DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The modern-era matriarch of NASCAR has joined her groom.
Betty Jane France, widow of Bill France Jr., a philanthropist in support of children’s health causes and often referred to as the “First Lady of NASCAR Racing,” passed away on Monday.
France was the executive vice president and assistant treasurer of NASCAR, as well as the chairwoman emeritus of the NASCAR Foundation.
Among her surviving family are son Brian France, Chairman and CEO of NASCAR; daughter Lesa France Kennedy, the CEO of International Speedway Corporation; and grandson Ben Kennedy, who qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with his win in Bristol two weeks ago.
“We are saddened by the passing of my mother and inspiration Betty Jane France. She played a significant role in NASCAR’s history, leading the charge to elevate the experience of our sport for the fans who love it, and her philanthropic efforts will forever remain a part of our sport,” said Lesa France Kennedy in a statement Tuesday morning. “My mother launched the NASCAR Foundation as a steadfast champion of children’s healthcare and in 2011, the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award was created in her honor. In her hometown of Daytona Beach, she served as a community leader touching countless lives with her charitable efforts. She was very touched and proud last year when Halifax Health Medical Center unveiled a statue just outside the hospital tower which also bears our family’s name.
“Beyond her greatest community service, her starring role was that of mother to my brother Brian and me. She was an incredible role model, cherished friend, and someone who demonstrated limitless possibilities that helped so many people pursue their dreams.
“Her legacy will be treasured and she will forever be missed not only by her loving family and close friends, but by the many lives she touched along the way.”
“Last night, the NASCAR family lost a mother, a grandmother, a friend and the light that guided the sport’s charitable arm,” added Brian France. “My mother taught us incredible values, those of love, patience, compassion and joy. She embraced life every day, and nothing fueled her passion more than children. Her unmatched efforts in building The NASCAR Foundation improved the lives of millions of children throughout this country. Because of that, her legacy will live forever.”
“My father leaned on my mother throughout his life, relying on her wisdom and calming demeanor to help grow the sport of NASCAR. She was there, every step of the way. When we lost my father, her positive presence remained, as she used her immense skill to grow NASCAR’s heart and soul, The NASCAR Foundation.”
“Our family thanks you for all of your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. My mother was a special woman and an impressive person, and she will be dearly missed.”
Kennedy sent out a message on Twitter honoring his grandmother at 9:33 p.m. Monday night:
— Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) August 30, 2016
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