After his arrest for driving under the influence and possession of the opioid painkiller oxycodone, NASCAR CEO Brian France announced Monday that he’ll be taking an “indefinite leave of absence.” NASCAR announced that its executive vice president Jim France, Brian France’s uncle, will take the spot.
NASCAR sent the statements via email on Monday afternoon, with Brian France’s statement saying he would be taking the leave of absence “effective immediately” to focus on his “personal affairs.” NASCAR confirmed the leave, saying Jim France would serve as interim chairperson and CEO.
“I apologize to our fans, our industry and my family for the impact of my actions last night,” Brian France said in the statement.
Reports about Brian France’s arrest surfaced on TMZ Sports Monday morning, with the story saying TMZ “ha[d] learned” he was arrested after being stopped in Sag Harbor, New York for running a stop sign Sunday night. It went on to say the 56-year-old executive failed a field sobriety test, that he was in possession of oxycodone, and that he allegedly name-dropped important people he knew, including President Donald Trump, during the stop.
The Sag Harbor Village Police Department later confirmed the arrest, saying Brian France was driving a 2017 Lexus at the time of the stop. The statement said it was determined that he was driving in “an intoxicated condition,” and that a search found he was in possession of oxycodone pills. At the time reports came out Monday morning, NASCAR said in an emailed statement to Jalopnik that it was “aware of an incident” on Sunday night and that it was “in the process of gathering information.”
“We take this as a serious matter and will issue a statement after we have all of the facts,” the statement said.
While a DUI on personal time for the CEO of a driving sport isn’t a good look for anyone, Brian France has been criticized, including by drivers, for his role within the sport as well. Complaints have centered around his absence from the racing itself. “If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport is at the race track every weekend,” ESPN quoted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski as saying during a media day before the 2018 season. “That would be my change.”
ESPN noted that former driver Tony Stewart had a similar complaint a few years earlier. The story quoted Brian France as saying if he thought his being the last person out of every event “would grow the sport in some way, he would do it.”
“What we have is a different sport than it was 10, 15 years ago, and that’s real clear,” ESPN quoted him as saying. “I don’t publish my schedule, but it’s pretty busy. We feel like we’re managing the sport. We know we’re managing the sport the best way that we need to to grow the sport.”