In the past, NASCAR also sanctioned the AutoZone Elite Division, which raced late-model cars that were lighter and less powerful than Cup Series cars, and was originally split into four divisions: Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, and Midwest. At the end of 2005, NASCAR announced that the AutoZone Elite Division would be discontinued after the 2006 season due to having trouble securing NASCAR-sanctioned tracks to successfully host AutoZone Elite Division events, plus escalating costs of competing and downsizing of the Division in recent years. In 2003, NASCAR standardized rules for its AutoZone Elite and Grand National divisions regional touring series as to permit cars in one series to race against cars in another series in the same division. The top 15 (Grand National) or 10 (AutoZone Elite) in each series will race in a one-race playoff, called the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, to determine the annual AutoZone Elite and Grand National champions. This event has been hosted at Irwindale Speedway in California since its inception.
Many drivers move up through the series before reaching the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 2002, over 9,000 drivers had licenses from NASCAR to race at all levels.
The winners of the All-American Series National Championship, the K&N Pro Series East and West championships, the two Whelen Modified and Grand National Divisions, and the three national series are invited to Las Vegas in December to participate in Champions Week ceremonies.
While not officially connected to NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation (ISC) was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1953 to construct and manage tracks that NASCAR holds competitions at. Since several members of the France family are executives at ISC, it is sometimes the subject of antitrust lawsuits.
NATO's unity was breached early in its history with a crisis occurring during Charles de Gaulle's presidency of France. De Gaulle protested against the USA's strong role in the organization and what he perceived as a special relationship between it and the United Kingdom. In a memorandum sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on 17 September 1958, he argued for the creation of a tripartite directorate that would put France on an equal footing with the US and the UK.
Considering the response to be unsatisfactory, de Gaulle began constructing an independent defence force for his country. He wanted to give France, in the event of an East German incursion into West Germany, the option of coming to a separate peace with the Eastern bloc instead of being drawn into a larger NATOWarsaw Pact war. In February 1959, France withdrew its Mediterranean Fleet from NATO command, and later banned the stationing of foreign nuclear weapons on French soil. This caused the United States to transfer two hundred military aircraft out of France and return control of the air force bases that it had operated in France since 1950 to the French by 1967.
Though France showed solidarity with the rest of NATO during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, de Gaulle continued his pursuit of an independent defence by removing France's Atlantic and Channel fleets from NATO command. In 1966, all French armed forces were removed from NATO's integrated military command, and all non-French NATO troops were asked to leave France. US Secretary of State Dean Rusk was later quoted as asking de Gaulle whether his order included "the bodies of American soldiers in France's cemeteries?" This withdrawal forced the relocation of SHAPE from Rocquencourt, near Paris, to Casteau, north of Mons, Belgium, by 16 October 1967. France remained a member of the alliance, and committed to the defence of Europe from possible Warsaw Pact attack with its own forces stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany throughout the Cold War. A series of secret accords between US and French officials, the LemnitzerAilleret Agreements, detailed how French forces would dovetail back into NATO's command structure should East-West hostilities break out.
France announced their return to full participation at the 2009 StrasbourgKehl summit.