NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth met Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, in advance of the driver's return to the track following a two-race suspension. France was "pleased" with the dialogue, according to a tweet from NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes. NASCAR's Brian France met with Matt Kenseth today in CLT. Brian was pleased with the dialogue. Now all focus is on Ford Championship Weekend — Brett Jewkes (@BJewkes) November 16, 2015 Kenseth was suspended for the past two races following his role in an on-track incident with Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway . He will return to the No. 20 Toyota at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford EcoBoost 400 . "NASCAR has asked the driver of the 20 to meet with Chairman and CEO Brian France ," NASCAR Vice President David Higdon confirmed earlier Monday, and the two got together shortly thereafter. Kenseth tweeted later Monday afternoon, noting that he's "glad to have all this behind (him)." Glad to have all this behind me. I'm looking forward to homestead! #team20 #jgr — Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) November 16, 2015 France and NASCAR handed down the suspension, which was upheld on appeals, following Kenseth's wreck of race leader Joey Logano in the Eliminator Round opener. The two had previous on-track run-ins, and Kenseth -- nearly 10 laps down at the time -- drove Logano into the wall with less than 50 laps remaining. Logano was eliminated from the postseason following Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway . Kenseth had been eliminated the week before Martinsville. In addition to his suspension, Kenseth is on probation for the rest of 2015.
RELATED: NASCAR, RISE team up with eye on equality HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France held his annual year-ending question-and-answer session with the NASCAR media on Friday, sharing his thoughts on the Matt Kenseth suspension, the high quality of competition in 2015 and his expectations for what's to come. France began the discussion by reiterating the remarkable season-ending run for the sport, which will conclude in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 with Kevin Harvick defending his 2014 title against impending retiree, four-time champ Jeff Gordon and new championship challengers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr . While France was candid and sincere when answering questions from the assembled national and local media, he was prepared for questions about NASCAR's handling of the two-race Matt Kenseth suspension for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville, Virginia. It was the first question from the floor. Asked whether he should have perhaps spoken to Logano and Kenseth to discuss the escalated situation, France said that at the time, he didn't think it necessary. Kenseth was suspended for two races after NASCAR ruled he intentionally crashed Logano out in the Martinsville race. "Obviously, if I thought that would have helped we would have definitely sat down," France said. He said he met with Kenseth and team owner Joe Gibbs to talk earlier in the week and make sure everyone was on the same level with Kenseth returning to competition this week. "We were very disappointed, as you know, with what happened in Martinsville, we reacted to that," France said. "What we were coming down here to a championship weekend, and I wanted to make sure that that matter was behind us with Matt, with Joe Gibbs and so on. I'm assured that it is. We had a good conversation about what had happened and what the thinking was or whatever you want to call Matt's actions, and we talked about that. And it was a good conversation. "Those kind of conversations happen with us more frequently than not, so that's not a surprising thing. I felt good coming out of those meetings." France was also asked where "the line" was in accessing whether a penalty should come down. He smiled broadly and told the room he was "glad" someone asked. "Do you know how many drivers have come to see ( Sprint Cup Series Managing Director) Richard Buck in the last two weeks, three weeks, four weeks? Zero,'' France said. "Zero drivers have asked us for a clarification on the so-called line. And the reason that they don't ask is they know. And they know that circumstances late in a race, blocking, although I'm not a fan of blocking, that's part of racing. Blocking, contact, the short end of some of those exchanges that happen, are all part of it and do not look to NASCAR to deal with that, they are part of racing. "So the line is ... if somebody is just intentionally banzaiing into some situation with the sole purpose of taking somebody out, we'll deal with that. We dealt with that in Martinsville, as a matter of fact. We'll deal with that at all times." RELATED: Riding the fine 'line' to a championship Again, France said he has nothing but good feelings about the new elimination-style Chase format that was introduced last year and will feature three new title-contenders among the accomplished group of four and give Harvick an opportunity to be the first driver since Jimmie Johnson to win Cup titles in consecutive years. "I am excited we've got four drivers, including Jeff Gordon that are storybook endings in their own right," France said. "The level of competition the Chase format has delivered has exceeded everything we have envisioned. "The stakes are higher on any given weekend ... and you're seeing the drivers and teams react to that." France spoke about the possibility, however, that the 2015 Chase could end in a controversial way -- hard-racing and high contact. In acknowledging the possibility existed, he reminded the room that NASCAR has developed a good reputation for the tussle form of competitiveness, too. "Gentlemen drivers exist," France said. "I don't see one in those four guys remaining. And if there's contact and they're going for position ... it's not always that somebody just turns somebody around. "I don't know what will happen. But contact late in the race, that's just part of it and we got to have an understanding of that and not be so surprised when that happens in a NASCAR race." Certainly the new format has created an even higher level of excitement. Asked if NASCAR is considering implementing the Chase format in the Camping World Truck and XFINITY series, France was non-committal, yet not opposed. "It has been successful," France said. "Our partners in XFINITY and Camping World would like for us to explore what's possible to have a, their own version of it. And we're going to look at that. We're going to look at that in the off-season. We have looked at that before, haven't quite found the perfect thing for each one of those divisions. But we'll work at it. It's worth looking at." France did concede there is a chance of rain on all three days of scheduled championship-crowning racing at Homestead, but he assured the room and the readers that there are a "record number" of Air Titan dryers on site in case. "We are going to go through the weekend as we traditionally would, looking at all of our options trying to get all of the laps in a given race on a certain race day,'' France said. "That's been our policy and philosophy. We go further and try harder, I think, than any other motor sport division to accomplish that because we want it to be settled on track."
