Commentary on Bill France Jr, Rest in Peace
Topics: Bill France Jr.
Jeremy T. Sellers
June 6, 2007
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One can pick up any book dealing with the history of NASCAR, or dial in any racing website and compile a list of facts and statistics on Bill France Jr. I will not waste your time doing such here, rather, offer a brief commentary on what I believe he meant to the sport, and what ramifications his death has on its future.
When "Big Bill" passed the NASCAR torch to his son, he eagerly grabbed it up and ran with it. He realized what his father's vision was, and knew there was no where to go but up. Both father and son were relentless in their efforts to create a sports superpower. Have you looked at Bill Jr's resume? It's quite impressive and worth the read. Under the junior France, NASCAR became a household name including migration across the country, television and radio broadcasts, merchandising, and an attempt to hold on to tradition and values no matter what came its way. In an almost covert way, NASCAR was suddenly an billion dollar empire, yet maintaining an aggressive, nail-biting form of racing that is slowly going by the wayside.
However, like us all, we earn our right to retire, step out of the lime-light and let the young guns pick up where we left off. Bill Jr. was no exception when he handed operations over to his son Brian and daughter Lisa. However, it is this author's opinion that their grandfather would be turning over in his grave if he knew what was becoming of a sport he fought so hard to get on the map. For now, there is so much micro-managing regarding what drivers can and can't do on and off the track without suffering this penalty or that suspension, that what was once NASCAR is becoming a sterilized, bland, and boring entity. Fans are beginning to agree that between Brian France and Mike Helton, that they are nearly making the sport "too safe" to the point where races are uneventful, and the slightest sign of driver aggression gets their pee pees spanked in the big bad hauler after the race.
Drivers are forced to pay more attention to sponsorship than they are their driving. Yes, sponsorship is what makes the clock tick in NASCAR without a doubt, however, racing hard is what brings sponsors to the forefront. The "let 'em race" mentality has been history for a long time. You can race, but you can't do this, this, or that. I firmly believe that's one of the reasons Bill Jr. handed over the reigns when he did. He realized that the sport had outgrown him in a way in which he couldn't keep up. However, he can rest assure knowing that he carried on his father's dream beyond what anyone could expect. For that, he is to be commended, and also for that, will be sadly missed within the racing community.
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