Brian Z. France has stepped down as chairperson and chief executive officer of NASCAR after his arrest Sunday night by Sag Harbor Village N.Y., police who suspected him of driving while intoxicated and said he also was in possession of a controlled substance.
Police said France was driving a 2017 Lexus north at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on that city’s Main Street near Wharf Street when he failed to stop at a stop sign. Officers who made a traffic stop determined France was operating his car while intoxicated, according to a news release issued by the department.
As officers were placing France under arrest, they searched him, according to the statement released under authority of Sgt. Robert Drake. The statement said officers found oxycodone pills during that search. Oxycodone is sold under such brand names as Percocet and OxyContin, and is an opioid pain relief medication.
France was taken into custody and was arraigned Monday at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on accusations of aggravated driving while intoxicated, described as meaning he was operating a vehicle while having a blood alcohol limit of at least twice the allowable limit, as well as criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.
France was released on his own recognizance.
He issued a statement Monday: “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.”
France, 56, joined NASCAR after attending classes at the University of Central Florida. He managed short tracks and ran NASCAR’s entertainment division in Los Angeles. France is also responsible for starting the Craftsman, now Camping World, Truck Series, and the move away from cigarette sponsorship in the sport in order to encourage youth to become race fans, according to his public biography.
Under his administration, NASCAR started its post-season eliminations and welcomed Toyota as a manufacturing competitor.
NASCAR, the governing body of stock car racing that was founded in Daytona Beach, Fla., by France’s grandfather, Bill France, issued its own statement: “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 Brian France’s uncle and Bill France’s son. According to his public biography, he joined International Speedway Corporation (ISC) in 1959, and was elected to its board in 1970. That company owns 13 speedways and race tracks, including Daytona International Speedway in Florida and California’s Auto Club Speedway of Southern California in Fontana.
He has worked his way up through the company’s ranks to become its president. Besides stock car racing, he also has been a supporter of sports car and motorcycle racing, founding Grand-Am Road Racing in 1999 and promoting its merger with the American Le Mans Series, operating as a single entity under IMSA in 2014. He also was instrumental in NASCAR’s acquisition of ARCA this year.
A native of Daytona Beach and a graduate of Seabreeze High School, Daytona Beach, and Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Fla., he is a Vietnam veteran and has been a board member of the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States.