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France talks about how NASCAR judges what is hard racing and what is over the line on the track.
RELATED: Photos of the incident " NASCAR suspends Kenseth NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France appeared on the SiriusXM Radio Speedway show on Wednesday and addressed the two-race suspension handed out to Matt Kenseth for his role in the wreck that knocked himself and Joey Logano out of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway . Not only was Kenseth suspended for two races, but he also was put on probation for six months. Joe Gibbs Racing has since appealed the penalties, and that appeal will be heard starting at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. Also penalized coming out of Martinsville was Danica Patrick for aggressive driving on David Gilliland . Patrick received a $50,000 fine and the loss of 25 driver points. RELATED: Patrick penalized for Martinsville actions When asked on the show about the difference between Kenseth's aggressive driving and Danica's, France noted the stakes that were on the line for both drivers. "Going back to Richmond, we made it very clear that anybody in the industry, any driver or participant who intentionally tries to alter the outcome of events or championships, that that crosses a different line than a racing problem between two drivers," France said. After the incident at Martinsville, Logano was last among the eight Chase drivers and 28 points behind the cutoff position for the Championship 4. Logano went on social media to say he would fight, though it wasn't clear whether he meant physically with Kenseth or to make a comeback to get back into championship contention. When asked about whether NASCAR drivers should be allowed to self-police the sport, France clarified the sanctioning body's position. "What Robin (Pemberton) was saying a few years ago was hey look, boys have at it, do your normal thing, and if we over-officiate, we'll draw back on that and let the normal racing action of NASCAR happen," France said. "And that's what he meant, and that's what we tried to do." France went on to point out that the sport has welcomed different styles from drivers. "We've always had different styles of drivers," France said. "Gentleman drivers like a Ned Jarrett who were very successful. But there are other drivers like Brad Keselowski , or somebody else, who is going to be more aggressive. Dale Earnhardt was certainly in that category ... where they take advantage of the contact part of NASCAR. ... "I look at what Brad did in Texas last year as an example of that, where he was racing hard and took some chances that other drivers wouldn't have taken. And there was obviously some contact and a disappointing outcome for Jeff Gordon at the time. That's always been a part of NASCAR, and there are limits to that, of course. RELATED: Drivers react to NASCAR's penalties on Kenseth "And when there are lines that are crossed, like we believe there were in Martinsville, then NASCAR will step in and deal with that. And it's as simple as that."
