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President Bush, others react to France death

President George W. Bush:

"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Bill France Jr. Bill was a legend in the world of NASCAR whose passion and vision for stock-car racing led the sport to the national prominence it enjoys today. 

"Bill brought racing’s excitement to millions of new fans through his steadfast and innovative leadership.  Bill also helped ensure that the NASCAR community found many ways to support the men and women of the US Armed Forces.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the France family."

Dean Kessel, director of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series marketing for Sprint Nextel:

"It is with the passing of one of NASCAR’s greatest icons that Sprint Nextel joins millions of fans in grieving today. Bill France Jr. orchestrated the transformation and fostered the growth of NASCAR to the heights it enjoys within the world of sports. He did so with passion and an uncanny business sense that put the interest of fans as utmost importance. That will forever be his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Betty Jane, Brian, Lesa and the entire France and NASCAR families.

Car Owner and Former NASCAR Driver Richard Petty:

“Everyone involved with the Petty family is saddened by the passing of Bill France Jr.  Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire France family at this time. 

Simply stated, Bill France Jr. was one of the greatest visionaries of our sport. 

Bill France Jr. took our sport to the next level.  He continued his father’s vision and guided our sport through a period of tremendous growth.  His vision built relationships with corporate sponsors and television partners.  That helped build our fan base that reaches far beyond just the southeast.  These are his greatest accomplishments. 

His vision, knowing what he wanted NASCAR to become and be, has made NASCAR a national sport.  We should all be fortunate for Bill France Jr. and his dedication to the sport we love.  I raced under Bill France Jr. for 20 years.  He treated every competitor fair and with honesty.  He was not only a trusted leader, but a good friend who will be truly missed.”

NASCAR Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.:

“On behalf of everyone at JR Motorsports, we are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Bill France, and want to extend our condolences to Betty Jane, Brian, Lesa, Jim, and the entire France family.  Mr. France was the backbone of our sport.  He was a true friend to the Earnhardt family, and someone I always looked up to.  We will do our part in continuing his legacy, racing hard, and putting on a good show for the fans.  I think that’s what he would want us to do.”

Edsel B. Ford II - member, Board of Directors, Ford Motor Company:
"Bill France Jr. was more than a good friend of mine.  He was a legend in motor racing. NASCAR and motor racing worldwide would not have seen the growth and prosperity it has without Bill's vision and determination.   He single-handedly made it the reality it is today by understanding what the fans wanted and by creating an environment where on-track competition was king. Bill also understood and encouraged the automobile manufacturers to become a major part of the sport.  I personally loved the opportunities I had to sit with him, discussing racing, business and family.  He had a wonderful perspective on everything going on around him.  Everyone at Ford, and me personally, lost a great friend today."

Dan Davis - director, Ford Racing Technology:

“Everyone involved in the Ford Racing program is thinking of the France family and wishing them the best at this very difficult time.  There’s no way to put into words how much Bill France Jr. meant to NASCAR and auto racing in general, because if it wasn’t for him, this sport obviously wouldn’t be where it is today.  He wanted to take NASCAR from a regional sport to something that is followed worldwide, and with great determination, he made that vision come true.  Every sport needs a strong leader at the top in order to be successful and no organization had a man that stood taller these last four decades than Bill France Jr.  We will truly miss him.”

Brent Dewar; General Motors North America Vice President of Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing:
"The world of racing has lost a true innovator in Bill France, Jr., who made NASCAR the premiere sport it is today. His vision, tenacity and friendship will be missed. He left the sport better and provided the foundation for continued growth. Chevrolet and General Motors extends its thoughts and prayers to the France family."
George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports President:

“Like his father before him, Bill France Jr. was a pioneer and will be remembered for so many contributions while growing stock car racing into a national pastime during NASCAR's modern era. We offer our condolences to his wife, Betty Jane, his children, Brian and Lesa, the rest of the family and all who mourn his loss.”

NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol:

"As the brilliant intellect and blinding force behind NASCAR's incredible growth, Bill France Jr. earned his reputation as one of the true giants in the history of American professional sports.  He will live forever in my mind as one of the most impressive men I've ever had the privilege of knowing.  Our hearts and prayers are with Betty Jane, Brian and Lesa."

