Bill France,Sr. was a visionary, a pioneer, and a natural born leader. France was the guiding light for NASCAR from its inception in 1948 until he transferred power to his son in 1972.
France built the sport, shaped the sport, and grew the sport almost single-handed. From his early days as a race car driver, “Big Bill”, as he was called, realized that there needed to be a single sanctioning body that could help the drivers, control unscrupulous promoters and guarantee the fans a great show. After all, it was always about “the show”!
His idea for building his first superspeedway, The Daytona International Speedway, came from the old board tracks of the 20’s and 30’s, as well as his first impressions from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mr. France want to build the first 180MPH speedway!
Through much hard work and leveraging the family to the hilt, the speedway was built. In 1959 the very first Daytona 500 became history, and in true Bill France magical mystery, the finish was so close it took 3 days to declare a winner. To France and NASCAR’s credit that additional press coverage “was just what the doctor ordered”! A racing tradition was started!
Bill France,Sr.’s defining moment
Having established Bill France,Sr.’s claim to fame, his defining moment was the inaugural race at his brand new superspeedway, the 1969 Talledega 500. Because of the larger track at Talladega, the speeds were significant higher and the tires that Goodyear brought to the track were having a high rate of failure.
The race car drivers united and decided to boycott the first race after two days of practice. France told the drivers that he was going have race Sunday. The big names of NASCAR packed up their cars and headed home. However, France did in fact stage his race on Sunday without all the big names of NASCAR in the field!
The 1969 Talladega 500 was “Big Bill” France’s defining moment!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNCK!