The New York Times has released their notable obituary list for 2007. Included are: Anna Nicole Smith, Arthur Schlesinger, Michelangelo Antonioni, Madeleine L’Engle, Oscar Peterson, Norman Mailer, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Also included is Bill France, Jr. aka the man who made NASCAR a house hold name. France’s father actually created the sport, but it was Bill, Jr. who made it great. Robert Lipsyte wrote in The Times in 2001 that the France’s built
“an enormously successful family entertainment that combines easily understood technology, appealing characters, theme-park ambience, endless collectibles and nostalgia with enough violence to make it true reality programming.”
The marketing genius that took NASCAR from backyard sport in the late 50s to billion dollar business in 2000s cannot be denied. That’s Bill above, center, surrounded by Dale Earnhardt and his son. During his reign, Nascar signed a 2.4 billion dollar contract with the major networks, which ten percent of rights fee going straight to Nascar. He rejiggered the sport with better tracks and cars hitting speeds exceeding 200 miles an hour. Merchandise sales reached $2 billion a year. In 2004, Nextel became the title sponsor of the series in a 10-year deal worth about $750 million. There’s more, but you get the idea.
NASCAR has managed to become synonymous with America. That’s no easy feat. Many props to France. R.I.P