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Thread: NASCAR News 2007

  1. #71

    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    That's Racin' | 06/04/2007 | NASCAR's Bill France Jr. dies

    NASCAR's Bill France Jr. dies
    By DAVID POOLE / The Charlotte Observer - dpoole@charlotteobservrer.com
    Posted on Mon, Jun. 04, 2007

    William C. France Jr., who helped build NASCAR into one of the great American success stories in more than 30 years at the helm of his family's business, died Monday afternoon. He was 74.

    Mr. France had been struggling with his health for the past several months. His passing was announced at 2:20 p.m. during the Fox Sports broadcast of the rain-delayed Autism Speaks 400 from Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

    Mr. France, known to the racing world as Bill Jr., became president of NASCAR in 1972 when he succeeded his father, William H.G. France. Bill Jr. kept that title until 2000, when Mike Helton was appointed president. Mr. France became chairman of the board and chief executive officer until he relinquished those positions in September 2003 when he appointed his son, Brian, to replace him.

    Even through the transition of power to a new generation, Mr. France remained a strong voice in stock-car racing and in the companies his family control -- NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation.

    Mr. France's daughter, Lesa France Kennedy, is president of ISC and a member of NASCAR's board of directors. His brother, Jim France, is chief executive officer of ISC and also serves on the NASCAR board.

    "We've just got to keep pushing the race cars up the hill," Mr. France said in describing his philosophy. "We have to keep the sport moving forward."

    What would it be like if NASCAR ever got all the way up that hill?

    "I don't want to get to the top," he said. "We want to get a close to it as we can. I want to be able to see over it. But the hill needs to get higher and higher as we go up the road."

    As he grew up in Daytona Beach, Fla., where his father had settled and opened a garage when his namesake was only 2 years old, Mr. France grew up in the sport.

    As a young man, Bill Jr. worked in virtually every job there was in racing. At the first Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, for instance, he had the infield sno-cone concession. When he ran out of the syrup to pour over the shaved ice, Mr. France invented a new flavor -- "plain: -- and kept right on selling.

    He sold tickets to the race on the Daytona beach and road course that his father began promoting in 1938, which helped lead the elder France toward formation of the National Association for Stock Car Racing nearly a decade later.

    "Tickets cost about $4," Mr. France said. "I would start at the south end and work my way up to the north end, waking people up who were sleeping on the dunes. They either had to pay to watch the race or get off the course.

    "As the crowds grew, we kept shortening the race. You had to get everybody in, run the race and get everybody off before the tide came back in again. The more people you had, the longer it took to get them in and get them off. You either had to shorten the race or stop selling tickets, and being a good capitalist, that didn't make any sense."

    Mr. France played high school basketball at Seabreeze High School in Daytona, and attended the University of Florida. He served two years in the U.S. Navy before beginning a full-time career in racing.

    Mr. France met his wife, Betty Jane, in 1956 when she registered for a beauty contest at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. She won, and went to Daytona Beach to compete in a "Miss NASCAR" contest. She didn't win that, but a year later she and Mr. France were married.

    Mr. France was a flagman, a scorer, a race steward and even a driver. There is a photo prominently displayed at NASCAR's headquarters showing Mr. France driving heavy machinery during the construction of Daytona International Speedway, which opened in 1959. It is not a staged photo. Mr. France spent months driving that machine and others like to help his father's 2.5-mile dream of a track become a reality.

    Mr. France learned at his father's side while serving as NASCAR vice president for six years.

    "One of the key things I learned from him was evaluating the long-term benefit against the short-term negative and also the reverse," Mr. France once said, "and then trying to rationalize whether you are better off to take the hit now because it makes sense tomorrow, or take the good today and worry when tomorrow comes."

    When Mr. France took over as president in 1972, the sport was on the brink of a brand new era. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, through its Winston brand of cigarettes, had signed on to sponsor the sport's top series a year earlier when tobacco advertising was banned from television.

    What was later renamed the Winston Cup Series ran its last race on a dirt track in 1971 and, in 1972, streamlined its schedule to run only on tracks one-half mile or longer. After running 48 races in 1971, the schedule was cut to 31 the following year and hasn't been higher than the current number of 36 events since.

    For the first time in 1976, Winston Cup topped all other American racing series in attendance with 1.4 million fans, and it has remained at the top of that list ever since. Current annual attendance is estimated at more than 6 million. The sport has also emerged as a top-tier television product and has seen remarkable growth in its merchandising business and corporate sponsorships of its tracks and teams.