Tony George Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chief Executive Officer:

“Bill was a great friend and business partner. He ranks near the top of the list of people I most respect. Besides his companionship, what I will miss most is his humor. His wit was sharp as a butcher's knife. His personal dedication to building NASCAR will be his legacy, and his leadership will be long remembered. My condolences to Betty Jane, Jim and the family.”

NHRA Founder Wally Parks:

“Having known Bill Jr. since his teenage years, when he was assigned to beach control during NASCAR's early Speedweeks at Daytona, I have always been impressed with his integrity and his sincere dedication to upholding the basic principles that were established by his father, Bill France Sr.

“His inherited leadership has been highly responsible for the dynamic growth that NASCAR has achieved as the unchallenged leader in motorsports. And his special combination of wit and wisdom will be missed by those of us who were fortunate in knowing him, as we extend our condolences to the members of the France family.”

NHRA President Tom Compton:

“Few would argue the impact Bill France Jr. had, not just on stock car racing, but the entire motorsports world. From humble beginnings, he led a movement that resulted in elevating motorsports to a mainstream sport and entertainment industry. Today, every motorsports organization, including the NHRA, is grateful for his vision and influence.

“His accomplishments, foresight and inspiration will forever shape the motorsports world. On behalf of everyone in the NHRA family, I want to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the France family and the entire NASCAR community.”

O. Bruton Smith, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Speedway Motorsports Inc.:

"Bill did a tremendous job of implementing the lessons learned from his father and managing NASCAR and its growth during his era.  His father taught him this business from the ground up and Bill had respect for our sport's history and a strong desire to continue to move it forward, which he did.  His leadership will be missed.  My sincere condolences go out to Betty Jane, Lisa, Brian, Jim and the rest of the France family."

Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig:

“As a former Daytona International Speedway president, Bill France always kept a keen eye on the track that his father Bill France Sr. founded and built. I have been honored to have his guidance and experience at my disposal during my tenure as track president.

“Bill France was a great ambassador to the sport and under his watch, led unparalleled growth for Daytona International Speedway, International Speedway Corporation and NASCAR.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family at this time.”

H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, President and Chief Operating Officer, Speedway Motorsports, Inc.:

"Our heart goes out to the entire France family.  Bill France Jr. rose to the greatest challenge of all-following in his legendary father's footsteps to take what he began into the mainstream of American sport. It was not an easy path. He hammered up advertising posters in places like Hillsborough, North Wilkesboro, the old Charlotte Speedway and the beach track at Daytona.  He did everything from selling tickets to giving broke racers enough money to get home or to the next track. He helped his father guide the sport through the turbulent Sixties. When the whole thing was dumped in his lap in the Seventies, there was little capital investment, few sponsors and network television was rare. His steady hand and analytical mind were exactly what was needed at the time, and that firm hand guided stock car racing through explosive growth and success. He will go down as one of the great leaders of American sport in the 20th century and his contribution to motorsports is immeasurable."

Michigan International Speedway President Roger Curtis:

"On behalf of the staff of Michigan International Speedway, we are deeply saddened by the news of Bill France’s death.  Mr. France was a great American, and truly embodied the American entrepreneurial spirit.  He transformed the auto racing industry into what it is today and was a historic figure that helped build the foundation of motorsports with his knowledge of business and love for auto racing. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Betty Jane, the rest of his family and the entire racing community as they deal with the loss of such a great man and leader."

Eddie Gossage President  Texas Motor Speedway:

“It is very sad news to hear today of the passing of Bill France Jr. During his time as head of NASCAR, the sport grew from a small, regional series into one that is a peer to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and others. We express our sympathies to the entire France family over this loss.”

Bob and Gary Bahre, Chairman of the Board and President of New Hampshire International Speedway:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Bill France, Jr.  Bill was not only a great friend of ours personally, but he was a great friend of the Speedway as well.  Our entire family will cherish the many memories that we shared with him.  His influence on the sport of auto racing will be felt forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with Betty Jane, Brian, Lesa, and the entire France family.”

