News & Media


Wallace: Impact of Betty Jane France far-reaching

July 13, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

Charitable acts inspire humanitarian award; fan nomination deadline approaches

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's no mistaking how serious Rusty Wallace is about the charitable work undertaken by the NASCAR Foundation, of which he's a member of the board of directors.

So there's no chance Wallace would misspeak when he notes the impact of NASCAR's "queen mother," Betty Jane France, the wife of the late NASCAR chairman, Bill France, as the July 18 deadline approaches for fans to submit nominations for the inaugural Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

Betty Jane France (Getty Images)

"She just has such a big heart when it comes to helping others, it's all about children ... Everything is always about charity."

--RUSTY WALLACE

"Betty Jane is our anchor," Wallace said. "When we have our [Foundation board] meetings she sits right there and we know who is running this thing -- we know who the boss is, who's in charge. She may not be doing all the talking, but we're always looking to her for advice."

Ironically, that sounds like the iconic "Bill Jr.," who took NASCAR from a southeastern sport in the early 1970s to a national phenomenon through the 1990s and into the current century.

Wallace said Betty Jane France has quite a legacy as a community leader, as a pioneer of charitable works in the NASCAR community who serves as chairwoman and founder of the NASCAR Foundation. She also created the Speediatrics concept, a pediatric unit with a racing theme at both the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., and at the Betty Jane France Children's Emergency Center at Homestead (Fla.) Hospital.

"We sat down and decided we wanted to name this award after her -- she didn't say, 'Name it after me,' " Wallace said. "We told Betty Jane, 'We want to name this after you, are you OK with that?' And she said, 'Yes.' She just has such a big heart when it comes to helping others, it's all about children and she's not shy about saying what she wants to do."

"Everything is always about charity. This woman gives so much to charity, it's ridiculous and I don't think that people realize how much charitable work she does -- she is so gracious and so nice -- and she's still going wide-open, and we love listening to what she's got to say."

By going to NASCAR.COM/Unites, fans can nominate individuals who have a notable impact in children's charitable causes in their home communities to put them in the running for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, which grants the winner a $100,000 donation to their favorite children's charity on their behalf plus a 2012 Ford Explorer for themselves.

"Too often, when people volunteer, they feel like they didn't get anything out of it, and all the good things they've done go unnoticed," Wallace said. "And sometimes they burn out, volunteering."

Wallace indicated that's where the idea for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award originated.

"The NASCAR Foundation and its new program, NASCAR Unites, challenged everyone to gather one million hours of volunteerism," Wallace said. "But the cool thing is, now they're going to be rewarded for it."

"For these special people, it's not going to go unnoticed -- we're thanking them for everything they've done. I just love what Betty Jane's done with it, because she came up with this idea to recognize these people."

Wallace said one million hours was NASCAR Unites' opening goal, but it won't be the end.

"Once we establish all these volunteer hours and say, 'we were able to accomplish this,' and it worked, then we'll make it bigger," Wallace said. "Just like a race track, they always want to sell more tickets and to have more fans -- we want to have more volunteer hours because everything is going to the good of helping these children."

Wallace noted that NASCAR Unites has had an impact in unusual ways and places. He cited a special event in Tallahassee, Fla., during the week of the recent Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, where the state's governor, Rick Scott, indicated he'd challenged Florida state employees to donate 19,480 volunteer hours.

"Why 19,480?" Wallace said. "Rick Scott said that NASCAR was founded in 1948, so they wanted to shoot for 19,480 volunteer hours, and on the night that we were there in Tallahassee, he announced that they had reached that goal.

"[The Foundation] is going to reach their goal of one million volunteer hours. Having a goal in anything is kind of cool because you have something to achieve. Folks at Daytona International Speedway are volunteering hours, as are all the other race tracks -- then there are other people that really just want to be involved in helping, who are volunteering hours.

"Everyone is waking up to something that's good to do -- and they're doing it. And the best thing about this whole cause is that it's helping children. That's something that kind of touches peoples' hearts because they're helping children in need."

The planned annual award that recognizes outstanding community and charitable efforts is significant for the four finalists, who'll be determined by a special panel comprised of the NASCAR Foundation's board of directors. The panel will consider the nominees' long-term commitment to children's causes, their impact on the local community and dedication for their efforts and their passion for the sport of NASCAR racing.

The finalists will be announced on Oct. 8-9 during the NASCAR race weekend at Kansas Speedway. The finalists then will be screened through a process that will include text-to-vote and online voting from their determination at Kansas City, Kan., through Dec. 1.

The four finalists will be in Las Vegas for Champion's Week, where the winner will be revealed on Dec. 2 during that week's celebration of the 2011 premier series champion. In addition to the France Award winner's prizes, the three remaining finalists will receive a $25,000 donation to a children's charity of their choice as well as a trip to a 2011 Sprint Cup Series race weekend.

"If you know someone who you think is worthy of being nominated, and you want to tell us their story, it's simple," Wallace said. "You just go to NASCAR.COM/Unites and tell us their story, and we'll read them."

Nominations can also be submitted by mail. For more information about the process, visit NASCAR.COM/Unites.

"There have been some really moving stories where we thought, 'Wow, they deserve to make it into the top four,' " Wallace said. "But we'll be reading all their stories before we whittle it down to the top four and go for it."