitors with niece Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR vice chairperson, standing beside him:

“On behalf of Lesa, Ben (Kennedy) and myself, welcome all of you to the 61st running of the Great America Race, the Daytona 500. Also, I’d like to recognize some of the family members. There’s not time to recognize all of them, but this sport was built by families. You have the Petty family, the Earnhardt family, the Jarretts, I could go on and on all morning, but I know that you’ve got other things to do.

“This sport was built by families and we’re just a part of it. It’s so important that we remember that this is still a family business. Our family is committed to it. It’s a tough, tough sport, tough business. It’s hard, but we’ve got a soft family side and that’s what makes NASCAR special. So on behalf of us and all of us in this room, we appreciate the great drivers, the great teams and the great sponsors that are here today making this happen.

“And I’ve got just one other little thing, two things, to add. One of my big hopes was one day I would be passing out a trophy in victory lane to Ben. He and I have still have that plan but don’t tell Lesa.

“The other thing is that I hope a few of you drivers out there will get down on the bottom with Denny and Chase and put on a good show today.”

France reaffirming the family’s commitment to NASCAR comes as NASCAR seeks to take over International Speedway Corp. ISC is run by the France family and operates tracks, including Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, among others.

NASCAR announced in November that it had made an offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock in International Speedway Corp. That came after reports that NASCAR was looking to purchase a stake in the company.

Long: Kansas a warning sign for Martin Truex Jr.?

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — The voice did little to mask the frustration, confusion and level of desperation.

For much of the season, Martin Truex Jr. has been in control, and at times dominant, winning four races and finishing in the top five in 17 of the first 31 starts entering last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway.

But little went right for Truex on Sunday.

That the team finished fifth — in the odd stat category, all 18 of Truex’s top-10 finishes this year have been top fives — was a testament to its ability to persevere but the question is if that will be enough in this round? It helps that he has plenty of playoff points but that almost wasn’t enough to keep his title hopes alive beyond Kansas.

The issues they had with the car Saturday in practice weren’t resolved in the race. That proved frustrating for Truex and the team.

At the completion of the first stage on Lap 80, Truex radioed crew chief Cole Pearn: “I don’t know what to do. Maybe I just need to tighten this thing up and run the wall.”

Pearn responded: “We’re not making any ground with what we’re doing.”

About 25 laps later, Pearn asked Truex what he needed to run better near the wall. Truex said: “Everything. It does the same thing on the bottom. Won’t turn.”

Twice in the first 120 laps, Pearn brought Truex in early to start a wave of green-flag pit stops. Pearn did that with the hope that having fresh tires sooner would help the No. 78 leapfrog a few cars. The gain proved minimal.

On Lap 140, Truex, running 11th, told Pearn: “I’m so bad in traffic. It’s ridiculous.”

On Lap 165, Pearn told Truex, who was running sixth, that the points were tight and that “you’ve got to race as hard as you can.”

Truex said: “Doing all I can right now.”

He did enough to advance.

We had to dig deep,” Truex said afterward. “A lot of pressure and a bad situation and we were able to come out looking good. That being said, we’ve had a lot of headwind that we’ve had to battle through the playoffs, we haven’t had much go our way.

“We had a few races like that this year, we had a few like that last year. Seems like this year they’ve been a little bit more frequent but again we finished fifth. You can’t complain too much. At the end of the day, we’re still searching a little bit at certain race tracks.”

One of the things that Truex can take away is how strong his pit crew was Sunday. Twice he gained four spots on pit road. The second time came after the end of the second stage and allowed Truex to restart sixth.

Even with his struggles, that track position was critical. He never ran worse than seventh in the final 100 laps and finished high enough to advance to third round and continue his quest for back-to-back Cup titles.


Don’t expect to see another Roval on the schedule at this point. Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and creator of the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said after the event there that he was not looking at having another Roval at any of SMI’s other tracks.

“I feel like this is unique to Charlotte, and we’ve got other speedways out there that produce their own unique action,” Smith said.

International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks that host Cup races, also does not have any plans at this point of turning one of its oval races into a Roval event.

Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of ISC, praised Smith for the Roval.

“I think Marcus Smith did an amazing job of taking his idea from start to finish … to get to the point that he did,” Kennedy said this past weekend at Kansas Speedway. “I think the fan reaction was amazing. I think it’s created a lot of hype and attention to the sport and I really applaud him and his team’s efforts. I think everybody is paying attention.”


John Hunter Nemecheck’s victory in Saturday’s Xfinity race was celebrated throughout pit road among title contenders.

Nemechek was not eligible for the playoffs since he didn’t run the full season. His victory takes away an automatic spot to the championship finale in Miami and means at least two of the four contenders will advance via points.

“It was big because that keeps us all in play where it doesn’t give anybody an advantage for Homestead where you can work on your stuff (early) for that particular race,” Elliott Sadler told NBC Sports after the race.

A first-lap crash triggered by playoff contender Justin Allgaier took him out along with title contenders Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric. The incident also damaged playoff contender Cole Custer’s car. 

