Friday, January 22, 2016

Stewart: “I Want To See Brian France At The Track"

“I think that’s where he needs to be..."
Tony Stewart offered a blunt assessment of NASCAR’s chairman and CEO yesterday, saying Brian France needs to spend more time at the race track and less in the board room.

Speaking in an exclusive interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway Thursday, Stewart said, “I want to see Brian France at the track more. I want to see him walking through the garage. I want to see him being more active than just showing up, patting the sponsors on the back and going up to the suite. I want to see him down there in the trenches with everybody, understanding what’s truly going on.

“I think that’s where he needs to be for a while."

France has traditionally been less visible in the NASCAR garage than his grandfather and father before him, leaving race day decisions to his officials while concentrating on marketing, sponsorship and his long-term vision for the sport. Stewart said that approach sometimes results in France being out of touch with the sport’s grass roots.

"I would like for him to be there,” Stewart said. “I want to know before I leave the room that he understands (what we’re saying). I want to see he cares enough to be there, not get a report from somebody.”

NASCAR Chairman Brian France
Stewart recounted an incident last season at Pocono Raceway when he had “a disagreement” with France over a proposed, low-downforce aerodynamic package for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Stewart was in favor of the change, while some NASCAR officials — including vice president of racing development Gene Stefanyshyn — advocated adding additional downforce. A high-downforce package was ultimately utilized at Michigan International Speedway later in the season, with disappointing results, prompting a bit of an “I told you so” from Stewart.

"I sat (at Pocono) thinking, 'Wait a minute. You’re standing up for a guy (Stefanyshyn) who’s never worked on a race car, never been on a race team and now is making decisions on what the rules package is going to be, versus guys who have been driving a race car for 20 or 30 years,’” said Stewart. "You’re telling us that guy is smarter than we all are? That’s where Brian France and I disagree, a lot.

You never see Brian," added Stewart. "He shows up at the drivers' meeting and you never see him after that. But I picked up what Brian was putting down. He's right, it's their series and they've got to make the decisions. Just because it's my idea doesn't mean it's the right idea.

“But I would like to think that in the 37 years I've been in racing, I've learned a thing or two."

The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion claimed to be the only driver willing to tell France when he is wrong, adding, "that’s the problem.

“Nobody wants to disrupt the apple cart, nobody wants to make Brian mad. But we’re all in it together,” said Stewart. “I’m not trying to pick a fight with him. (But) if it doesn’t work for one, it doesn’t work for all of us.

“I don’t care what the repercussions are. I’m saying it because I care.”

Stewart admitted that NASCAR’s new Driver’s Council has improved communication between the sanctioning body and its competitors in recent weeks.

"It's getting better,” he admitted. “It's much, much better. Now, we meet with NASCAR more frequently and (Stefanyshyn) has been a part of those meetings. The whole demeanor of those meetings is totally different than when Gene started; when he had his idea… and all of us were telling him we thought it needed to go a different direction."

Stewart made it clear, however, that he wants to speak directly to France -- rather than his underlings – to ensure that his message gets delivered accurately.

"I know Brian France cares,” said Stewart. “But I think there are a lot of things that get lost in translation between a driver going to talk to somebody in the (NASCAR) trailer and the time it gets to him. Who knows what it sounds like by the time it gets up there, or if it even gets up there at all?

“He doesn’t have to say anything,” said Stewart. “We just want to know that he’s hearing what we’re saying."


  1. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Tony is absolutely right. Brian's Dad and Grand dad were racer's eyes and ears. Brian acts like a Pro football owner schmoozing the sponsors instead of being in the trenches rooting for the team.

    Tony's one of the smartest guys in the garage. It may do Mr. France well to listen and visit more often. He may be suprised at what he learns.

  2. It's unfortunate that Tony is the only guy who speaks up.

  3. Kuddos to Tony for speaking his mind. But we already knew he does that. I just hope Mr France listens instead of handing down some meaningless penalty for speaking out against him

  4. Always wonder where some of these guys (ex: Gene Stefanyshyn) that nobody had ever heard of before come from.

    1. Stewart's shot at Stefanyshyn was irritating because citing credentials doesn't make Tony automatically right - if anything credentials can be an intellectual crutch. Stewart advocated lower downforce - basically another 5&5 Rule - and seems oblivious to the 5&5 Rule's history of chronic failure, in 1998 and then when John Darby took over the garage area after 2003 - teams had to go through multiple spoiler reductions, several swaybar changes, multiple changes in Goodyear's tire, and eventually the low-downforce COT concept - and lower downforce never worked to produce more passing. And did Stefanyshyn's high-downforce idea really fail, or did it merely show the cars also have too much horsepower and too little tire?

  5. Tony is correct as far as Brian France's interaction with the sport over which he presides goes - France's detachment seemed clear almost from the beginning of his control of NASCAR and the series' decline in popularity remains a reality, and the efforts by France to spin it and also to promote unpopular (because they are ineffective) contrivances like the Chase betray how out of touch with the reality of the sport he's always been.

    It is curious, though, that the sport's unworkable economics didn't seem to be addressed by Stewart - that France has shown no interest in the excessive spending in the sport has been obvious from Day One; Stewart and others, though, need to address it also.