I watched the first installment of the new NASCAR documentary on CMT on Sunday. I thought I understood the history of the sport, at least to some extent, before but clearly I didn’t. I thought the documentary was fascinating. Why? Two reasons.
First, I am fascinated by men who are willing to take a risk, sometimes risk everything to live out their dreams. That’s what Bill France did. He wanted to do more than work as a mechanic in his gas station. He had a dream and he followed it. Many claim to try this but really they don’t, Bill France did. Here is what I really like about men like Bill France. They don’t ever waiver from what they want and the way they want to do it. Bill decided that if his organization were to be successful he would have to open it up to everyone. Anyone with a “Stock” car could come and race. It was met with resistance, most especially from Raymond Park who had bankrolled the early days of NASCAR. Park wanted to limit competition to “professional” drivers most of whom ran for him. Park claimed that it was dangerous to allow just anyone show up and race. France wouldn’t waiver, Park may have paid the initial freight but NASCAR was Big Bill’s baby. Just think about that, if France had not opened up the Stock division there wouldn’t have been any Lee and Richard Petty or Junior Johnson. Just two examples of names and teams who continued to show up and race until, 2016.
This brings me the second thing I found very interesting and hadn’t really known or maybe thought of before. I have written previously about change in NASCAR to include the charter system. Watching the documentary the other night I realized that the Charter system finally adopted by the sport and Bill’s grandson Brian changed NASCAR for the first time in over 60 years. Of course there have been countless changes along the way but this is the first change that really effected the fundamental way the sport operates. Until this year I could have, if I had the money, done what people had been doing for decades, put together a team and entered a car in the highest level of racing. Yes, there are four spots still “open” in each race outside the charter system for people to attempt that but in my opinion that is unlikely to continue. Soon there will be 40 charters, franchises, and only the wealthy need apply. It’s not a bad thing. It brings a legitimacy to the sport and attracts they type of owners who will continue to grow the sport. It is just fascinating to think that Bill had an idea that continued on so successfully for so many years.
I love NASCAR and every nuance of the sport. Thanks for reading. Please see my books on my home page if you are interested in reading more of my work.