How the Florida economy has hit NASCAR

A pack of cars during Daytona Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway on January 13, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. How is the economy there doing as it heads into the Republican presidential primary?

Adriene Hill: It's crunch time in Florida -- time for candidates to shake as many hands and smooch as many babies and smile for as many pictures as they possibly can. Tomorrow, voters in Florida will make their choice for Republican presidential candidate.

We wanted to know what the Florida business community has to say about the economy and the election, so we got in touch with Brian France. He's the CEO of NASCAR in Daytona Beach. Good morning.

Brian France: Good morning.

Hill: What's the business condition in Florida right now?

France: Well, you know I think it's been hard hit. I think that's pretty obvious with the foreclosure numbers, the unemployment, and the like. It's been there, California and a few other states particularly hard hit.

It's tough, but our business is helping turn that around. Our attendance has been up at facilities in Daytona, and down in South Florida, we're expecting a big speed week -- one of the largest industry and sports draws in the country will happen here in a few weeks in Daytona Beach.

Hill: Now does the beat-up housing market and high unemployment rate in Florida affect NASCAR directly?

France: Sure. You know, look, we've got a whole lot of fans that are going through a big hardship. And a lot of them live in Florida -- in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, even in South Florida are big markets for the Daytona 500. So there's no question that it makes it harder.

And our events have literally 200,000 people at once, and multiple events throughout the month of February. So sure, it has an impact, but fortunately the product is very strong and we're working with our fan base to help in anyway we can with tickets that we can discount if possible. And the track has done a great job with all that.

Hill: Now when you hear what the candidates say they're going to do for Florida, do you believe them? Or do you think they're just looking to win votes right now?

France: No, I largely believe them. And I think Mitt Romney has shown such leadership in so many different areas that he understands how to get the economy working. So I'm optimistic that good things will happen.

Hill: What qualities are you looking for in our next president?

France: I'm looking for general leadership. I keep hearing: what's the one big magic bullet that somebody's going to do or not do to get the economy working. And there's not one thing, one lever that you can go pull. I think it's a combination of what direction -- how you can win over people on both sides of the aisle.

So I'm looking for somebody who's going to unite the country, not keep this divisiveness that's going on.

Hill: Brian France is the CEO of NASCAR. Thanks so much.

France: Thank you very much.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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