January 28th 2019
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Jim France, IMSA Chairman & NASCAR CEO, Addresses Global Strengths Of Sports Car Racing
Jim France, IMSA chairman and Chairman and CEO of NASCAR, told reporters during the Rolex 24 At Daytona that the global aspect of sports car racing is a major strength.
“I think my father would be very, very proud, and [co-founder] John [Bishop], with the growth of the sport and sports car racing and its significance in the U.S.,’’ said France, also the chairman and CEO of NASCAR. “It’s a global racing platform that in the U.S. probably hasn’t had quite the attention as open wheel or the NASCAR stock-car racing has in the past, but I feel that’s changing, and this event was started by my father. He was a global motorsports guy, and he truly wanted this track here to be an international icon for motorsports when he built it.
“This sports car event is a cornerstone, a key part of that. When you see the drivers and the teams and the manufacturers, and most importantly the media that are in this room that come from all over the world to cover this event and be a part of it over its history, it’s really impressive.’’
France acknowledged the star-studded grid that this year will include past Formula 1 stars such as Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello, past NASCAR stars such as Juan Pablo Montoya (also an IndyCar champion and F1 driver) and AJ Allmendinger, and several Indy 500 winners such as three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves and five-time and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who earned the 2008 Indy 500 win.
The field represents exactly the competitive spirit France’s father envisioned, even its earliest days as three-hour race before the twice around the clock existence.
“If you … look through the results on that thing, Dan Gurney won it,’’ France said. “I think A.J. Foyt might have been last. Roger Penske ‑‑ just go through the names that are in there, Jim Clark, just the names from around the world, Rodger Ward, Indy winner, there was that ‑‑ kind of where we’re back to today where you have really great drivers coming in.
France told a story of a recent discussion with 2007 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice.
“He was running here, and he made this great comment to me,’’ France recalled. “He said, it’s unbelievable out there, I’m running up in the corner at 3:00 in the morning, I’m looking at who I’m racing over here, and it’s all these great guys from all over the world that are Formula 1 drivers or sports car drivers or whatever.
“He said, from a driver’s standpoint, it’s just a great experience. It’s that kind of feeling that you get from people that tell you how special this event is to everyone.
“And I think we’re going to have another barn-burner over the next two days here.”