I had the opportunity Wednesday to spend about 20 minutes interviewing Brian France, NASCAR's chairman, about the state of the sport. We'll have a big story in Thursday's Charlotte Observer about this. (You'll also be able to access it on our excellent racing website -- thatsracin.com). (UPDATE: Full column now posted here.)
To whet your appetite, though, here's a taste of what France said in this exclusive interview in which he answered questions from myself and Mike Persinger, The Observer's executive sports editor:
-- France believes that David Pearson should have gotten in to the hall of fame’s first class.
“I thought David Pearson should have made it in,” France said. Pearson didn’t make it into the hall – which will open in Charlotte in May 2010 -- but France’s father and grandfather did (Bill France Jr. and Sr.), along with former drivers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Junior Johnson. France wouldn’t divulge the other four names on his ballot, which was one of 51 cast.
-- NASCAR may have Danica Patrick running races in one of its series as early as February at Daytona. Although Patrick has not publicly made a commitment to stock-car racing, France said: “My sense is she probably will.”
-- The struggles of Dale Earnhardt Jr. are part of NASCAR’s current set of problems.
“It’s sort of like when the NBA doesn’t have the L.A. Lakers or Boston – a couple of their key historic franchises – in the race,” France said. “That impacts the league. We’re in the same boat.”
France then smiled and said that if Dale Jr. had a resurgence that “the world would be a better place.”
More to come in Thursday's newspaper and online.