Betty Jane France, philanthropist and matriarch of the famous France family, has passed away.
Known as the "First Lady of NASCAR," France was the widow of Bill France Jr., son of the sport's founder who acted as NASCAR's CEO for much of his life. The couple's son, Brian France, has been acting CEO since 2003. Their daughter, Lesa France Kennedy, also went onto become the CEO for International Speedway Corporation.
Betty Jane France was seen as the leading mother figure in the NASCAR community. Her strong relationships with those in the sport, as well as her intensive charity work, made her one of the most beloved figures in NASCAR.
"Last night, the NASCAR family lost a mother, a grandmother, a friend and the light that guided the sport's charitable arm," Brian France said in a statement. "My mother taught us incredible values, that 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. And because of that, her legacy will live forever."
France was named chairwoman of The NASCAR Foundation in 2004. The Daytona Beach-based foundation focuses on supporting education and children through efforts of the NASCAR community.
She also founded the "Speediatrics" children's care unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach and at Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Florida In 2011, The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award was created to honor outstanding charitable and volunteer efforts of NASCAR fans.
Many members of the NASCAR community have taken to social media to honor Betty Jane.
— Kyle Petty (@kylepetty) August 30, 2016
Thinking of the entire France and Kennedy families after hearing about the passing of Betty Jane.
— Dale Jarrett (@DaleJarrett) August 30, 2016
Very sad to hear of the loss of Betty Jane France. Prayers and condolences to the entire family.
— Todd Bodine (@Team_Onion) August 30, 2016
Our hearts go out to the France family. Betty Jane France was an inspiration to us all and her impact on our sport is incredible. RIP.
— Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) August 30, 2016
— Daytona IntlSpeedway (@DISupdates) August 30, 2016
— Chip Ganassi (@GanassiChip) August 30, 2016