    Mr. France was once described in an article in "New Yorker" magazine as "an American hybrid -- the second-generation self-made man. …Although he knows kings, presidents, CEOs, and movie stars, he is not impressed by glamour. Left to himself, he's a profane and down-to-earth old salt who likes to ride on his boat, fish, and eat hot dogs."

    Mr. France suffered a mild heart attack while attending a NASCAR exhibition race in Japan in 1997. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 and in 2001 he had heart surgery and hip surgery.

    "On average, I feel pretty good," he once quipped. "It's like if you put your feet in a deep freezer and your head in a microwave oven, on average you feel pretty good. …I like to consider myself pragmatic. I don't think it's any secret that everybody has to go sometime. It's just a question of when. You just have to take things as they unfold."

    During one hospital stay in Daytona, he checked in under the pseudonym of Bob Wayne, which was the name of actor John Wayne's brother.

    His father, called "Big Bill" because he stood 6-foot-5, ruled the sport with his intimidating presence. Mr. France never left much doubt who was really in charge, either. When asked why NASCAR was sometimes quick to change its rules to "level the playing field" among manufacturers, Mr. France said he didn't see any reason to live with an "antiquated" rule. "We're not going to live with a mistake," he said.

    Seven-time champion Richard Petty described "Big Bill" and his son as "two different cats."

    "You could talk to Senior all day long and then he'd do what he intended to do in the first place," Petty said. "Junior, you can talk to and he'll listen to you. He'll talk to some other cats too, and he'll weigh the pros and cons and then make his decision."

    Mr. France and Bruton Smith, owner of Lowe's Motor Speedway and several other tracks and chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., were sometimes bitter rivals. They clashed most publicly over Smith's desire to get a second Nextel Cup date for the track he built near Fort Worth, Texas.

    "Bruton, when he opens his mouth, sometimes sounds constipated," Mr. France once said during that disagreement, which was ulitmately resolved as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by an SMI stockholder.

    "I forgave him for that," Smith said of France's comment. "Sometimes people speak and they maybe didn't have their brain engaged."

    Mr. France once referred to NASCAR's fans as "the people (who) win wars for America."

    "The folks who love NASCAR, who follow the sport with commitment, who have even bought into the unique NASCAR lifestyle, are hard to put a label on," he told the Associated Press Sports Editors convention in 1998. "They're young and old. Male and female. Affluent and modest. From big cities and small towns. Hailing from North, South, East and West. They're a true cross-section of America.

    "The way we see it, about the only label you can put on them is that they all share such a great love for this essentially American sport. Their excitement is the sound of race car engines roaring to life. Their passion is watching finely-tuned men and machines break new barriers of speed and achievement. Their heroes are the guys strapped into the driver's seat, tearing around that race track at breathtaking speeds."

    In that same speech, France said a woman had recently asked him if the growth the sport had enjoyed under his watch had just merely happened.

    "She wondered if we were lucky enough to be the right sport at the right time and just hang on for the ride?" France said. "I'll tell you what I told her: Nothing grows on its own. You have to fertilize everything to make it thrive.

    "NASCAR's particular mix of fertilizer includes the fiercest and fairest competition, total commitment to the fans, and creation and promotion of the ultimate sports entertainment vehicle. Our growth has been propelled by a commitment to a wholesome, competitive and fan-friendly character. It's a character that goes hand-in-hand with NASCAR's phenomenal capabilities.

    "And believe me when I say: we intend to perpetuate that vision decade after decade ... generation after generation."

  2. #72
    That's all folks! Unklescott's Avatar
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    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    Bill France, Jr. put NASCAR in the position it is today as a top spectator sport in America. I might not agree with everything he did but he certainly has my respect for taking his family business and making it the success it is. RIP Mr. France.

  3. #73
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    Fast Cars & Superstars - Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race

    I'm not sure where this goes, perhaps in Other Reality shows, but thought I'd post it here first. I'd never heard of this and it premiers tonight, June 7, at 8 on ABC.

    ABC.com - Fast Cars & Superstars

    Fast Cars & Superstars
    Thursday, June 7 at 8/7c

    A total of 12 celebrity drivers will partner with the Gillette Young Guns - six of stock car racing's most talented and popular drivers - to learn to compete for the checkered flag and find out just what it takes to win on the race track.

    The show will explore the interaction of top young stock car drivers with stars from the world of sports, music and entertainment, featuring drama and competition on and off the race track. In each episode, viewers will watch celebrities train with a Gillette Young Guns driver. The show will culminate in an exciting finale where the celebrities will be coached from the pits by their Gillette Young Guns instructors and compete against each other during a time-trial race.

