As with pets that
assume the personalities of their owners, boats often mirror the outlook of
their skippers. That may explain what this 57-foot trawler is doing at Walker
Cay, an exclusive sport-fishing retreat in the Bahamas. Little Kaye is a
sturdy, functional craft, without any of the teak, mahogany and brightwork
common to more frivolous vessels of its size and value. But like the other
boats bobbing at their moorings. Little Kaye is loaded with sophisticated
navigational and deep-sea sport-fishing gear. She is intended for practical
duty. So is her owner. He is William Henry Getty France, certainly the most
powerful man in motor sports in this country, perhaps in the world.
Now gearing down
after three decades of hammering into lusty vitality a sport called Grand
National stock-car racing. France is a man of undetermined but substantial
wealth. Nevertheless, during frequent sun-baked weeks he now spends in the
Bahamas away from his unimposing office at Daytona international Speedway, the
2�-mile track he built at Daytona Beach, Fla., France refuses to be completely
idle. He has a commercial fishing license and does not hide the fact that he
"sells a few catches from time to time." After a day out on the water,
France will often entertain his guests—on occasion European noblemen, Middle
Eastern royalty or one of the innumerable captains of American industry he
counts among his friends—by strumming on his ukulele. It is appropriate that
France's favorite song is My Way.
Few people have
ever had more success doggedly following their own lead. If this paterfamilias
of stock-car racing had chosen to remain a Daytona service-station operator and
part-time race driver, he would not have been able to accomplish the
singlehandedly create NASCAR ( National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing)
from claques of contentious jealous, suspicious, greedy, shortsighted, hayseed
dirt-track jalopy jockeys and promoters and make it the most tight-knit,
prosperous racing organization in the world. This year an estimated 1.5 million
spectators will pay up to $40 a seat to watch Grand National drivers compete
for about $4.5 million in prize money at 16 NASCAR tracks.
International Speedway, a daringly designed venue of steeply pitched macadam
that in less than 20 years has grown to rival older tracks like Indianapolis
and Le Mans in prestige and profitability. Each February it draws an estimated
500,000 fans to the northern Florida resort for Speed Weeks, an extravaganza
that begins with a 24-hour race for road-racing machines and ends with the
Daytona 500. Then in March another 150,000 motor-sports enthusiasts fill up
motels more than 20 miles away for Cycle Week. And on July 4th, the recently
expanded grandstand at Daytona will be full again as the stock cars return for
the 20th running of the Firecracker 400.
?As the force
behind ACCUS (Automobile Competition Committee of the United States) serve as
the American link to international motor sports.
resist the intense pressure applied by Ford, Chrysler, Goodyear and Firestone
when they attempted to dominate NASCAR for advertising and marketing purposes
during the late 1960s.
what some critics describe as an act of bullheaded perversity—Alabama
International Speedway, the world's largest and fastest racetrack, in the
remote town of Talladega and through sheer head-knocking willfulness make it a
into prominence his own superstars—notably Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough,
Bobby Allison, David Pearson—and never become beholden to the Indianapolis
contingent or the European Grand Prix heavyweights, or to driver associations
or even personal agents who wield so much power in other sports.
substantial influence in other race-sanctioning organizations, such as the
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and the International Motor Sports