'First Lady of NASCAR,' Betty Jane France, dies

The woman known as 'The First Lady of NASCAR,' Betty Jane France, died Monday evening.

France was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and has been a fixture in racing for years.

As the daughter-in-law of Big Bill France, who founded NASCAR in the 1940s, she was a part of a great legacy.

France was the widow of the late NASCAR Chairman and CEO William C. France, who died in 2007. She was also the executive vice president and assistant treasurer of NASCAR and the chairwoman emeritus of the NASCAR Foundation.

She was a kind woman, known for her philanthropy. A humanitarian award presented by Nationwide has been given in her honor each year since 2011.

France, a proponent of quality healthcare for children, helped realize the “Speediatrics” children’s care unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach and at Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Florida.

Her grandson, Ben Kennedy, a driver, tweeted, "We'll miss you grandma."

Driver Tony Stewart also tweeted, "Our sport lost another great woman today. Betty Jane France will be missed."

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Statements on the passing of Betty Jane France  

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France: 

“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. “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.

“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.”

NASCAR Hall of Fame:

"On behalf of everyone at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, I would like to send our most sincere condolences to Lesa, Brian and the entire France family on the passing of Betty Jane France. Affectionately and appropriately known as “The First Lady of NASCAR,” Betty Jane touched countless lives within the NASCAR industry and many, many more through her extensive philanthropic work. Her impact on the NASCAR community is immeasurable, working mostly quietly behind the scenes in a wide variety of capacities. Words cannot adequately describe her huge heart and her passion for helping those less fortunate and facing serious challenges. Speediactrics in Daytona Beach and the Betty Jane Humanitarian Award are just two of the numerous philanthropic efforts she has led. Betty Jane will be dearly missed, but her incredible legacy of helping others will live on forever."

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