Leading NASCAR to the front of the pack
Bill France, Jr. helped NASCAR evolve from a regional motorsport into an international phenomenon. The eldest son of NASCAR founder Bill France, Jr. grew up at the track. He was born in Washington, D.C. in 1933, but the family soon moved to Daytona Beach where his father opened a service station. In the 1940s, stock-car racing was already sweeping the back-roads of southeastern United States. The elder France could sense this groundswell of interest, but the sport lacked tracks, promoters, and structure. In 1947, France, Jr’s father called a meeting of stock-car owners, drivers and mechanics at Daytona’s Streamline Hotel. It was there that he outlined his vision for organizing the sport, including uniform rules, insurance coverage and guaranteed purses.
That meeting was the beginning of the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing, or NASCAR. France, Jr. was just 14 at the time, but he began helping his father in virtually every aspect of the business. He directed traffic, worked the concession stands, flagged corners, worked in the pits, and even promoted races. Thanks to this experience, he came to know the business of racing inside and out. When the time came for his father to hand over the reins in 1972, France, Jr. was ready to take NASCAR to the next level. At the time, stock car racing was still a regional sport. Televised races were rare, but France Jr. knew the value television held for helping NASCAR reach new audiences. He began negotiating with TV networks to help the sport gain exposure and in 1978, inked a deal with CBS.
As a result, the popularity of NASCAR racing soared, and soon all of the major networks were eager to buy the broadcast rights. Even the cars themselves became rolling billboards, with sponsors representing an endless array of products. NASCAR is now a multi-billion dollar industry, attracting millions of passionate race fans every year with tens of millions more watching on television. Thanks to the vision and guidance of Bill France, Jr., NASCAR was able to evolve from its grassroots beginnings to become the most popular motorsport in America.