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NASCAR CEO taking indefinite leave after arrest for DWI, controlled substance possession

Following his arrest Sunday night, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France will take an indefinite leave from the sport, he announced in a statement Monday.

France, 56, has been charged in Sag Harbor, N.Y., with aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

“I apologize to our fans, our industry and my family for the impact of my actions last night,” France’s statement read. “Effective immediately, I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from my position to focus on my personal affairs.”

France was arrested at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night, Sag Harbor police said in a press release. He was held overnight and arraigned at 9:30 a.m. Monday, where he was released on his own recognizance.

“Mr. France was observed operating a 2017 Lexus northbound on Main Street failing to stop at a duly posted stop sign,” the news release says. “Upon traffic stop, it was determined that Mr. France was operating said vehicle in an intoxicated condition. Upon search of his person due to a lawful arrest Mr. France was in possession of oxycodone pills.”

Under New York law, a charge of aggravated driving while intoxicated is applied when the person’s blood alcohol content is .18 or higher. The state’s legal limit while driving is .08. Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, with which France was charged, means the person “knowingly and unlawfully possesses a controlled substance” of more than a residual amount.

France became chairman and CEO of NASCAR, a position that makes him one of the most powerful figures in sports, in 2003.

NASCAR also announced that in the interim, vice chairman and executive vice president Jim France — Brian’s uncle — will assume the positions of chairman and CEO. Jim France is also the CEO of International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which owns and operates half of the tracks that make up the NASCAR schedule.

Brian France is the grandson of Bill France Sr., who co-founded NASCAR in 1948, and followed his father, Bill France Jr., in running the family-owned business. But sagging TV ratings, dwindling attendance and the loss of some key sponsors have weighed on the business in recent years.

In April, NASCAR announced it would go to a “new business model” by forgoing a single sponsor for its top-level Cup Series beginning in the 2020 season. Reuters reported in May that the France family was in preliminary negotiations about the potential sale of their stake. Forbes reported in June that the family was seeking only minority investors.

ESPN has estimated that, including family-owned tracks, NASCAR is worth $3 billion to $5 billion.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender
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