    "Fast Cars & Superstars - Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race" comprises six half-hour episodes with an hour-long finale. The series is hosted by ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne and co-hosted by former Cleveland Cavaliers center and current ESPN NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty.

    Celebrity Drivers will be singer Jewel, actor William Shatner, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, actress Krista Allen, seven-time World All-Around Rodeo Champion Ty Murray, former NBA Champion John Salley, former NFL Super Bowl Champion John Elway, World Wrestling Entertainment Champion John Cena, tennis star Serena Williams, volleyball great and model Gabrielle Reece, legendary surfer Laird Hamilton and former NFL Super Bowl-winning Head Coach Bill Cowher. Gillette Young Guns are Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.

    "Fast Cars & Superstars - Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race" was co-created by BBDO and Gillette and produced by Radical Media in association with Embassy Row Sports.

  4. #74
    That's all folks! Unklescott's Avatar
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    Kurt Busch Fined, Put On Probation

    FOX Sports on MSN - NASCAR - Busch placed on probation by NASCAR; fined, loses points for reckless driving
    I think this is great. He's a punk IMO.
    LONG POND, Pa. (AP) - Kurt Busch paid a hefty price for his fit in the pit.

    The former Nextel Cup champion was docked 100 driver points Friday, fined $100,000 and placed on probation until the end of the year for reckless driving and endangering one of Tony Stewart's crew members on pit road.

    "It's a bit surprising, but safety on pit road can't be compromised," Busch said at Pocono Raceway. "I understand that. To me, it's a matter of making sure everyone is safe on pit road."

    Busch should consider himself lucky NASCAR didn't park him for Sunday's Pocono 500. Officials considered that idea after parking him near the end of Monday's 400-mile race at Dover International Speedway.

    "We felt like we got everybody's attention," Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition, said. "We felt like the 100-point penalty, the $100,000 was substantial."

    With the penalty, Busch fell from 11th to 17th in the Chase standings, moving Martin Truex Jr., who was eight points out of 12th place, into the Chase standings. The top 12 drivers are in the final 10 races for the title.

    Car owner Roger Penske also was penalized 100 owner points.

    On Monday, Busch clipped Stewart as he went to make a pass in lap 271, with both drivers running in the top 10. Busch nosed into the wall, and Stewart was sent hard into the SAFER barrier on the outside retaining wall.

    While Stewart's team checked the damage to the No. 20 Chevrolet in the pit stall, Busch pulled his No. 2 Dodge next to Stewart's car, forcing jackman Jason Lee to jump back and onto the hood.

    NASCAR parked Busch, and he finished 42nd.

    "Safety is one of our big issues," Pemberton said. "Accidents do happen, and we don't want to put ourselves in a position to allow an accident to happen like that."

    Busch said he had a point for pulling up to the side of Stewart's car.

    "I wanted him to look me in the whites of my eyes and realize how upset I was," he said. "You can do things. You can talk about things. But if right there in the heat of the moment you pull up next to somebody and you let them know, and he can look at you in the whites of your eyes and see how upset you are, it's pretty serious."

    NASCAR's punishment showed just how serious it was. The penalty matched the ones handed down earlier this season to Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as one of the most severe in NASCAR history.

    "We've fairly happy with what we've done," Pemberton said.

    Stewart said he hoped to talk to Busch on Friday night.

    "We'll get it settled," said Stewart, who called Busch a "bad apple" after the Dover race. "That's the thing with guys in this series. Guys in this series always find ways to work this out and get it over with to where you can get back to having fun racing on Sunday."

    Busch, too, was looking forward to talking.

    "The incident between Tony and I still needs to be discussed," Busch said. "The guy thought I didn't race him with enough room and I felt like he didn't race me with enough room and it hurt us both in points, so that's the tough part."

    This isn't the first time this season the two former Nextel Cup champs have tangled on the track. The duo dominated the Daytona 500 and were on a pace for a frantic finish until they wrecked each other with 48 laps to go. When Stewart's car wriggled just a bit, Busch ran into his bumper, and both cars careened into the outside wall.

    "We do need to discuss how we can move forward out the race track together," Busch said.

    And he was quick to do all he could to make sure he didn't miss Sunday's race.

    Busch reached out to Lee and Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs, telling Lee it was never his intention to put him in danger and that his beef was strictly with Stewart.

    "I had my car under control when I stopped next to Tony's car next to pit road," he said.

    Busch's notorious hot temper has cost him before. He's thrown tantrums, admitted spinning another driver to help his position and been charged off the track with reckless driving.

