NASCAR Legend Bill France Jr. is Born on this Day in 1933 [w/ video]
On this day in 1933, Bill France Jr. was born. Known as “Bill Jr.” or “Little Bill,” he would follow in the footsteps of his father, Bill France Sr., who co-founded NASCAR. But where the senior created the racing series, the junior would take it to new heights. His efforts would lead to NASCAR’s popularity as we know it today. France Jr. attended University of Florida and then served two years in the Navy before following in his father’s footsteps in the motorsport world. He had to earn his keep, and worked long hours on the construction of Daytona Motor Speedway. When the mechanical equipment was getting stuck in the swamp, he went so far as to use a mule to pull trees out to help make the track. RELATED: See photos of the 1963 Ford Galaxie Holman & Moody NASCAR Racer Jr. served as vice president of NASCAR for 6 years before his father retired on January 10, 1972. Just over a month later, the 14th running of the Daytona 500 would take place, and the man who once used a mule to help build the track, would now preside over that race as NASCAR president:
Many have said that NASCAR has become a shell of its former self, and that the pursuit of more attendance and viewers has watered down the sport. It is fascinating to look back at when the cars that raced were the actual cars that you could buy at a dealership.
RELATED: A Noob's Guide to NASCAR
According to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, “Other than the founding of NASCAR itself, Bill Jr.'s appointment to leadership is probably the most significant event in the history of the sanctioning body.” If that is the case, then one might consider the beginning of the series’ downturn when France Jr. handed control of NASCAR over to Mike Helton in 2000. France was diagnosed with cancer that year, and in 2007 would pass on, due to lung cancer. It happened during a rain delay of the FedEx 400. It is impressive to consider how large the sport grew under his tenure, as the Dover International Speedway, where the race that day was held, has a capacity of 133,000.
RELATED: See images of the 2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup Car