Gary Crotty, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel for NASCAR, celebrates a historic first as the new year gets going. It’s a crossover into the affairs of global motorsports, one that leans on his years of stateside legal experience in stock-car racing’s front office.
On Jan. 1, Crotty began a four-year term on the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) Courts as one of its 36 judges, placing him in the prestigious rotation of members who hear and rule on international motorsports disputes. He became the first NASCAR representative to hold such a post after his election by the FIA General Assembly late last year.
“That’s another distinction and an honor that I’m happy to fulfill and am honored to do so, so it’s a big deal,” Crotty says. “And for me, having been in NASCAR for a quarter-century as a lawyer and helping NASCAR with their rules, regulations and appeals as well, it’s going to be fascinating for me to see how the other side of the pond is.”
Crotty applied for the post last summer after being approached by George Silbermann, President of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), the FIA’s National Sporting Authority in America. He was confirmed as an FIA judge last month, and his term will run until Dec. 31, 2025.
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His duties include the potential to be called upon by the two independent bodies that settle disputes and appeals in global motorsports – the International Court of Appeal and the International Tribunal – to hear their cases. It’s a post that will draw upon the legal experience he’s gathered since joining NASCAR in 1996 as secretary and general counsel.
“Gary Crotty is an outstanding choice for this distinguished position,” said Jim France, NASCAR’s Chairman and CEO. “Gary has served NASCAR with passion and care for more than two decades, and has a well-deserved reputation as a strong voice for fairness and process. We thank the FIA General Assembly for recognizing Gary, and by extension, NASCAR. They have chosen the right person for this honor.”
The 58-year-old Crotty has already started familiarizing himself with FIA rulebooks and regulations. Next up in February is an introductory seminar, which will involve another facet of his new role with the European organization: It begins at 3 am ET. “A bit of a time difference between us and Paris,” says Crotty, who is based in Daytona Beach, “so that’ll be interesting.”
All sounds so far like a gradual orientation process with his new position, but the potential for a quick thrust into a high-profile case loomed as his term approached. That threat ended Dec. 16 when Mercedes ultimately withdrew its plans to appeal the results of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen edged Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to claim the Formula One world championship in a controversial finish.
“That’d be a good first day on the job, huh?” Crotty said with a laugh. “Hopefully not. I was concerned about, my God, what have I gotten into? I’m hoping that I get eased into the situation and no one has something as big as recent things that have come up in the world of FIA racing. … I kind of wiped my brow that that wasn’t right on our plate.”
As for the other aspects of the job, Crotty says he expects the transition to be largely seamless. He’s been immersed in working remotely to conduct business for nearly two years now, which should help bridge some of the distance with the European body as he balances the FIA role with his current duties at NASCAR. Crotty celebrated his 25-year work anniversary with the company last year; he’s been a member of NASCAR’s Board of Directors since 2006.
That quarter-century of service has been a period of growth for NASCAR, and Crotty has been at the center of the legal end of negotiations for speedway assets and acquisitions, contracts with broadcast partners, plus deals with premier and series entitlement sponsors.
“So really, it’s been the gamut of experience and legal opportunity,” Crotty says. “It’s almost like, what haven’t I seen from employment law, environmental law, broadcast, (intellectual property) licensing, sponsorships — it’s everything, and I’ve had the privilege of being there for it. It’s been a great run.”