Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Do You Remember When?

Bill France Jr. passed away on June 4th of last year. Viewers may remember that it was actually during a live race that the news broke. France lived in the footsteps of his father and worked hard in the sport. That is a picture below of a young Bill Jr. driving a grader on what would become the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway.

The picture above is what many NASCAR fans remember as their first exposure to the sport. Bob Jenkins and the late Larry Nuber used the new cable TV network ESPN to carry the message and the pictures of stock car racing far beyond the Southeastern United States.

This was a time in the sport when rough men and rough driving gave way to good competition and legendary rivalries. Mr. France kept a tight reign on the group with a small inner circle of executives, some of whom still work in NASCAR today.

Mr. France was set in his ways and strong in his beliefs, but always listened to those with an opinion. New ideas came about after a lot of discussion and sometimes a lot of arguments. He led NASCAR through a transition period of national TV exposure and used the growth of cable TV to the advantage of the sport.

Granted, it was a different time and a different technology, but the leadership he provided kept a sport of very strong characters in control during his tenure. I thought it would be a good moment to remember him and get your thoughts.

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You can click directly on the pictures above to download the full size images.


Lou,Kingston,NY said...

Although I never knew or met Mr.France. I think I do remember when. As a youngster in the 60's. I remember on the farm trying to listen for on my little pocket transitor radio w/the 9v battery(lol) trying to catch something on the radio at night. Because I could listen to stations in the south at night. That is the one thing that comes to mind to me this day. Thanks JD


I have to wonder if NASCAR can survive with Brian France at the helm. The aspect of leadership he seems to be missing that his father and grandfather held dear is listening to others. No one person can have all the answers but Brian seems to feel as if he does. Bill had the vision and the drive and he also had the ability to incorporate others' opinions without feeling threatened. the result was a spectacular show and the lifestyle we enjoy today. I fear Brain is on the verge of forcing the collapse of the empire built by his family due to his inability, or his fear of listening to others. I can only hope that there will be a NASCAR when my son is ready to take his children to Atlanta Motor Speedway just I have begun to do. the future for NASCAR is now, but Brain is unwilling and seemingly unable to get there.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...

I would appreciate the remainder of the comments being directed to Bill France Jr. and his legacy in the sport. Thanks.


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Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure...and pain.. of dealing with Bill in the television sector for more than 25 years.
He was tough, incredibly smart,photographic memory, always looking for the lastest information and intelligence, and very loyal. Above all, he was 100% a man of his word. A handshake was as good as a 100 page contract.
There is no one like him left in the sports business.

red said...

has it only been a year? man, it seems like more than that since we had his voice and vision as part of the sport. his obvious love of and dedication to our sport is sorely missed by this fan. he worked hard to stay faithful to foundation his dad set in place and, as imabigdawg so accurately stated, bill jr also possessed not only the ability but also the desire to listen to others.

yes, both bill jr and his father, big bill, were sometimes imperious and stubborn. but there is one aspect of bill france jr's character that always came through loud and clear to me as a fan: he cared. he cared not only about the business of nascar but about the sport of nascar, its owners, teams, track owners and fans. he was hands-on leader and he is missed.

Anonymous said...

I first truly discovered NASCAR when I was living in a very rural part of the state in the mid '90's--this was before DirectTV and DishNetwork were widely available--way beyond the reach of any cable lines. The rabbit ears on the set only picked up one station which happenned to be one which showed NASCAR races. Quickly became entranced by the personalities of the sport, included the France family. But while obviously sentimental about those times, I still can't give a free pass to Mr France for some of the harm I think he later inflicted on the sport, especially NASCAR turning their back on ESPN--despite the role they played in their development--to the point that when the network wouldn't agree to NASCAR's onerous intellectual property restrictions, they were banned from the interior of the racing facilities. I admire what Mr France did to expand his Dad's vision for the sport, but I think he could have/should have burned fewer bridges along the way.