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WAID’S WORLD: A Theory About The Possible Sale Of NASCAR

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Many opinions have been expressed about the rumored – or perhaps very real – sale of NASCAR. The most skilled and knowledgeable motorsports journalists in the country have expressed some of them.

The evidence about the sale is that when first reported NASCAR did not angrily refute it. It was said that the sanctioning body had enlisted the help of banking giant Goldman Sachs to locate an entity that might be interested in a purchase.

For NASCAR to be relatively silent on the issue is in direct contrast with its response when mentioned in similar alarming news. We have seen ample proof of that.

So it thus begs the question, is, indeed NASCAR looking for a buyer?

Of so, it is a complicated scenario. NASCAR is a privately held company that has been in the hands of the France family since its founding by Bill France Sr. in 1948.

As such its finances are not for public information. Among other things we simply don’t know how much money it has or, for that matter, any other knowledge of anything remotely related to it.

We do know, or we have been told, that it is worth billions, as are the members of the France family. Given all that NASCAR reaps from television, its sponsors, its teams, its speedways and its members that does not sound unreasonable.

A study of NASCAR history tells us that the elder France shaped it into a powerhouse sanctioning body as he used his iron hand to mold what was then a scattered, freewheeling and often illegal stock car entities into a single unit. He did much more.

His son, Bill France Jr., carried the legacy forward with the cooperation of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and the fledging cable TV networks.

It gets murky from there.

NASCAR expansion into major markets such as Chicago and Kansas City at the expense of its bedrock southern tracks and the continued tampering with car styles, rules and race formats have helped alienate its hardcore fan base.

 The change in American culture has shifted. A love of muscle cars once so embraced by young peoplehas now been replaced by SUVs.

The economy tanked and NASCAR has never fully recovered.

Many fans have not returned and many sponsors have reduced their participation or have left altogether.

I am not telling you anything you have not heard, or read, before – and likely in greater detail.

The common thread through all of this lies in where the blame is placed.

And that, fairly or unfairly, falls at the feet of Brian France.

France, the third generation to lead NASCAR, is the sanctioning body’s CEO. He has been at the helm through all of the many changes that have taken place over more than a decade.

New cars, new rules, new formats, the Chase, stage racing – you name it – all have taken place under France’s tenure. Not for a moment would I suggest all have been his own ideas, but he is the CEO, a fact not lost on disgruntled fans.

I’m sure you are aware, as I am, of the multitude of complaints fans have launched against France, whom they claim has run NASCAR into the ground.

This does not happen occasionally. It happens all the time.

I believe France has tried to remedy the ills. But to date nothing has proven totally satisfactory.

Now a theory – and perhaps an outlandish one at that.

When any company runs into some type of trouble that threatens its profitability, or perhaps even its existence, often one step it takes to rectify the situation is to remove the CEO. We have seen it countless times. It’s routine.

He may end up a very wealthy man, but he’s out.

It’s been said that for NASCAR to cure its ills it might have to resort to new leadership.

Is that, perhaps, what it is trying to do?

It begs the question why not relieve France? After all, he sold all his stock years ago – except what he might have inherited upon the death of his mother Betty Jane a couple of years ago.

 As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.

I would surmise that by a sale it is almost certain the entity that makes the purchase is going to install its own leaders and implement its own strategies to turn the tide. If it does not do that, why buy?

Perhaps that is part of NASCAR’s thinking as it explores the possibility of sale.

Perhaps it isn’t – not in the slightest. NASCAR may not be sold in the near future or at all.

All of this is just one man’s two cents in the ante. Nor is it an attack of any sort on France.

The thought of the sweeping changes that could happen if NASCAR is sold is intriguing.

Reckon time will reveal all.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in motor sports journalism since 1972, the year he first started covering NASCAR, when he started his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. From there Waid spent time at the Roanoke Times & World as well as NASCAR Scene, where he was the executive editor for 10 years. After retiring in 2010 he became the Vice President of Unplugged Auto Group for its website, MotorsportsUnplugged.com and has now joined POPULAR SPEED as an editor and columnist. Waid has won numerous writing awards and other such accolades. In January of 2014 he was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.