Bill France's Role in Stock Car Racing History
It would be impossible to talk about the history of stock car racing without recognizing the immeasurable contributions of Bill France. Without him, NASCAR as it is today would not exist.
In 1934, auto mechanic Bill France picked up his family, left Washington, D.C., and headed for Florida. His motive was simple: In Florida, he could work on cars out of the cold and the snow.
Call it luck or call it fate, but France set up roots in Daytona Beach, Fla. In 1936, he took fifth place in the town's first stock car race. Unfortunately, the city lost $22,000 on the event and chalked it up as a failure. The race was handed over to the local Elks Racing Club for the following year, but again suffered financial losses and seemed like an ill-conceived idea.
Fortunately for the sport of stock car racing, Bill France stepped in. Along with Charlie Reese, a local restaurant owner, he organized a race and charged a 50-cent admission. They sold 5,000 tickets and split $200 in profits when it was over. A month later they did it again. This time they charged a dollar, and the same number of people showed up. They split $2,200 in profits this time around [source: SIVault].
Racing all but stopped during World War II, but shortly after V-J Day, France decided to organize and promote a national championship at the local fairgrounds. People said it wasn't fair to call it a national championship when only local drivers were competing. Seeing the value in that argument, France created the National Championship circuit in 1946. Less than a year later, at a meeting in the lounge of Daytona Beach's Streamline Hotel, the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) was born, with France as the primary stockholder.