News analysis: France family reportedly exploring NASCAR sale

What happened: According to a report by the Reuters wire service, the France family is exploring a sale of NASCAR. Reuters said investment bank Goldman Sachs is working with NASCAR to find a potential buyer. NASCAR declined comment when I asked about this story and I have not been able to confirm it independently — but Reuters is a highly respected outlet and there’s no reason to believe this is a false report.

What it means: This is the first development in what could ultimately become one of the most important stories in NASCAR history. That the founding France family is even considering selling the sport and cashing out is a massive development that could have significant repercussions. And if the sale actually happens? NASCAR as we know it is likely to change forever, perhaps undergoing a transformation that could be similar to Formula One’s makeover. F1 was sold two years ago for $4.4 billion to Liberty Media.

News value (scale of 1-10): Like an earthquake too large to be accurately measured by a seismograph, this one is off the charts. Depending on what happens and who buys it and what their intentions are, this could turn out to be the biggest NASCAR story ever.

Three questions: With the potential of a sale now becoming public, what kind of immediate impact could this have on the sport? What entity has both the interest and billion dollars (at least) it would take to purchase and run the most popular form of racing in America? Would a new owner be able to save NASCAR from its decade-long slump, or would such a change only accelerate the decline?

54 Replies to “News analysis: France family reportedly exploring NASCAR sale”

  1. TV contract ending in 2022, & ratings have cratered. TV networks are seeing declining subscribers every month. More and more people are leaving cable for skinny bundles, and streaming services. Less and less 18-34 year olds are watching TV. Moreover, the demographics of NASCAR are terrible. NASCAR has an aging and declining fan base, with little interest from the younger generations. Essentially the France family wants their money now before it all goes away.

    The Chinese have this saying “Fu bu guo san dai” . This translates to: wealth never survives 3 generations. That saying is more truthful that ever.

    1. You might do well to brush up on your Chinese if – as rumored – Geely Worldwide is interested in buying it.

    2. It’s not just NASCAR getting older. Look at any local track and you’ll see the same thing. My local track it’s probably 5:1 or more with the older 35 group…but it’s been like that for years. This year they’re adding bandolaro (sp) cars. That should bring in some younger kids (you know dad Joe is racing can we go?). But that’ll only go so far, parents are getting older.

      Now when we have the bus races it changes to maybe 3:1…our buses try to hit each other, different crowd…so our track just add them to one weekly night, hoping they see the regular class and want to come back.

      Final comment….if you’re selling, why do you buy the ARCA Racing Series…to me that makes no sense….unless they’ll sell just the Trucks, Xfinity and Cups and keep the rest…or maybe keep ARCA, Trucks, Xfinity, Cups.

  2. TV contract ending in 2022, & ratings have cratered. TV networks are seeing declining subscribers every month. More and more people are leaving cable for skinny bundles, and streaming services. Less and less 18-34 year olds are watching TV. Moreover, the demographics of NASCAR are terrible. NASCAR has an aging and declining fan base, with little interest from the younger generations. Essentially the France family wants their money now before it all goes away.

    The Chinese have this saying “Fu bu guo san dai” . This translates to: wealth never survives 3 generations. That saying is more truthful that ever.

    1. Brian has destroyed what his father and grand father built. We are seeing record LOW TV ratings. Race day attendance is steadily declining. Only problem is he only groups who have gthe money needed to buy NASCAR do not have racing backgrounds and most likely will continue policies which have lead to declines we are seeing now.

      Lesa should take over operation of NASCAR and allow one of her sons take over ISC.

  3. Holy smokes!

    So many questions! What would happen to the ISC tracks? Would this open the door to legal-free massive schedule changes? I know conflict of interest stood as a challenge getting Iowa on the schedule.

    But greater questions like what will the sport look like in a few years comes to mind. Holy Toledo Batman

    1. Yes we definitely need some changes.. They need to schedule alot more Road Courses.!! And stop going back to the same tracks twice a year..I think there’s 10-Tracks they race twice each year.!!

    2. ISC and NASCAR are two different companies. ISC is still profitable and in pretty good shape due to Lesa’s leadership.

  4. I think NASCAR will be forever changed and not in a good way. I have been watching it die a slow and painful death since Dale Sr was taken from us. With Jr now out it will only sink lower.

    1. Amen to that. Biggest issue is on track product Lose the downforce & bring back racing not follow the leader

  5. A sale now would in some ways make sense. The France family already has generational money but is that the goal? selling now they could move into other arenas and rid themselves of something they have not been able to turn around.
    Fascinating.

  6. I’m utterly shocked, but I’d be happy for the France family to not be involved anymore. The changes they’ve made have not really been for the best of the sport, and these rules and fines are crazy.

