Sabates thinks France unfairly blamed for NASCAR's downturn

Sabates thinks France unfairly blamed for NASCAR's downturn
FILE - In this May 23, 2018, file photo, NASCAR Chairman Brian France watches a video of driver Jeff Gordon after after announcing Gordon will be inducted into the 2019 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, in Charlotte, N.C. NASCAR chairman Brian France has been arrested in New York's Hamptons for driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of oxycodone. France was arrested at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, and held overnight. He was arraigned Monday at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court and released. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — One of NASCAR’s longtime participants believes Brian France has been unfairly blamed for the downturn in NASCAR.

France has taken a leave absence as chairman and CEO of NASCAR following his Sunday night arrest on charges of driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of oxycodone. He’s held the position since 2003 and made radical changes to the racing product that have coincided with a steep decline in NASCAR’s attendance and television ratings.

Felix Sabates has had at least partial ownership of a top-level NASCAR team since 1989. He defended France to The Associated Press on Tuesday as “the most loyal friend anyone can have” and said the entire industry shoulders blame for NASCAR’s slide .

Sabates said team owners and drivers share equal responsibility in pushing the series to skyrocketing spending and share the burden with NASCAR in turning it around. Sabates also said France deserves to be welcomed back into NASCAR whenever he’s ready.

Jim France, Brian’s uncle and the vice chairman and executive vice president of NASCAR, is the interim chairman and CEO. NASCAR is privately owned and was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947. Brian France replaced his father, Bill France Jr., who ran NASCAR for 31 years before turning leadership over to his son.

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