The racing driver William “Bill” France founded the National Championship Stock Car Circuit (NSCC) in 1947 and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) in 1948.
Today, the France family is renowned as the “first family of NASCAR” since so many of its members have devoted themselves to the association in various capacities. The France family also controls the International Speedway Corporation and the International Motor Sports Association.
Short info about Bill France Sr.
Full name: William Henry Getty France
Nicknames: Bill France, Big Bill
Birth: September 26, 1909, in Washington, D.C., USA
Death: June 7, 1992, in Ormond Beach, Florida, USA
Spouse: Anne Bledsoe
Children: Bill France, Jr. and Jim France
Grandchildren: Brian France and Lesa Kennedy
In 1909, Bill France was born in Washington, D.C. to William Henry France and the Irish immigrant Emma Graham.
As a teenager, Bill loved to make laps in the family´s Model T Ford, using the high-banked 1.5 mile board track near Laurel, Maryland.
The young Bill worked several jobs before opening his own service station.
In 1935, the Great Depression made Bill France move with his family to Daytona, Florida. There, he worked as a house painter before finding a job at a local car dealership. Eventually, it was possible for him to set up a car repair shop at 316 Main Street Station. (Today, the place is the Main Street Station Historic Garage Bar Music Venue.)
Bill France as a race driver, event arranger and promoter
On March 8, 1936, the Daytona Beach Road Course hosted its first stock car race, promoted by the Daytona-based Sig Haugdahl. At this point, the renowned driver Malcolm Campbell and several other land speed record competitors had already agreed to stop racing in Daytona because the track was in such poor condition. (They used the Bonneville Salt Flats instead.) This wasn´t a popular decision with the Daytona city officials, because the speed events had been an important source of winter-season revenue for Daytona hotels and restaurants. Therefore, the city posted a $5,000 purse for the March 8 stock car race event. Instead of being the success the city hoped for, the March 8 race was marred with problems, became a financial loss for the city and led to a lot of criticism from both drivers and spectators. Bill France participated in the race and finnished fifth.
Instead of giving up hope, Haugdahl approached France, and together they convinced the Daytona Beach Elks Club to host a racing event on the 1937 Labor Day weekend. This event wasn´t a disaster, but still lost money despite only having a very small purse.
Haugdahl dropped out of the race promotion business, but France doubled-down and in 1938 he took over the job running the course. Two events were held in 1938, three each in 1939 and 1940, and four events in 1941. France arranged no events at the course in 1942-45, because of the war. He worked at the Daytona Boat Works during the war while his wife Anne France ran the filling station. France did participate in racing during the war, typically at small tracks throughout Florida. It wasn´t until after the war that he decided to concentrate on promoting instead of driving.
As soon as WWII was over, Bill France began promoting events at the Seminole Speeday, and in 1947 he built the Occoneechee Speedway, a 0.9-mile dirt track. The National Championship Stock Car Circuit (NSCC) was founded by France in 1947, and in early 1948 he started the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).