The vision of "Big Bill" France began its journey toward the enormous reality of NASCAR racing today at a now-famous meeting with selected drivers, car owners and racing officials at Daytona Beach's Streamline Hotel on Dec. 14, 1947.
Two months later, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing was incorporated, with France as its president. Less than two years later, NASCAR held the first sanctioned race in its Strictly Stock division at Charlotte Speedway, a .75-mile dirt track on the outskirts of town.
Though France's rule was autocratic, it brought a sorely needed organization to a sport that was haphazard and chaotic in its infancy. The formation of NASCAR brought standardized rules, a points fund and a legitimate national championship. Drivers were paid what they earned on the racetrack—as meager as it might have been at the time—where, previously, a promoter skipping out on his obligations was not uncommon.
In 1957, France founded International Speedway Corporation and oversaw the construction of Daytona International Speedway, which annually hosts NASCAR's premier event, the Daytona 500. Today, ISC owns 12 racetracks that together host 19 of 36 Sprint Cup points events.
"He was the father—if it hadn't been for him, this wouldn't be," veteran promoter H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler said recently at Darlington. "It would have been something else, but in what form? Who knows? But there would have been 100 times more chaos than there has been."
France presided over NASCAR's early years, and there were growing pains. Well-documented is France's propensity to carry a gun to situations where his rules might be questioned, but in those days, an iron will and an iron fist were what was required.
France had both.
The Bill France Sr. file
* Leader behind founding of NASCAR in 1947
* Ruled NASCAR from its inception through 1971
* Created ISC, which today hosts 19 Cup races, and built superspeedways in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega, Ala.