BILL FRANCE

William Henry Getty (Big Bill) France was born in Washington, D.C. His first race car had a wooden body covered with canvas, and he raced it on local tracks area. After graduating from high school, Bill worked for a gas station and a car dealer in Washington before moving his family to Daytona.

In 1936 Bill and Sig Haughdal laid out the first beach-road course. The course ran south on A1A, turned across the dunes to the beach just south of the measured mile course, and came back up the beach to the North Turn. The American Automobile Association, which had timed the speed runs on the beach, sanctioned the first 250-mile stock car race in 1936. The purse was $5,000, and the competition was limited to strictly stock automobiles.

France entered the 1936 race in a '35 Ford. He started tenth -- eight minutes after the first car. The race was a scorer's nightmare because of the deep ruts in the turns, and no one is really sure who won, but France officially finished fifth.

Years later Bill admitted that living in Daytona and driving the sand on a regular basis gave him an advantage. "If you went too slow, you mired down and had to be towed out. If you went too fast, you dug in and flipped."

When the Daytona Elks Club declined France's offer to sponsor a race in 1938, France became a driver-promoter. With Charlie Reese he formed the Daytona Beach Racing Association. But racing had two major problems: cheating and dishonest promoters. France was determined to correct both. In 1938 he established a post-race inspection. If the inspectors discovered any deviation between the car and the manufacturer's specifications, the car was disqualified.

On December 14, 1947, he solved the second problem by calling to order the first meeting of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona. The rest is history!