It’s hard to make a good motorcycle. Maybe it’s even harder to make money making motorcycles – but if it wasn’t possible to do so, we’d have nothing to ride! Over the next couple of weeks, I'll post short bios of ten of the most influential motorcycle entrepreneurs.
At #10, “Big” Bill France – promoted the Daytona 200
France is best known as the father of NASCAR and the builder of Daytona International Speedway. The city of Daytona Beach convinced the AMA to hold the 200-mile national championship race there in 1937. After a few lackluster years, it seemed Daytona would lose the race, until France (a mechanic and beach racer - in cars) was convinced to become the promoter. He continued to promote the race until, realizing that it could not continue on the beach, he built the speedway. He opened his track in 1959 and the AMA saw the light and moved the race there two years later. Under France’s control, the race became an international sensation. Over the next ten or 15 years, it became the only American road race with really 'international' stature; Hailwood, Agostini and a host of GP stars often came over to race there. Bill France died in the early '90s, and his son, Bill Jr., took control of the Speedway
|Bill France, with his son Bill France Jr., who was an avid motorcycle racer in his younger days.|
A friend of mine recently told me a story about going to meet Bill France Jr. shortly after he took over the family business. By that time NASCAR was already a big business, but the most prominent racing photo on the office walls was a shot of Bill Jr. racing a Bultaco short tracker. Over the last few years, many in the motorcycle racing community have been dismayed by some of Daytona Motorsports Group's handling of AMA Pro Racing, and some have wondered if the current head of the family dynasty has lost his love of motorcycles. I think it's more likely that, since NASCAR is so much more important to the dynasty than is motorcycle racing, he simply has to delegate.