NASCAR CEO BRIAN FRANCE SAYS THE CONFEDERATE FLAG
IS NOT A FAVORABLE SYMBOL FOR HIS SPORT -- "60 MINUTES"
The Rebel Flag is an Obstacle for the Man Trying to Diversify Auto Racing
He's successfully expanding a traditionally Southern and rural sport into America's urban areas and along with that, trying to make auto racing more appealing to minorities and women. But NASCAR CEO Brian France can't get rid of an old bugaboo that stands squarely in his path -- the Confederate flag some fans still fly at races. France speaks to Lesley Stahl for a 60 MINUTES report on the burgeoning sport to be broadcast Sunday, Oct. 9 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"It's not a flag that I look at with anything favorable. That's for sure," he tells Stahl. "I can't tell people what flag to fly. I can tell you the flag we get behind: It's the American flag," says France.
France oversees the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., a third-generation-owned business he is pushing to another level and that now generates over $3 billion in annual revenue. Formerly a Southern sport with a fan base mostly drawn from people who live below the Mason-Dixon Line, NASCAR now appeals to people all over the country and has the television ratings to prove it.
Appealing to minorities comes with the territory if a sport wants to become popular in places like Los Angeles, where France moved the important Labor Day NASCAR event last year, or New York, soon to have a track. "[Reaching out to minorities] is something I work on every day. I work on it personally�," France tells Stahl. Among those efforts France counts running a NASCAR event in Mexico and establishing a training program for female and minority drivers.
But will Northern minorities still think of NASCAR as a "good 'ole boys" sport from the South, with the racial stereotypes the Confederate flag still symbolizes for many? "I think it's a fading image," France tells Stahl.
NASCAR legend, Richard Petty -- the Babe Ruth of drivers -- thinks its all about the race, where collisions are common and speeds sometimes exceed 200 mph. "I think the old fans look at it as a Southern sport. The new fans in California, they don't know where it comes from. They don't care. They want to come see the race!" says Petty.