February 29 2008: 2:32 PM EST
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Speed racer

Brian France, 44, chairman and CEO of NASCAR

By Eugenia Levenson, writer-reporter

(Fortune Magazine) -- Stock-car-racing scion Brian France spends as much time in the air crisscrossing NASCAR nation as he does at the track. The grandson of NASCAR's founder took over the family's multibillion-dollar empire in the fall of 2003 and promptly put his stamp on the sport by revamping the championship point system. This season he tweaked the formula again, making individual race victories count for more in the run-up to the Nextel Cup. We caught up with France at NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., where a special team oversees car standards and runs safety testing.

DAYS ON THE ROAD: 200 or more.

FAVORITE WAY TO FLY: I fly a combination of private and commercial, but I like JetBlue because they have DirecTV. They also fly out of smaller airports.

THE EXTRA MILE: Go for nonstop flights rather than the closer airport. I'll drive 60 miles from Daytona to Orlando to avoid stopping in Atlanta. The airports are a mess, so anything to avoid them is the way to go.

TIME IT RIGHT: The first flight out may be the most reliable, but it's also the most crowded. If you can leave later, flights between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. are much better.

WHERE TO STAY: The Four Seasons in New York is probably as nice as any business hotel.

LUNCH SPOT: San Pietro is a great Italian place in New York, on 54th between Madison and Fifth. Once they know you, they take care of you, and that's key for me.

SPORTS BAR: The ESPN Zones in New York and Atlanta.

BEST NASCAR TAILGATE: Daytona and Bristol are both classic venues. At Bristol, the Food City 250 starts at night, so there's a longer run-up to the race. And the Daytona 500 is the biggest event of them all.

DON'T MISS: Giorgio Baldi, a Santa Monica restaurant that's famous among locals but isn't on the Hollywood list. It's hard to get into on Sunday night, of all things. They've got over-the-moon good food.

NEXT UP: Alaska's on my hit list, but for vacation, a fishing trip. We won't open a racetrack in Anchorage - at least I hope not.  To top of page

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