Daytona Beach, FL — Ron Watson, Founder and President of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA), died Sunday evening at the age of 72.
Watson and his wife, Donna, resided in Ormond Beach, Fla., — moving there in 2016 when the MSHFA relocated from its longtime home near Detroit to Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach.
Prior to founding the MSHFA in 1989, Watson was a city councilman in Novi, Mich., (1977-1989), including a stint as Novi Mayor Pro Tem (1981-1985). After earning his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and a law degree from Wayne State University, he practiced law from 1972-1993.
Watson was scheduled to retire from his position as MSHFA President in April 2020 and be succeeded by longtime MSHFA Board of Directors member George Levy. That transition had yet to be announced after being approved by the board earlier this fall.
“Ron felt that motorsports needed a great hall of fame,” said Levy, “then worked tirelessly for the next 30-plus years to make that dream a reality. In so doing he built an institution that’s respected the world over and became himself one of the most important voices in the sport. He will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him.”
The MSHFA is housed in Daytona International Speedway’s Ticket and Tours Building where it greets more than 100,000 guests annually. Watson orchestrated the move, working with Daytona International Speedway and then-speedway President Joie Chitwood III. The relocation invigorated the MSHFA, which immediately became an integral part of the speedway’s popular fan tours.
“Our thoughts are with Ron’s families — his own family, plus the huge extended family the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America represents,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile. “His tireless work ethic and commitment to making the Hall of Fame part of this nation’s motorsports fabric were something to admire. He was a great business associate — and a better friend.”
Watson is survived by his wife, Donna; daughter Stephanie (Ted); son Brendan (Kate) and their beloved grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.