This weekend, with the NASCAR Hall of Fame's first-ever induction ceremony, two names are at the head of the class. It's a father-and-son combo - Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. How do you put it into terms what the Frances have done for this sport?
To me, "Big Bill" was the dreamer. He could see things that others never could. He had this grand plan. He brought folks together, founded NASCAR and got the ball rolling. Then, when Bill Jr. took over in the early 70's, he made every dream his father had happen. It's like Bill Sr. laid the foundation and Bill Jr. then took it to great heights.
I would even wager to say that Bill Jr. took NASCAR further than Bill Sr. ever imagined. That's why the entire France family has become as great as it is. The family works and never loses sight of trying to make our sport even bigger. They are constantly working on what the next step is for not only the sport, but also what is the next step in entertainment value for our fans.
I have been a big believer in the idea that it is unfair to compare eras. I feel the same way when it comes to trying to compare men of the past, present and the future. Bill Jr., for instance, learned from his father but he developed his own style.
You have to remember, to use an analogy, it was basically the Wild West when Bill Sr. was sheriff. It evolved some when Bill Jr. took over. Back then, they had the luxury of being more "hands on" in the garage area. In the beginning, the France family literally had to do so much itself.
Now NASCAR has become a much larger company. I know how much the sport has evolved since I came into it in the early 1970's. I can only imagine how much it has evolved since Bill Sr. literally founded NASCAR.
So now father and son are going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. To use a Hollywood analogy, it's like watching Clark Gable and John Wayne win an academy award. Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. had that kind of "wow" factor when they walked through the garage area.
For myself, I have a deep appreciation of where our sport is because of the dreams of those two men. They have given us the opportunity to take NASCAR to a totally different level. Their vision, determination and passion for stock car racing made it happen. Walking through our new NASCAR Hall of Fame reminded me of that the other day.
Let's face it folks, it is a pretty simple concept. You go around in circles in very fast cars. Look at what we have today because of that concept and the vision the Frances had. Our sport started with a guy, a car and probably four or five buddies helping him. Now we have Taj Mahal-type race shops that employ upwards of 500 people. That is simply staggering - and it's all because of the France's and their vision of where NASCAR racing could go.