  7. If TV network or media company bought then it would reduce the fans attending races to having zero influence on the series. Plus the format and broadcast would be 100% Ad $$$ focused. Best possible outcome for fans that attend the races is for SMI/Smith family to buy NASCAR.

  8. I have high hopes that new owners would at least show up to the races. That would be a great start.

  9. So now the France family decides that it is no longer the sport it was and probably will never be again………

  10. @ NASCAR can’t comment being a publicly held co. I think it’s huge, If the teams take a stake in their sport. Tony Stewart for NASCAR President. IMO

    1. NASCAR is NOT a publicly – owned company. They are a privately held company.

  11. They have been hurting since France Jr. died. I like Kennedy, but I am not sure he wants to run things.

  12. I’ve been reading about this rumor since the F1 sale. The reason they bought ARCA was that one of the interested buyers for NASCAR mentioned they might buy ARCA and build their own series. Also heard that The Frances and Bruton Smith talked about a deal to sell both companies as a package. Only three tracks fall outside of their 20 track ownership… Dover, Indy, and Pocono. The downside is, on those 20 tracks, there are only five races supported by Indy Car or IMSA Sports Cars.

    The viability of NASCAR is dependent on GM, Ford, and Toyota. That considered, the only real asset they have is the tracks and the real estate under them.

    I’m sure that Jeff is right about it taking a ten digit number to make this deal… plus a hell of a plan to get it back to the glory days at the turn of the Century.

    1. You keep mixing up NASCAR and ISC. NASCAR owns one track Road Atlanta and that is through their ownership of IMSA. ISC owns all the France family tracks. NO ONE could buy NASCAR, ISC and SMI. The FTC would not allow it to happen as it would create a monopoly especially since NASCAR just recently purchased ARCA.
      A question no one is asking is what would happen to series such as ARCA and IMSA? Since both are not money makers and any new owner would look to unload them.

  13. Nascar would literally fall of a cliff as you’d see a 20 race schedule (goodbye Martinsville/Atlanta/Dover). What I find compelllng is in Nascar’s quest to become a “national” sport, which essentially it was in 1992 (and could have added Las Vegas/Texas/Kansas) without closing Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. If a hedge fund buys it, it will be Toys’ R Us version 2.

  14. Nascar would literally fall of a cliff as you’d see a 20 race schedule (goodbye Martinsville/Atlanta/Dover). What I find compelllng is in Nascar’s quest to become a “national” sport, which essentially it was in 1992 (and could have added Las Vegas/Texas/Kansas) without closing Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. If a hedge fund buys it, it will be Toys’ R Us version 2.

    1. Brian France sold ALL his shares years ago. Uncle Jim is the primary owner. Brian hasn’t had any control for close to a year now.

  15. Copy and paste from my tweet to first @dustinlong [email protected] then @nateryan and @ESPNMcGee

    I don’t believe it. Wasn’t this reported a few weeks ago? And NASCAR said they haven’t responded before because there was nothing to report. It wasn’t true. If they were going to sell why would they buy ARCA?

    THEN……… @DaleJr retweeted it ????????????????

  16. Scary news, anyone who says “good thing the France family wants out” isn’t seeing the whole picture. Why do they want out is in front of our eyes every time we watch a race or attend. Not many people care about NASCAR anymore, plain and simple. It sucks but it’s reality. I honestly can’t imagine anyone paying a billion in 2020 to be owner of a racing series in greater decline every seemingly 10 races.

  17. Yes we definitely need some changes.. They need to schedule alot more Road Courses.!! And stop going back to the same tracks twice a year..I think there’s 10-Tracks they race twice each year.!!

  18. Let’s see. It took several months back in 2016 to get a (somewhat absentee) title sponsor for $20 million a year and now they think get over $1 billion. Makes sense.
    They can’t even get this right. What market is there for something that is cratering and setting new lows for ratings and attendance on what seems like a weekly basis?

  19. Everything Roger Penske touches turns to gold. I would love to see him, possibly partnering with someone like Haas or Hendrick buy it.

    1. Good idea!!!! I would hate to see the end of NASCAR! Somebody please buy them out and keep our races going!!

    2. Good idea!!!! I would hate to see the end of NASCAR! Somebody please buy them out and keep our races going!!

  20. This will be a disaster and NASCAR will never be the same. Look what happened to DEI! Earnhardt Sr. and France are probably rolling in their graves right now with this rumor.