    All this has tarnished the reputation of the 2004 champ, and he got little support in the garage Friday.

    "I'm not trying to go after Kurt and say that there needs to be a suspension, but that's a major thing, especially if you're endangering people on pit road," Jimmie Johnson said. "His frustration just took hold of him and put him in a position to do that. You can't mess around with guys on pit road. You can't hurt innocent people."

    Added Busch's brother, Kyle: "NASCAR made its decision. It is what it is."

  5. #75
    Swinging in the hammock Ilikai's Avatar
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    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    I second that Punk remark and raise you a twit.
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  6. #76
    Where I want to be... ldcook77's Avatar
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    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    Looks like the mystery will be solved tomorrow...

    Earnhardt Jr. to announce future plans on Wednesday

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has decided where he will drive next season, and all signs point to Hendrick Motorsports.

    NASCAR's most popular driver called a Wednesday news conference at his race shop, JR Motorsports, and spokesman Mike Davis said it was to announce his plans for 2008 and beyond.

    It's the same site where Junior announced May 10 he would leave DEI and enter the free-agent market.

    That move ignited a whirlwind of recruiting rarely scene in NASCAR, and there's been nonstop talk regarding where Earnhardt would end up. He's made shop visits and met with various car owners while he trying to make a decision.

    His sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, is handling his negotiations and has maintained their first choice was to keep Earnhardt in a Chevrolet. She has said the majority of her conversations have been with NASCAR's top Chevy teams.

    Hendrick is the best in NASCAR right now, with 10 wins through the first 14 points races this season.

    Speculation grew Monday night that Earnhardt was close to a deal with Hendrick, but officials declined comment Tuesday. Elledge did not respond to messages from The Associated Press.

    Rick Hendrick currently has four drivers under contract, and told the AP last month "there was no room at the inn'' for Earnhardt. NASCAR rules permit a car owner to field four Nextel Cup teams.

    But multiple sources -- speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because Earnhardt's plans have not been announced -- said Hendrick officials have been working for nearly three weeks to figure out how to bring the star driver into the fold. One scenario could put Earnhardt into the No. 5 car that Kyle Busch currently drives.

    Busch is under contract through 2008, and Hendrick has said he wanted to sign the 22-year-old driver to an extension. But there are rumblings Busch has asked to be released from his contract.

    Asked if that was true, Hendrick spokesman Jesse Essex said, "We don't comment on contractual issues.''

    Busch was testing in Milwaukee on Tuesday and not available to comment.

    It's still possible Earnhardt could end up at Richard Childress Racing, where his father won six of his seven championships, or Joe Gibbs Racing. But Childress is out of the country, and the assistant to Gibbs president J.D. Gibbs said Gibbs is away all week.

    NASCAR.COM - Earnhardt Jr. to announce future plans on Wednesday - Jun 12, 2007

  7. #77

    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    He knows a winning team when he sees it!

  8. #78
    Where I want to be... ldcook77's Avatar
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    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    Quote Originally Posted by BoBoFan;2438266;
    He knows a winning team when he sees it!
    I the rumors are true regarding Jr. and Hendrick, I am really curious to see how all of the Gordon fans and Jr. fans handle them being teammates. It will make for an interesting 2008!

  9. #79
    Shoveling the ocean MissThing's Avatar
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    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    Quote Originally Posted by ldcook77;2438281;
    I the rumors are true regarding Jr. and Hendrick, I am really curious to see how all of the Gordon fans and Jr. fans handle them being teammates. It will make for an interesting 2008!
    I'm a huge HMS fan, and this news couldn't make me any happier. I'd love to see Jr. winning more, and I'd love to see Hendrick have him. I couldn't care less if he ends up in the 5 or the 25, but I do think it's Kyle that's going.
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  10. #80

    Re: NASCAR News 2007

    Quote Originally Posted by MissThing;2438296;
    I'm a huge HMS fan, and this news couldn't make me any happier. I'd love to see Jr. winning more, and I'd love to see Hendrick have him. I couldn't care less if he ends up in the 5 or the 25, but I do think it's Kyle that's going.
    We only have a half hour left before we find out the deal. Kyle is rumored to go. I heard he actually wants out of his contract and he will be going to DEI.

    I'm happy about Jr's (rumored) decision too! I think the Gordon fans will be fine with Jr. joining the organization, but I don't see the Jr. fans exactly jumping for joy. Those Earnhardt fans are territorial. They should welcome this opportunity with open arms. They'll probably get all warm & fuzzy when Jr. starts winning more.
    Jeff is whoopin' serious booty this year! The Drive For 5 is alive!

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