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Melillo’s Mind – A Turning Point in NASCAR

A symbolic win on Sunday was overshadowed by a terrible lapse of judgement only hours later.

Yes, this past Sunday was a huge day for the future of NASCAR.

In Upstate New York, at Watkins Glen International, Chase Elliott finally took the checkers on the biggest stage to collect his first career win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

On the other side of the state, on the eastern end of Long Island in Sag Harbor, the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, Brian France, was arrested only a few hours after Elliott’s win.

The news of France’s arrest didn’t break until the following morning, but it barely gave fans enough time to soak in Elliott’s breakthrough victory.

Chase Elliott William Byron
Chase Elliott followed by his teammate, William Byron. Dante Ricci | The Racing Experts


Elliott, the heir-apparent to the Most Popular Driver throne vacated by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., had been winless through his first 98 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Heartbreak after another, along with eight second-place finishes, kept many wondering when, or if, the son of the 16-time Most Popular Driver, Bill Elliott, would find the winner’s circle.

Like father, like son, Chase drew many similarities to Bill in his first victory, including the number of second-place finishes, and also taking the checkers at a road course.

“It took us some kind of hard times to get here,” said Elliott in Victory Lane. “I had to have a good group around me to keep pushing me and keep making me realize that we weren’t in those positions by accident.”

What made it even more symbolic was that Elliott had just enough fuel to make it to the end of the race, but not enough to make it all the way around on the cool down lap.

Enter Seven-Time champion, and Elliott’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson.

In what could be described as one of the sport’s most iconic moments, Johnson pushed Elliott’s No. 9 Camaro back to the frontstretch so that he could go on and celebrate with his team and the Watkins Glen grandstands.

It truly felt, at that moment, that NASCAR was about to enter a new age where the young guys, led by Elliott himself, were poised to start taking over from all the “Big 3” talk.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400
RICHMOND, VA – APRIL 30: NASCAR Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Brian France speaks with the media during a press conference prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 30, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)


Meanwhile, only days after saying that the France family was locked and loaded on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, the man in charge of America’s largest motorsport was apologizing for his actions, resulting in an indefinite leave of absence from his position.

Jim France, uncle to Brian and his sister, Lisa France-Kennedy, will now interim as the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, until either Brian assumes his role again later down the road, or another permanent solution is found.

Monster Energy’s contract with NASCAR will end at the conclusion of the 2019 season, while the contract with the tracks will last through 2020, and the television deal with FOX and NBC will last through the 2024 season.

In the next handful of years, the sport will be changing one way or another. For the man in charge of it all to allegedly do what he did just gives the sport a black eye in times when it really can’t be afforded.

Many will clamor for new leadership, and whether NASCAR gets that or not, it still doesn’t erase this incident from NASCAR history.

In my eyes, Brian France needs to go further than temporarily removing himself from his position.

France needs to not only find the help he needs to better himself as a person, but he also needs to turn the company over to someone who will help bring NASCAR into the future, past the end of all of these contracts and deals, toward new deals and new beginnings in NASCAR.

For better or for worse, Sunday was NASCAR’s turning point.

Prepare for a few bumps in the road, but I truly hope that this leads to a new, prosperous age in NASCAR history, led by the up and coming stars such as Elliott, and under leadership that has the best interests of NASCAR at the forefront.

Team Chevy
SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for

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