William (Bill) Clifton France, 74, passed away at his home in Daytona Beach, Fla., on June 4, 2007. The funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. today(ET) (Thursday, June 7) at the Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center, at Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, and is open to the public. France is remembered - and revered - as the visionary leader for more than three decades of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and International Speedway Corporation (ISC). During this time, he guided NASCAR to unprecedented levels of popularity and grew ISC into the largest promoter in the motorsports industry. He combined pragmatism with optimism, an approach that resulted in a calculated - and adventurous - road to success. France grew up in the formative years of stock car racing, living and learning every detail of the sport from his own experiences, and those of his father, William H.G. France, who was known as "Big Bill" because of his 6-foot-5 stature. During this period, France performed a wide variety of roles. He flagged, scored and promoted events, and even raced a few times in the 1950s. France became NASCAR's president in January 1972, replacing his father at the helm of the world's largest auto racing sanctioning body. He led NASCAR on its ascent to its position as America's preeminent form of motorsports and the nation's second-most popular sport overall. In addition to his NASCAR activities, France most recently served as Chairman of the Board of ISC. France took an active role in the design and construction of Daytona International Speedway, which opened in 1959. He went on to guide ISC through a period of substantial growth, expanding the company's primarily Southeastern presence into key markets nationwide through both the acquisition and development of premier racing facilities. Born April 4, 1933, in Washington, D.C., France was less than two years old when his parents moved to Daytona Beach in 1934. He attended Seabreeze High School, where he played basketball, and later attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. He also served two years in the United States Navy before turning to a full-time career in the motorsports industry. France is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Betty Jane; son, Brian; daughter, Lesa France Kennedy; brother, James (Jim); and grandchildren, Benjamin (Ben) Kennedy, William (Will) France and Lauren France, all of Daytona Beach. Arrangements are under the direction of Lohman Funeral Home, Daytona Beach. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the NASCAR Foundation; the Halifax Medical Center Foundation Inc./Betty Jane France Pediatric Center (also known as "Speediatrics"); or another NASCAR-related charity. Donations to the NASCAR Foundation may be made online at www.nascar.com/foundation, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail to the NASCAR Foundation, c/o Bill France Jr. Memorial Fund, 301 S. College St., Suite 3900, Charlotte, NC 28202. For information on the NASCAR Foundation or other NASCAR-related charities, call (704) 348-9680. Donations to Speediatrics may be mailed to the Halifax Medical Center Foundation Speediatrics Fund, c/o Bill France Jr. Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 9718, Daytona Beach, FL 32120. For information on Speediatrics, call (386) 254-4111.
Published in Daytona Beach News-Journal from June 6 to June 7, 2007