The classic NASCAR film "Days of Thunder" was loosely based on the career of 13-time premier series victor Tim Richmond, who had earned the nickname "Hollywood." Given his comfort in the spotlight over the course of the past two decades, perhaps the nickname would also suit Jeff Gordon , who retired from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after falling just short in his bid for a historic fifth title on Sunday. Born a California boy, it was clear from the start of his career that Gordon was cut from a different cloth than the good ol' boys who had ruled NASCAR throughout its storied history. He was polished. He was refined. He was -- eventually, once mustache met razor -- well-groomed. And people took notice. Before long there were endorsements, seemingly more Gordon memorabilia lining the shelves than shelves themselves and, oh yeah, four titles in his first nine seasons, solidifying a Hall of Fame resume before he even hit age 30. And Gordon's influence on the actual racing part of the sport will be everlasting. Take a look at the final Sprint Cup standings . There are only two drivers in the top 25 who originally hail from North Carolina ( Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Austin Dillon ), NASCAR's original talent pool hot bed. Many factors led to this, but Gordon's All-American appeal, charm and charisma helped pave the way -- even while playing the foil to Dale Earnhardt -- opening up NASCAR to a mainstream audience, flooding stands and couches in front of non-flat-screened TV sets with an audience that stretched from coast to coast, border to border. An audience that tuned in to see Gordon become the first -- and to date, only -- race car driver host one of America's most notable television programs, NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Jeff Gordon 's monologue from a 2003 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." "I asked (Gordon) recently, a while back, about what made you go on 'Saturday Night Live,' what made you want to do that," NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Number 1, he said, 'Well, they asked me.' And I said, 'Well, OK.' But he said, 'Look, I felt comfortable doing a lot of things that were not mainstream for a NASCAR driver.' "And he was smart about it. He knew that that could separate him from other drivers and he was good at it." Gordon's SNL appearance on Jan. 11, 2003, was a tipping point of bringing NASCAR to the masses, an unquestionable testament to the Hendrick Motorsports driver's popularity and wide-ranging allure. Gordon got to "beat up" a fake Gary Busey while hosting "SNL." It's the crowning achievement in Gordon's on-screen roles, a list that includes 27 appearances on "Live!" (with Regis/Kathie Lee/Kelly/Michael), including 11 guest hosting gigs. He's also appeared in "Spin City", "Arli$$", "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", "The Drew Carey Show", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", "Taxi", "Herbie Fully Loaded", "Sesame Street", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", "Top Gear", "The Simpsons", "Jeopardy" and even "Cars 2" -- as the appropriately named character "Jeff Gorvette." That curriculum vitae alone -- which is pared down; check out his entire IMDb page -- shows Gordon's star power across generations of fans and television watchers. Gordon also got to play a fighter pilot. Ultimately, with Gordon walking away on such a high note from the sport he's gotten so much out of, NASCAR has reaped the benefits of his contributions. Millions of NASCAR fans can thank Jeff Gordon for opening their eyes to the sport. "He's one of those guys, I always look back at drivers that take out a lot less than they put in," France said. "He's one of those guys that has put in a lot to grow the sport. And other drivers should think about that a little bit. Because he's really a model in that respect. "I have a lot of respect for Jeff Gordon ."
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France talks about the Martinsville incident, Matt Kenseth’s penalty and consistency in NASCAR.
Last night, while NASCAR Chairman Brian France and his wife Amy France were being honored for their contributions to pediatric cancer at the Angel Ball, the sport's first family could not help but think about a special day four months earlier. The Frances, through their Luke and Meadow Foundation, took child cancer survivors behind-the-scenes at Pocono Raceway in June. The courageous kids got to visit the garages before the race and hang out with their favorite drivers -- including six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson . As special as it must have been for those kids, it was also deeply moving for NASCAR's third generation chairman and his wife, who dedicated the race to cancer survivors. "As important as sports may sometimes seem, days like the one we had in June puts things in perspective and reminds us of what is truly important," Brian France said. "We were extremely humbled by last night's honor, but that is only icing on the cake compared to the difference we can make in the lives of children." Amy France was also touched when discussing the children's experience at the track. "As a parent, I was reminded that any of those children could have been my child or your child," Amy France said. "These are the moments that motivate me to contribute to cancer research. My hope is that my children, Luke and Meadow, will one day be inspired to be part of something beyond their own self-interests to make a real impactful change." The Frances, alongside supermodel and television host Heidi Klum, were honored by Gabrielle's Angel Foundation at the annual Angel Ball for their contributions to pediatric cancer research. The crowd was treated to musical performances from One Republic, Patti LaBelle and Billy Porter and many celebrities were on-hand, including Nick Cannon. Four-time NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon gave a heartfelt introduction for Brian and Amy at the event. "I have known Brian since the start of my career which goes back nearly 25 years. Over that time he has become a close friend and someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for," Gordon said. "As the third generation Chairman of NASCAR, he is a bold, collaborative and visionary leader." NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar, International Speedway Corporation Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy, The NASCAR Foundation Chairwoman Betty Jane France and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Kennedy were in attendance. The Frances founded the Luke and Meadow Foundation, named after their 4-year old twins, in 2011 to raise awareness about charities they are passionate about. They have since supported, given their time and made multimillion dollar donations to a wide-range of causes including: Stand Up For Heroes in support of 9-11 families, Autism Speaks, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research, Providence Day School and many others. "There are so many causes that need attention, but as parents, we are particularly passionate about addressing the critical needs of children," said Amy France . "At the end of the day, we just hope to be a part of something bigger than our own family, and we believe that -- in partnership with others -- we can make a real impact." With last night's brief pit stop in the rearview mirror, Brian France returns his focus to the remainder of the season. This weekend, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the final race of the Contender Round on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Following the race, four drivers will be eliminated and eight will remain in contention to be the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France and wife Amy were honored at the Angel Ball on Monday night.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France and his wife Amy France were honored for their contributions to pediatric cancer at the Angel Ball in New York City.
