Ripples From J.C. France's Arrest The arrest of Jamison Colfax France by Daytona Beach police after a hearty round of street racing with his roommate has produced some interesting ripples within the racing community.
If you go to the Grand American Road Racing Web site, there is no official mention of the incident, or the penalties imposed on the driver. The site has a "forum" area and every time somebody tries to link a J.C. France story, the thread of information is deleted by the sanctioning body, which is wholly owned by NASCAR, which is wholly owned by the France family.
That the story keeps getting booted from the Grand-Am site is testing the nerves of sportscar First Amendment advocates. Someone by the user name of HawksNCards left this frustrated post on Friday, which I read before it was deleted: "Since NASCAR owns Grand Am I suppose we can expect the ivory tower mentality to go from the streets of Daytona to the message boards at Grand Am."
The Grand-Am site is not independent news, but a privately owned touching point for competitors and fans of sportscar racing. The site can run - or delete -- whatever information it wants to because it's not an open news site. End of discussion on that point.
France was immediately and indefinitely suspended from Grand-Am Rolex Series competition on Thursday, but the announcement was issued by NASCAR's public relations office, not from the sportscar organization, which as of this writing on Friday afternoon, offered no comment on the incident.
Grand-Am is under the NASCAR umbrella, but has its own set of rules and regulations separate from NASCAR. A NASCAR spokesman on Thursday told me all those Grand-Am guidelines are up for review.
Grand-Am does not have a stringent substance-abuse policy in place, but that is likely to change by the time the 2010 season starts. NASCAR has a detailed "path back" program, which allows competitors a way to return to competition.
It involves serious rehabilitation and samples on demand without notice. Only one driver has made it back through the program -- Shane Hmiel. He got his license back but tested positive for a third time and was suspended from NASCAR competition for life.
Grand-Am has no such rigorous guidelines in place.
Of course, there are several ironies here.
NASCAR is embroiled in a legal battle with former Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield, who the organization said tested positive for methamphetamine in May. Mayfield was immediately suspended. Mayfield, who started the season with his own race team, maintains his innocence and has taken NASCAR to court.
Brian France, who is NASCAR chairman and CEO and J.C.'s first cousin, has led the substance- abuse charge in NASCAR, saying there's no place for drugs in the racing workplace.
He emphasized that when he spoke to the media the week of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July. France said NASCAR's random drug testing would continue despite a court decision at that time that allowed Mayfield to race.
"Our first responsibility . . . will always be that we are going to make sure every way we can, that everyone who is driving these race cars are of clear mind,'' he said.
As NASCAR's boss, Brian is the de facto leader of Grand-Am, which will ultimately decide J.C.'s fate in the sportscar series. You can bet this will come under tremendous scrutiny, not only by media, but forces inside the industry. Daytona Beach News Journal
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