William Clifton France (April 4, 1933 – June 4, 2007), better known as Bill France Jr. or Little Billy, was an American motorsports executive who served from 1972 to 2000 as the chief executive officer (CEO) of NASCAR, the sanctioning body of the US-based stock car racing. He succeeded his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. as its CEO. His son, Brian France, was the CEO from 2003 to 2018.
France was born in Washington, D.C., to Anne Bledsoe and William Henry Getty France. His family moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1935 to escape the Great Depression. He attended Seabreeze High School before attending the University of Florida. He served for two years in the United States Navy before turning to a career in racing.
France grew up helping at race tracks; he sold concessions and helped park cars at the Daytona Beach Road Course. He worked twelve hours per day, seven days a week for thirteen months with the construction of Daytona International Speedway, where he drove a compactor, bulldozer, and grader. He once tried using a mule to pull trees out of the swamp because motorized equipment was getting stuck.
He rode off-road motorcycles, and began competing in enduros in the 1960s. France entered the Baja 1000 in the motorcycle division in the early 1970s. He gave the up-and-coming sport of motocross a chance at Daytona in the early 1970s. The motocross races started with little fanfare, but grew into the popular Daytona Supercross, part of Daytona Beach Bike Week, which began in the late 1930s.
What was Bill France Jr.’s Net Worth?
Bill France Jr. was an American motorsports executive who had a net worth of $2 billion at the time of his death. Bill France served as the CEO of NASCAR from 1972 to 2000. He was the successor of his father, Bill Sr., and the predecessor of his son, Brian France. Bill France was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, three years after his passing. Bill died of lung cancer on June 4, 2007.
Net Worth: $2 Billion
Date of Birth: Apr 4, 1933 – Jun 4, 2007 (74 years old)
Place of Birth: Washington, D.C.
Nationality: United States of America
After leaving the Navy, France pursued a career in racing. Riding off-road motorcycles, he started competing in enduros in the 1960s. Early the next decade, France entered the motorcycle division of the Baja 1000, and competed in motocross at Daytona.
Having served as the vice president of NASCAR for six years, France became the company’s new CEO when his father retired from the position in early 1972. He would go on to significantly expand NASCAR during his tenure, taking it from a Southern regional sport to a national one. One of the ways France did this was by bringing the sport to television. In 1979, he signed a deal with CBS Sports president Neal Pilson to televise the Daytona 500, which became the first live NASCAR race televised flag to flag. The race, which saw Richard Petty win after leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed on the final lap, earned high television ratings. The success of the telecast helped France land further television contracts over the years, including with ESPN, TNN, and TBS. Among his other achievements as CEO, he helped significantly foster the growth of the Daytona 500 stock car race and the Daytona 200 motorcycle race at Daytona International Speedway.
Sarah Ashley Secoy
In 1993, France was alerted to the story of six-year-old leukemia patient Sarah Ashley Secoy from Ohio. He vowed to make her struggle and search for a marrow donor into an international news story, which he ultimately accomplished. As part of his efforts, France helped fund and promote a duet recorded by Secoy and her father, which made it onto tens of thousands of radio stations around the world. Eventually, Secoy’s genetic match donor was found, and she survived.
Personal Life and Death
With his wife Betty Jane, France had a son named Brian and a daughter named Lesa. Brian became the CEO and chairman of NASCAR in 2003, and Lesa serves as the president of International Speedway Corporation, a race track operator in which the France family has a controlling interest.
On June 4, 2007, France passed away from lung cancer in Daytona Beach. He was 74 years of age. His death was reported during the live broadcast of the Autism Speaks 400 Cup on “NASCAR on Fox.” With the track’s flag lowered to half-staff, lead announcer Mike Joy held a moment of silence.
Halls of Fame
In his later years, France was inducted into a number of Halls of Fame for his executive career in motorsports. In 2004, he was inducted into three: the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. France was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2006. Finally, in 2010, he was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.