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Wednesday August 15th, 2018 1:09AM

France takes leave from NASCAR following DWI, drug arrest

By The Associated Press
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SAG HARBOR, N.Y. (AP) — NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France announced Monday he was taking an indefinite leave of absence a day after his arrest in New York's Hamptons on charges of driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of oxycodone.

France had a blood-alcohol content that was more than twice the legal limit, smelled of booze and slurred his words after he was seen blowing through a stop sign in Sag Harbor on Sunday, police said.

"I apologize to our fans, our industry and my family for the impact of my actions last night," France said in a statement Monday. "Effective immediately, I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from my position to focus on my personal affairs."

France has been NASCAR's chairman and CEO since 2003. His uncle, Jim France, a vice chairman and executive vice president, will take over those roles on an interim basis.

France, 56, was arraigned at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court after spending the night in jail. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court Sept 14.

His lawyer referred reporters to a NASCAR statement on the matter. The organization said it takes France's arrest "as a serious matter and will issue a statement after we have all of the facts."

France, 56, was pulled over and arrested at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday after police said they saw his 2017 Lexus roll through a stop sign near the Sag Harbor waterfront.

His eyes were red and glassy and he struggled to keep his balance during field sobriety tests, police said. Tests showed France's blood-alcohol content was 0.18, police said. The legal limit in New York is 0.08.

Officers found five oxycodone pills during a subsequent search, police said.

TMZ first reported the arrest.

France is a third-generation leader of NASCAR. His late grandfather, Bill France Sr., founded the company in 1948.

He's introduced a playoff system, overhauled the design of its cars, and pushed for diversity within the circuit's predominantly white, male ranks.

In recent years, he's been dealing with plunging attendance and TV ratings and departing sponsors, attributing the down turn to the challenge of connecting with a new, younger generation of fans.

France last month characterized as "rumors" reports that his family was looking into selling its racing properties.

"The France family is locked and loaded in its dedication to NASCAR," France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "We're focused on ruling and managing NASCAR. There's nothing to report on that. Rumors are always interesting, but they're seldom right."

France was involved in a 2006 incident in Daytona Beach, Florida, when a police report stated he crashed his Lexus into a tree after entering a restaurant parking lot.

France later told an officer called to his home that he was drinking a soda and "bumped into something."

But a witness called 911 and gave police a statement that claimed she saw France driving at a "very reckless speed," and claimed France's car hit the tree after hitting a parked car.

She said she also watched as France "fell over his own feet" as he got out of his car.

Her statement was not attached to the police report, and the Daytona Beach police chief later investigated whether France was given special treatment by authorities.

___

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