NASCAR mourns loss of its ‘first lady’
The France family and the extended NASCAR nation are in mourning after the death of Betty Jane France, considered by many to be the first lady of NASCAR.
France, the widow of Bill France Jr. and mother of racing executives Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy, died Monday evening. A statement from NASCAR on Tuesday did not disclose details of her death, including her age.
“Last night, t he NASCAR family lost a mother, a grandmother, a friend and the light that guided the sport’s charitable arm,” Brian France said in a statement.
“My mother taught us incredible values, that of love, patience, compassion and joy. She embraced life every day, and nothing fueled her passion more than children. Her unmatched efforts in building The NASCAR Foundation improved the lives of millions of children throughout this country. And because of that, her legacy will live forever.”
Betty Jane France was executive vice president and assistant treasurer of NASCAR and chair of the NASCAR Foundation. She was married to the son of NASCAR founder Bill France. Their son Brian is chairman and CEO of NASCAR while France Kennedy is CEO of International Speedway Corp., whose holdings include Daytona International Speedway.
“They say behind every strong man is a very strong woman,” said Richard Petty, a seven-time Cup champion and co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports. “In this case, Betty Jane stood just as tall as Bill Jr. Betty Jane France was a NASCAR executive and chair of its foundation. She did just as much as anyone to build the sport and help it grow.”
France’s stewardship of the foundation focused on health care for children, helping establish the “Speediatrics” children’s care unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Fla., and at Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Fla. Smoking gun: The Smoke — and maybe a few tears — may get in the eyes of the most ardent Tony Stewart fans this week. It’s official: Stewart has qualified for the postseason Chase in his final season, clinching the spot after finishing 21st Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
Stewart needed to stay above the top-30 slot after his win at Sonoma in June, a bit of a predicament because “Smoke” missed the first eight races while recovering from a broken back suffered in a dunebuggy accident near Phoenix.
Stewart, 45, is a threetime Cup champion.