- Erica Blackburn
Remembering "Big" Bill France
As the NASCAR governing body and Daytona International Speedway prepare for the regular-season finale Coke Zero Sugar 400 in late August, you can’t help but reflect on the sport’s humble beginnings thanks to “Big” Bill France, Sr.
Big Bill was the visionary who saw the final year of speed runs on the beach in 1935 and recognized what Daytona Speedway could do on a global scale. His competitive nature motivated him to become a successful promoter as well.
On Feb. 21, 1948, NASCAR became officially incorporated. Big Bill was put in charge of the new sanctioning body, and promotion of a full championship schedule.
The first Strictly Stock race was held in Charlotte on June 19 on a ¾-mile dirt track. Then, less than a month later, on July 10, 1949, the first Daytona beach-road course for the Strictly Stock division was held. It was the beginning of beach-road course racing in Daytona Beach and the phrase “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” for the car manufacturers.
Big Bill saw that the days of racing on the beach-road course were numbered due to the spreading land usage of a rapidly growing population and huge race crowds. He put a plan for the future of Daytona Beach in motion with a proposal to construct a permanent speedway facility that would become Daytona International Speedway. The rest is history!
David Pearson has the most Coke Zero Sugar 400 wins with five as a driver, while Wood Brothers Racing had nine wins as a team. William Byron won last year’s race.
The NASCAR Cup Series will run the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, August 28th at 7pm ET.