  21. Nascar’s never been the same since (take your pick) 1996,/2003 when they dumped Wilkesboro, Rockingham, and tried to kill Darlington, an instituted the ever-changing chase

    It’s already run by people who don’t care about racing and are in it for the money (chase, chasing “big” markets, self-defeating attempts to chase west coast viewership with late starts). It can’t get any worse. Freeing nascar from france control, and ISC conflicts, can only be good news. Does it mean it will be better? obviously, no guarantee. But what we got hasn’t been working for 15 years. If a media company buys it, hopefully that means more emphasis on viewership than track attendance/markets/locations, and going to tracks that put on the best show, (short tracks) even if they have limited facilities and ability to draw at the gate

    1. He’s got the cash why not lol even he couldn’t help a Kyle Busch Face turn.

  22. I wish a group of drivers could combine together and buy it. Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Dale Jr etc.. I know they probably couldn’t but I wish.

  23. I think Bruton Smith is too old to purchase NASCAR and sustain it. We need someone like Elon Musk to buy into it. He loves chasing his dreams It’s going to take someone with very deep pockets and a sincerity to keep this sport we love, alive. Shortening the season? Why? Shorten races? Why? I spend a lot of $ traveling to venues. I don’t want a shorter race. Tickets could be lowered, access a little more lenient, consession stands need lower prices. $15 for a beer? Come on. It’s the prices that keep fans away too. So there needs to be mass changes but leave the competition alone.

  24. Brian does not have the same passion for NASCAR as his dad and grandfather had!!!

  25. I’ve been a NASCAR fan for over 50 years. There were no races carried live on TV. We had to watch pieces of races on programs like ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I didn’t attend my first race until I was 50. I have been to quite a few since. One reason I don’t get to as many races as I would like is the cost. I believe in the American way of capitalism and that any company has a right to make what they can from their product. I have worked in sales most of my life and have seen companies I have worked for raise and lower prices based on the demand of the product being sold. In my opinion, if NASCAR wants people to watch on TV they must get folks in the seats. Being an old guy I don’t particularly want to be in the cheap seats. At Talladega I want to sit as high as I can so I can see as much of the track as I can. I go to see the race. I enjoy the entire experience, but I want to see the race whether it is good or bad. Watching on TV can be enjoyable, but going to a race and experiencing all of the sights and sounds is what makes a fan. If NASCAR can get people to the races then they will watch the ones they cannot attend on TV. NASCAR needs the type of leadership that will make the decisions that will put people in the seats.

  26. Unfortunately, I fear a sale would put the final nail in the coffin of this once great sport. The leadership of Brian France has not been great, but opening the sport up to ownership by a public company or group of investors would only make things worse. The only way this turns out well, is if the sport is bought by a group of former drivers or owners that are knowledgeable and care about the sport, and will be able to save the fans from themselves. Those calling for for a schedule littered with road courses are not the type of fans we need, and don’t understand the essence of nascar, which is oval racing. If you want a lot of road courses, go watch F1 or Indycar. That being said, I think a majority ownership of drivers and team owners would be able to cut through some of the red tape of track contracts/scheduling issues, and give the fans a schedule consisting of a better mix of tracks. The bottom line is that if nascar is to be sold, it absolutely needs to be sold to people that have been around the sport, and understand how it works. Outside buyers I feel would try to push the sport even more into markets where the general population couldn’t care less about auto racing (i.e. Chicago). Let’s face it, nascar is only wildly successful as a niche in rural and blue collar america, and the decline of the sport is directly tied to these people feeling disenfranchised when the sport began leaving places like North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, and trying to make a heavy push into mainstream urban areas.

  27. The NASCAR problem has been in the making for many years. Greed and large egos led to “over marketing” of the series. I enjoyed all types of racing, but In my case, it started when NASCAR took over SpeedVision and stopped covering races like Australian super cars, BTCC, or DTM and started airing compete shows about NASCAR pit crew team members. I stopped watching all together because I had zero interest in what the jack guy for the #6 did in his off time. Again with the ability to control everything, they raised ticket prices, limited the tracks, and put a schedule together with 2 races a year at selected venues. Why have 2 races per year if you can’t fill 1? Finally, 500 mile oval races are boring. The first 25 laps and the last 25 laps excluded. Why so many races? Why not run fewer races and incorporate a “dirt track” event schedule with heat races and make it more exciting?The desire to sell now speaks volumes about the confidence of those who run it and the real health of the series. I unfortunately think we will all look back sooner than later and realize that greed, egos, and the need for control by deaf management lead to the death of NASCAR.

  28. The Frances need to get one hand out of the track ownership business or the ownership of NASCAR. Having both is is bad for NASCAR and is why the schedule almost never changes and has become stagnant in some instances.

  29. Seems like the France family is jumping off a sinking ship instead of fixing the hole/ sport. Bill Sr must be rolling over in his grave. NASCAR need some changes yes, but to think of anyone other than the France family owning the sport is sickening! What should happen is Brian go away and Leza take over and run it.

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