Brian France is nothing if not … polarizing. There are some who will tell you that he’s done his grandfather and father proud during his six years as NASCAR’s supreme leader, skillfully guiding and updating the sport by ushering in the Chase for the Championship and technical innovations like the Car of Tomorrow.
Of course, there are at least as many who will cite those two fundamental changes to NASCAR business as proof positive that the 46-year-old France is … overmatched might be the nicest way to put it. He is, critics will tell you long and loud, Public Enemy No. 1 and the primary reason why NASCAR is going to hell in a hand basket.
But, regardless of where you fall on the matter of Brian France, it is decidedly difficult to understand some of the comments he made on Monday during the Reuters media summit. Amidst the predictable cautions about the economic impact on the sport in 2009, France said this about Jimmie Johnson:
“He’s a California guy, a very nice guy, a cool customer and obviously very talented. But he’s not going to do a lot of things that are going to wow you or stun you or surprise you in the ways that sometimes other athletes make their mark.
“We need to do more with our athletes to bring out their emotions.”
So, wait – let me see if I get this right: In addition to landing a backhanded swipe at his series’ three-time champion, the guy who is doing things no one else in the sport has, you know, ever done before, France asserts that his drivers need to show a little more personality? You mean, like, you know, push another driver who has pissed you off or throw a punch or – gasp! – actually mutter an expletive under stress, an indication of both frustration and human frailty? You mean, do stuff like that? The kind of stuff NASCAR usually fines drivers for doing?
That sound you hear is Tony Stewart screaming …