NASCAR stands for The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It’s an American company that deals in auto racing operations and sanctioning, but most people recognize it for the stock car races under its name. The NASCAR races consists of more than 1,500 events on more than a hundred tracks in most of the US states along with venues in Europe, Canada, and Mexico.
The history of NASCAR races has seen quite a few monumental changes. The sport is a favorite with people all over the world; while it may not be the same as the original races, NASCAR continues to be a prestigious and lucrative event. Here are just some of the most prestigious NASCAR events to date.
Let’s now have a look at several moments where the NASCAR races have seen a definite turning point:
1. The Introduction of Toyota
The first NASCAR race was back in 1948; since that time, the races were based on a sanctioning motorsports body which only used cars with American makes. The most common examples of these are Dodges, Fords, and Chevys. Starting in 2004, however, the races included Toyota, a Japanese automaker.
Toyota managed to get its first win in NASCAR in August of the same year, with Travis Kvapil winning at the Michigan race. The first focus was on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but this win became the motivation for several other drivers of Toyota cars to participate in future NASCAR events.
A few years later, in 2006, Toyota also managed to win the NASCAR championship for the first time. After this win, Toyota made the decision to send in its Camry model for the
In 2006, the year it won its first NASCAR championship with Todd Bodine in the No. 30 Toyota Tundra, Toyota announced its 2007 Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series as well. In July 2007, Jason Effler achieved the first Busch series win with a Camry. Kyle Bush also drove a Toyota and won the first Sprint Cup, going on to win 88 races in total. From these statistics, it is evident that the inclusion of Toyota in the NASCAR races was the push that the automaker needed to take part in and win many racing series. Eventually, Toyota would become a firm fixture in the NASCAR events.
2. Women Breaking the Glass Ceiling in NASCAR
In June 1949, the NASCAR ‘Strictly Stock’ race was held at the North Carolina Charlotte Fairgrounds Speedway. While Bob Flock won the first pole and Jim Roper won overall, this race marked a milestone with Sara Christian. Christian was the first woman to take part in the premier divison of NASCAR, finishing in 14th place.
Later on, in February 1977, Janet Guthrie would be the first woman to take part in the Daytona 500 race. Qualifying at the 39h position, she would finish 12th.
In 2013, Danica Patrick will be the first female to win the Busch Pole Award in the Daytona 500.his was the first pole win by a female in the history of the NASCAR premier series.
3. The Start of Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach was the venue for the first-ever NASCAR race in 1948, but the Daytona International Speedway wasn’t opened to the public until 11 years later. Before this speedway was constructed, the stock cars would race on the road course that was partly Highway A1A and partly just beach. With so many people turning up to watch the races, the need for a permanent course track was imminent. This would be better both for the sport of car racing and the city where it was held.
With the new course, the cars were able to go at faster speeds. The NASCAR fans were also able to view the cars better–the people in attendance numbered about 41,000. In 1959, the first Daytona 500 took place; it was well-received and full of exciting occurrences. Just one example was when Lee Patty and Johnny Beauchamp had a close, photo finish to the race. It took 60 hours for the winner to be decided with the viewing of a newsreel. Eventually, Lee Patty was declared the winner by two feet.
With the success and excitement of this event, NASCAR became a prestigious stock car race.
Petty’s last race for the NASCAR premier series was in November, 1992. This proved to be one of the most important races in the history of NASCAR, being the season finale held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was also Jeff Gordon’s first race at this competition. Eventually, Alan Kulwicki led one lap more than Bill Elliot, earning a bonus for leading in so many laps and winning by 10 points.
4. The First African-American to Win at NASCAR
In December 1963, the first African-American managed to win one race in the premier series at NASCAR. This was Wendell Scott, who beat Buck Baker at the Jacksonville Speedway. He still remains the only African American with this distinction. NASCAR itself is known to be a predominantly white sport, but many racial obstacles have been broken over the years. Drivers such as Darrell Wallace Jr., Bill Lester and Willy T. Ribbs have also made a name for themselves in NASCAR history since then.
Wendell Scott had joined NASCAR at the peak of many racial tensions in the country. He had his own team for several years as well, but was underfunded for his first NASCAR season in 1961. He eventually scored several top-10s that season and made a name for himself in the sport.
However, Scott’s career highlight was in 1964, at the Jacksonville Raceway Park. He had 25 laps left when he took over Buck Baker and remained in the lead until the end of the race. He won by an impressive two laps. Even so, officials first announced Buck Baker as the winner and cited scoring issues. Hours passed before the announcement was corrected, making Wendell Scott the first African-American to be the winner at a NASCAR Grand National race.
Scott would go on to retire in 1973, with the main reason being his injuries incurred at the Talladega Superspeedway. He died at 69, in 1990, with a posthumous 1999 induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
5. NASCAR Success for Richard Petty
As with many other sports, NASCAR races were rarely without drama and controversy. In February 1979, the first live flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500 was broadcast by the CBS channel. This proved to be an unforgettable show, with Richard Petty closely avoiding both Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough on the very last lap. Petty would win the race and grab the checked flag, but perhaps what was more riveting was the fight between the other racers in the field grass (more about this in the next point).