RELATED: Standings going into final race HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Sunday's NASCAR finale has four drivers vying for the championship in what NASCAR officials like to refer to as a Game 7 moment. There have already been plenty of pivotal points during this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, but what if Sunday's showdown is shortened into a Game 5 1/2 moment? The threat of a damp forecast at Homestead-Miami Speedway has raised plenty of questions about how a potentially rain-altered Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) could play out, especially with so much on the line in the season-ending race. The National Weather Service rates the chances of precipitation on Sunday at 60 percent, with thunderstorms especially likely in the morning. The possibilities come on the heels of the championship field being settled in a rain-abbreviated race the previous weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . The stakes will be even higher Sunday, but the procedures for declaring a race official will remain the same. "It's not a new rule. It's not something different," said three-time series champion Tony Stewart . "Is it ideal, no. Is it OK, yes. I mean, we don't have a choice. We can't control the weather. It's not ideal by any means. I don't think anybody wants to have that scenario and have to race in that scenario, but as well, at the same time, we've all raced under those circumstances, and if it has to end that way, that's the way it'll end." NASCAR has maintained long-standing procedures that a race becomes officials once it passes the halfway point, but the sanctioning body has also historically made every effort to run its races on the scheduled date. Advancements in technology have helped competition officials make more informed decisions about the weather, but the considerations -- for fans, teams and broadcast partners -- make those decisions even more critical, especially when the outcome of the race or the season-long championship weighs in the balance. To help combat the effects of rain this weekend, NASCAR can employ 17 Air Titan track dryers, 12 conventional jet dryers, and four vacuum trucks -- an armada that NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France touted as a record number of resources. But France also mentioned in his State of the Sport address on Friday that watching the skies and planning for inclement weather was a necessary angle for teams to work around. "We're looking at everything," France said. "Our view now is that like a lot of things that aren't necessarily perfect, so to speak, that's part of the game. That's part of racing that it's part of the strategy. You saw that last week in Phoenix. That you have to anticipate weather as being a factor in deciding things, as unfortunate as that is. Hopefully it won't be a factor on Sunday." Carl Edwards was among the unfortunate ones last weekend, missing out on his Championship 4 bid by just five points when rain escalated with 93 laps remaining. Edwards told his crew "they can't let it end like this" over the team radio as the race went to red-flag conditions, but NASCAR officials did, leaving Kyle Busch , Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . to join Jeff Gordon among the final quartet. Busch was among those on the plus side of the rain at Phoenix, a situation he wouldn't mind being in Sunday if circumstances cut things short. "I think it would be very unfortunate, you know, but it is what it is," Busch said. "I mean, the rules have been the way the rules are for a long, long time and everybody ridicules NASCAR for changing the rules whenever they want, and this time they're sticking to it. Like Jeff said earlier, I hope I'm the guy leading when it's raining, and if it's raining we're going to be doing a heck of a rain dance."
RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final start HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, officials and dignitaries toasted retiring four-time champion Jeff Gordon with a standing ovation in the drivers' and crew chiefs' meeting before Sunday's season finale. But they also received a stern warning from NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton to let 2015's last race play out naturally. Gordon, just hours before making his 797th start in NASCAR's premier series, was singled out by Helton and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France during his final drivers' meeting as a full-time competitor at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Attendees were also treated to a commemorative video that captured moments from his nearly lifelong career in motorsports. "Jeff, congratulations on an outstanding career," Helton said after the video presentation. "Thank you for all you've done for NASCAR, and will do, but certainly what all you've done throughout that career. You're a true champion and cross over in a lot of venues as a top-shelf guy, so thank you." Several drivers paid tribute by wearing Jeff Gordon hats to the meeting, including Kyle Larson , Danica Patrick and all of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . , Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne . RELATED: Danica pays tribute to Gordon " Larson sports retro Gordon hat Gordon will compete for a Sprint Cup championship in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), battling Kyle Busch , defending champ Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs draw to a close. Helton urged all participants to let the title contest unfold without any underhanded tactics over the course of the 400 miles. "So this is our last race and this'll be the last time you hear this from anybody at the podium up here, but drivers and crew chiefs, crewmembers, spotters, everybody let the race play out in its natural course," Helton said. "No one needs to interfere with the natural unfolding of this event. This is our last opportunity, it's a great opportunity for four drivers. There's 39 others that are participating in this race, but crew chiefs -- and pass this on to your spotters -- and drivers, be sure that this day concludes on a high note with no interference of a naturally progressed race." Helton also gave priority recognition to country music entertainer Tim McGraw, excusing him early so that he could perform a pre-race concert on the 1.5-mile track's frontstretch.