Who was Bill France, Sr. and Why Did He Start NASCAR?

Bill France, Sr. and the First NASCAR Event

View of National Association of Stock Car Racing in 1957.
Racing at Daytona in 1957. Bettmann/Getty Images

Bill France, Sr. was born on September 26th, 1909 and grew up near Washington, D.C. He taught himself mechanics in his younger years and took formal training in banking. Bill France's first "real" job was as a bank clerk — his father worked at the Park Savings Bank, so perhaps he was following in his footsteps. It was a short-lived career, however, because Bill never really felt that banking was his calling.

He was destined to become the father of NASCAR.

The Motor Sports Bug Bites

Bill France was working as a mechanic in the early 1930s, having opened his own garage near Washington, D.C. He was also racing the local dirt track circuit in his free time.

Bill France Moves South

Bill moved from Washington, D.C. to Daytona Beach Florida in 1934. He actually intended to move to Miami, but his car broke down in Daytona Beach and there he stayed. He liked the area.

Daytona Beach was famous for its land speed record attempts along the beach at that time, but the larger, safer Bonneville Salt Flats had just opened. Daytona was beginning to lose some of its speed record appeal.

Bill Finds Success in Daytona

Daytona Beach held its first beach/road course race in 1936. By then, Bill France was a local gas station owner and he was active in the local racing scene. He entered that very first race and finished fifth.

Then, just a few years later Bill was asked to run the races as a promoter. He wasn't particularly enthusiastic about taking on the job, but no one else was willing to do it, either. Finally, Bill agreed.

The Grand Idea

After taking time off to work in the Daytona Boat Works during World War II, Bill France returned to motor sports, promoting races on the Daytona Beach/Road course.

He soon found himself becoming frustrated with unscrupulous race promoters who would promise big paydays, then take off with the money. He also felt that drivers could earn more money and have better races if there was a common set of rules and a strong sanctioning body to back them up. He gathered together a group of race promoters, officials and drivers in the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida to discuss the idea in December 1947. NASCAR was officially born on February 21st, 1948 after a series of meetings.

The First NASCAR Cup Race

The first "Strictly Stock" series event — it would eventually go on to become the Winston Cup Series, the Sprint Cup Series and the Monster Energy Cup — was held on June 19, ​1949 at Charlotte Speedway, a 3/4 mile dirt track in Charlotte, NC. Glenn Dunnaway crossed the finish line first, but he was later disqualified for having illegal rear shocks. Jim Roper and his 1949 Lincoln were awarded the win and the $2,000 top prize.

NASCAR was born.