Brian France on criticism: ‘You can’t cross a line into the product’

Brian France loves when NASCAR’s getting talked about and with new and many different changes on the agenda entering the 2013 season there’s been a ton of talk.

Speaking to the media Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, France provided insight on ratings, the Gen6 car and the new Air Titan, which he said made it possible for the races at Talladega Superspeedway to be completed. Weather moved in on both races and the new track drying system NASCAR developed was able to at one point, have the track dry in 61 minutes.

That’s been the attention France’s looking for as opinions have raged all season about the racing, cars and tracks. So much so, NASCAR fine Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin after Phoenix for his comments about the new car. Hamlin saying it was going to take time for the Gen6 cars to drive like the old cars had. Saturday France said that NASCAR stuck to their guns on what is and isn’t acceptable.

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“Our policy is our policy. You can say rowdy things. You can say things that we don’t like at all,” France noted.

“You can criticize us, and it happens quite a bit. That policy goes further than any other sport, major sport, in this country. What you can’t do is you can’t cross a line into the product, in any way talking about our racing product.  We’re very clear.”

Hamlin talked about the product and was hit for it. It wasn’t the first time either; Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski have both been fine in the past for their comments NASCAR deemed detrimental to the sport. After Hamlin’s fine, which at first said he refused to pay and would appeal before eventually backing down, drivers seemed more tightlipped when asked about the new car.

France however, insists NASCAR wants drivers to show their personalities and voice their opinions. But he revealed, sometimes that opinion isn’t always popular with your peers.

“I can’t tell you how many drivers came up to me after the Denny Hamlin comment and said, ‘You got to do that or we won’t be able to help ourselves from time to time, I’m glad you did that,’” said France.

“They all know the line. They all know exactly where it is, because we talk about it. I talk about it directly with every one of the drivers, every one of the owners. No disputing that. But it shouldn’t be confused, and it never should have been confused, as a policy to stifle the drivers’ personalities. It’s quite the opposite.

“We want them to have emotion, even if we don’t like to hear it, one thing or another. That’s the emotional part of sports and NASCAR that we would never want to take away from.”

From Hamlin to Keselowski and other penalties and appeals, NASCAR’s been plenty busy this season. There hasn’t been a week gone by that there wasn’t a major headline from one of the three National Series. France is aware of that and whether it’s good or bad, the attention can’t be avoided. Thus far though, there’s been a lot of positives about the season.

“We always want it to be on the racing action and the drivers and the teams. When things are a distraction that are unavoidable, like a fine or whatever else, we would prefer that no one tried to game the system, that nobody made a mistake, we never had a fine at all,” said France.

“I think we have had great storylines if you look throughout the first part of the year with different rivalries popping up, very, very close racing action at a number of venues. California in particular was just a spectacularly good event for us. That would be our preference, would be to have all of the events focus on that.”

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  1. Brian should worry more about what the fans are saying and they are doing their talking with their feet….away from the races. And, they don’t seem to be watching on TV because the ratings are flat to down. It is not all “the economy” that is causing the fans to leave. Brian, it’s the Product on the track, special treatment to some teams/drivers/gimmicks like certain drivers that really shouldn’t be at the top level, bogus debris cautions to “help” a certain few drivers and inconsistent rulings and some announcers/analysts that show a lot of favoritism to some drivers and types of cars. Brian, you can shut the drivers up and fine them, but contrary to what you may think, a lot of fans can see and think for themselves.

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