Steve Page President and General Manager of Infineon Raceway:

“Bill France was one of the most significant sports figures of our era and he was at the helm when NASCAR emerged from its roots as a regional sport to the second most popular spectator sport in America. In that respect, all of us in this industry have benefited from his insight and business. All of us at Infineon Raceway are thinking of the France family during this difficult time.”

Richmond International Raceway President Doug Fritz:

“Words can’t describe the impact Bill France Jr. had on our sport. From the millions of NASCAR fans to those of us who make our livelihood in NASCAR, we all have Bill to thank for his vision and leadership.  I knew Bill for more than 17years, so I know he would have wanted us to get right back to work to help promote the sport he loved.  We will carry on, but we’ll do so with heavy hearts.  We will miss him tremendously.”

Talladega Superspeedway President Grant Lynch:

“Having had the opportunity to learn how to operate a motorsports facility under the tutelage of Bill France Jr. was certainly one of the most impactful things in my life.  His work ethic, wide range of knowledge and attention to detail are things I try to apply in business, as well as everyday life.

"His passing is a tremendous loss to the NASCAR community, as we have lost not only our leader and a pioneer of the sport, but also our friend. My thoughts and prayers are with the France family as we all go through this time of sorrow and grief.”

Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger:

“We are deeply saddened to learn of today’s passing of Bill France. Mr. France and Lesa Kennedy had the vision to expand NASCAR to the Midwest and build Kansas Speedway, which has is one of the top tracks on the NASCAR circuit. This has been an extremely difficult year for the NASCAR family which has also lost Benny Parsons and Bobby Hamilton. The staff at Kansas Speedway and I join the rest of NASCAR nation in mourning Mr. France’s passing.”

Car Owner Rick Hendrick:

"I've never seen anyone who could strike the balance that Bill did. He knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and rarely compromised, yet always made it a point to be fair. We've lost a strong leader, a visionary businessman and a truly amazing person. Bill was one of the toughest guys I've ever met, but he had a soft side, too. Words cannot express how much his friendship and support meant to me and my family during the most difficult of times. We shared a love for the ocean -- fishing and telling stories -- and it's those moments that I'll cherish forever."

Car Owner Richard Childress:

"Bill France Jr. was not only a leader in our sport but he was also a very good friend. Not only did he teach me a lot about our sport but he taught me numerous lessons about life. Over the last several years, NASCAR has grown to an unprecedented level of popularity. None of that would have been possible without the vision and leadership Mr. France provided. My thoughts and prayers go out to Betty Jane, Brian, Lesa and the entire France family."

NASCAR Driver Sterling Marlin

"It's a sad day, the sport of auto racing has lost a giant. Bill France Jr. was without a doubt the person responsible for bringing NASCAR to a major league level. I always enjoyed his company. I will miss him as will the entire motorsports community."

Car Owner Teresa Earnhardt

"Teresa Earnhardt, chief executive office of Dale Earnhardt Inc., on today’s death of Bill France Jr….“With the passing of Bill France Jr. we have lost one of the greatest corporate leaders of our time.  His contributions to the competitors, sponsors and millions and fans that follow the sport are beyond compare. Everyone at DEI will be forever grateful to Bill for giving us the opportunity to compete and build businesses that provide entertainment to millions and a livelihood to all of the people employed in some capacity by this sport.  He led with an unselfish approach and we have all benefited from his wisdom.”

NASCAR Driver Joe Nemechek

"Mr. France will go down as one of the outstanding executives in all of the major sports. He was not only a visionary, but a compassionate competitor about NASCAR. He worked hard to achieve his visions, and all of us in the sport have greatly benefited from his leadership. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the France family."

NASCAR Driver Dale Jarrett:

“We are deeply saddened by Bill France’s passing. When you look at the sport of NASCAR racing and think about the people that have truly made a difference Bill France comes to mind first. He, along with his dad, had a vision of what it would take to make this sport the most popular form of auto racing in the United States and even the world – against many odds a lot of times. Even though Bill had not been directly involved in the day-to-day operations for quite a while, and he felt comfortable with what he had put in place for that to happen, he was still a voice to be heard for Lesa and Brian and everyone within the NASCAR community and he will be deeply missed.”

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