The Xfinity Series is off this weekend. Teams are back in action Nov. 3 at Texas Motor Speedway.


NASCAR is expected to issue its penalty report Wednesday. Daniel Hemric‘s Xfinity car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. The likely L1 penalty will cost Hemric 10 points. If so, that will drop him out of the lead. He currently leads Elliott Sadler by nine points.

Should Hemric lose 10 points, it will put the top six drivers within 18 points.


NASCAR examined why the hood flew off Ross Chastain‘s Xfinity car during Saturday’s race. The car suffered front-end damage in an earlier incident.

NASCAR also planned to review this week why a caution was not called when Chastain’s hood flew off near Turn 3. It was run over and broken into smaller pieces.

 

Julie Giese named president of ISM Raceway

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Julie Giese was named president of ISM Raceway Tuesday by International Speedway Corp., making her the only female president at ISC’s 13 tracks.

She will take over the position in November once Bryan Sperber steps down. Giese will oversee the debut of ISM Raceway’s $178 million renovation project for the Nov. 9-11 NASCAR race weekend.

Julie Giese

Giese is a long-time ISC employee. She started with the company in 2001 as the director of public relations at Watkins Glen International.

Giese ascends to president of the track in Avondale, Arizona, after serving as managing director of business operations for ISC Design & Development.

“For me, it was a natural fit,” Giese told the The Arizona Republic. “I have a great understanding of the project. I think my experience puts me in a position to not only open a new venue, but also make sure we’re driving sales, and making ISM Raceway the premier destination we want it to be.”

Giese directed coordination between ISC’s 13 tracks, internal corporate departments and the Design & Development team on ISC’s significant capital investment and redevelopment projects.

“We couldn’t be happier to announce Julie Giese as President of ISM Raceway,” said ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy in a press release.  “She has spent close to two decades in motorsports, most notably with ISC, that included leadership roles in major redevelopment projects like Daytona Rising and the ISM Raceway Project. Julie’s unparalleled knowledge of the industry, along with her experience and passion, will serve her well in this new role.”

 

NASCAR community offers best for Brian France; confident in Jim France

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Competitors and colleagues remained confident in NASCAR’s ability to move beyond Brian France’s arrest and wished the best for the grandson of the sport’s founder Tuesday.

NASCAR announced Monday that France would take a leave of absence from his role as Chairman and CEO after he was arrested Sunday night by Sag Harbor (New York) Police. France was cited for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree after he failed to stop at a stop sign. He was cited for possession of oxycodone pills.

France spent Sunday night in jail. He had a court appearance Monday morning and was released on his own recognizance.

Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman and executive vice president, has assumed the role of interim Chairman and CEO, NASCAR stated.

“Obviously it’s disappointing news, no way around that,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, on Tuesday. “It’s very disappointing. I’m sure that Brian is disappointed in himself.

“The one thing that I hope is that Brian gets in front of the people that he needs to get in front of and gets the assistance and help that he needs to make sure this is something that doesn’t happen again. Regardless of his role in NASCAR going forward, it’s important that he’s healthy and that he takes care of himself. So, I’m wishing that on him.

“With that said, I’m very confident in the people that NASCAR has in the industry. I know all of them very, very well. I feel incredibly optimistic about being able to move forward and beyond (Monday).”

Kevin Harvick also offered his best wishes to Brian France.

“From a personal standpoint, you obviously want to see somebody be well and have their health and do the things that it takes to be healthy in life,” Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show on Tuesday.

Harvick admitted he hasn’t had much contact with Jim France in the past, but appreciates his racing background.

“It’s good to have a racer,” Harvick said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s not like he’s hands off. He knows the ins and outs of what’s going on to this very minute in the sport, has been around the sport for a long time. That’s what you need is that racing perspective of just making sure we stick with the roots of what made NASCAR racing what it is, and he’s been around it and know how that went.

“I think from the drivers’ perspective, it’s really important whoever is in that position to become more connected. I think that’s the most important thing right now is this sport needs to be connected in a lot of different directions, but they need to all come together and go in the same direction instead of having so many different ideas.”

Denny Hamlin, attending Washington Redskins training camp, told reporters Tuesday: “Lesa (France Kennedy) and Jim are going to do a great job. I’m confident in the leadership of NASCAR. I know all of the executives really, really well. I get invited into some very intense meetings with them at times, and am very confident that those guys can take the reins and do a great job.”

Jim France, son of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, also is Chairman of the Board of International Speedway Corp. Lesa France Kennedy is ISC’s CEO. 

Watkins Glen winner Chase Elliott said on a teleconference Tuesday that he knows Jim France.

“I haven’t ever had any issues with Jim,” Elliott said. “I expect them to do fine, and it doesn’t change my job, so I’m going to do my thing.”

Bruton Smith, executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., told The Associated Press that the sport will continue to go forward.

“Our sport is big, big, big and it’s bigger than just one person,” Smith said. “We go forward. We have to in this sport. At this point in time, NASCAR needs friends and people that will help. It’s a great sport and we go forward and we all should be very protective of it and be willing to lend a helping hand.”