Anne B. France honored with inaugural Landmark Award

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Monday, Feb 02 1468

In one of the most emotional moments in Friday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Lesa France Kennedy accepted the inaugural Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR on behalf of her grandmother, Anne Bledsoe France.

Side-by-side with husband Bill France Sr., Anne B. France, affectionately known as “Annie B,” played a pivotal role in the founding and growth of NASCAR racing. Where “Big Bill” ran the competition side of the business, Anne B. France handled the business side, keeping the books, managing ticket sales and making sure bills were paid.

“My grandfather was a visionary, but my grandmother was the one who kept everything together,” Kennedy told the NASCAR Wire Service during a telephone conversation on Thursday. “Without her, NASCAR might not have succeeded the way it did.”

To Kennedy, there could not have been a more fitting recipient of the first Landmark Award.

“I think it’s appropriate, in that it’s a unique award in the Hall of Fame,” she said. “For her to be the first recipient is very special.”

Anne B. France was the first secretary and treasurer of NASCAR, and with the construction of Daytona International Speedway, she filled the same roles with International Speedway Corporation and was active in the business of NASCAR racing until her death in 1992.

In accepting the award, Kennedy, the chief executive officer of ISC, revealed to the audience that Anne B. France actually kept two sets of books.

“There was the real set of books for the business, and then she had a set of books that she shared with my grandfather, Bill France Sr., just to make sure he didn’t spend us out of business,” Kennedy said. “I think everybody in this room today should be thankful for that.”

Kennedy had told the NASCAR Wire Service, “I don’t know exactly how I’m going to feel until I get up there — it’s going to be a very special night.”

And when she began to describe her grandmother’s role in the growth of NASCAR, there was a catch in Kennedy’s voice as the emotion of the moment took hold.

“I was fortunate enough to know her and to call her ‘Grams,’” Kennedy said, “and NASCAR will always remember her as that strong-willed, pioneering woman who helped build the foundation of our sport.”