Later that year, Richard Petty would win a record seventh series championship. In 1984, he would get his 200th win at the Daytona International Speedway for the Firecracker 400. The record stays strong to this day, although it has been tied by two other racers.
The really impressive thing about this event was that Petty wasn’t even at the peak of his career at the time. His famous finishes weren’t too common anymore, and his last championship had been won in 1979. Still, at this point, he would go another 8 year of racing before official retirement.
The 200th win day was also special due to President Ronald Reagan being in attendance at the time. He was the first sitting president to have this distinction. After winning, Petty would have a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken with President Reagan.
The race itself was an exciting one, with Cale Yarborough and Petty being very close at the end. Eventually, Petty won by just a few inches. Yarborough was so frustrated that he thought the race had finished and went down the pit road. He did come out and finish the race, but was in third place with Harry Grant being second.
6. The 1979 Daytona 500
On February 18, 1979, the NASCAR Daytona 500 proved to be one of the defining moments for the sport. This event was not only the first live broadcast of a 500-mile race, but also one of the most remembered broadcasts for NASCAR fans watching on television.
During the last lap, Yarborough and Donnie Allison were first and second respectively. They were both contending with each other, which resulted in them losing control of their cars. They crashed into the Turn 3 wall, giving Richard Petty an instant jump from third to first place.
During Petty’s celebration, Donnie Allison’s brother Bobby came to offer him a lift to the garage. Yarborough threw his helmet at Bobby’s face, causing him to attack the racer.
This fight was also a major part of the live CBS broadcast. The result was that even people who hadn’t heard of NASCAR or weren’t a fan of it before would likely have an interest in it now. Both fans and non-fans of the sport could see and appreciate the raw emotion at the NASCAR races. Eventually, this 1979 race might have been responsible for putting NASCAR in such a prominent position.
7. An Overhaul of NASCAR
In 1971, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Winston Brand became affiliated with NASCAR. The result was that the sport saw several changes in a very short time.
First of all, NASCAR’s Grand National Series was now the Winston Cup Series. The season also got shorter, with 31 events from the original 48. Dirt events were no longer a part of the series either.
However, the largest change was probably the modification of the points system. The points races would now award all competitors equally. There would be another overhaul in the points system in 2003, with the Winston Cup Series changing to the NEXTEL Cup Series. The Chase for the Cup, spanning 10 seasons, would also be inducted at this point.
In order to understand the point system changes, we may have to look at what are the stages in NASCAR so far.
8. Starting the Restrictor Plate
Bill Elliot set a record of 212 mph at the 1987 event in Talladega. The same event also saw a major change due to Bobby Allison’s accident on the track.
Allison’s car was in the tri-oval when it cut down a tire, sending the vehicle spinning in the air. The car didn’t flip, but it did crash into a catch fence, destroying a large part of it and causing injuries to a lot of fans.
There were fortunately no fatalities here, but the accident was deemed a close call. This event resulted in the introduction of restrictor plates for the rest of the season and the future as well. The move would keep speeds at a limit of 200 mph. Bobby Allison would win the first 500 run after this new regulation in 1988.
9. Mandating the Roof Flap
In 1993, Rusty Wallace experienced two flips in the NASCAR season. This prompted NASCAR to start looking at ways to prevent flipping, eventually resulting in the roof flap. These flaps would deploy when a car goes backward. With the air flow disposition, the vehicle wouldn’t get the same amount of lift. This resulted in significantly fewer flips, though it did not eliminate them altogether.
10. Changing the Point System Again
In 2003, the NASCAR championships were starting to lose their exhilaration factor. Matt Kenseth managed to win the title based on a win early on in the season. As a result, NASCAR introduced the Chase and changed the point system to increase the excitement.
This new system meant that the top 10 points would be reset after the 26th event of the season. The first-place racer will have 5,050 points while the 10th-place one will have 5,005. In 2007, the number of places was expanded to 12.
The same year, each driver would have 5,000 points, with each win giving them 10 more points. In 2011, the 11th and 12th spots were for the drivers with the most wins between the 20th and 11th positions. The first Chase event in 2004 proved to be very exciting, with Kurt Busch winning by 8 points against Jimmy Johnson. The latter will go on to be champion five times over.
Today, the NASCAR races are among the most popular and important sports in the United States as well as several other countries. Starting off with a track where the race cars would drive off the streets, NASCAR has seen many changes and rules implemented into the racing events.
Alone with cars getting more complex and safer technologies, NASCAR has also grown quite a bit. Starting from just a small race on a beach, it has become a world-renowned sport. Some of the most famous NASCAR series cars are worth looking at in detail, so let that be your next read!