This Day In History: Bill France Sr., NASCAR Founder, Born

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William Henry Getty France was born in Washington D.C. on September 26, 1909. He would go on to be known by the name Big Bill, but motorsport history will remember him as Bill France Sr., the man who founded and managed NASCAR.


(Welcome to Today in History, the series where we dive into important historical events that have had a significant impact on the automotive or racing world. If you have something you’d like to see that falls on an upcoming weekend, let me know at eblackstock [at] jalopnik [dot] com.)

France grew up infatuated with his family’s Model T, which he took out for laps on a board track near Laurel, Maryland instead of attending school. Part of his reason for moving to Daytona Beach was to avoid the desolation of the Great Depression, but he was also very familiar with the fact that Daytona Beach was known for hosting land speed record runs. The city lost its appeal when racers started heading to the Bonneville Salt Flats, but officials wanted to keep its speed-related background.

So France, who had competed in some of the Daytona Beach races, decided to make some moves after the end of World War II. A racer himself, France knew that there was a massive problem with organization in the stock car racing world. Drivers were often stiffed appearance fees by promoters who kept all the money themselves, and different tracks offered very different points systems or championships. There was no uniformity between races or tracks, which made it difficult to put together a motorsport career.

He gathered some drivers, mechanics, and car owners together at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach to hammer out a basic set of rules that would govern a specific set of races that would all compose a championship. That became the sanctioning body we now recognize as NASCAR, or the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

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France also used his control over the sport as a way to keep it within the family; when he retired, France gave his son, Bill France Jr., control of the series. NASCAR remains a France family affair to this day.

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