Saturday 21st February 1948
The National Association for Stock Car Racing – NASCAR – was officially incorporated. NASCAR racing would become one of America’s most popular spectator sports, as well as a multi-billion-dollar industry. The driving force behind the establishment of NASCAR was William “Bill” France Sr. (1909-1992), a mechanic and auto-repair shop owner from Washington, D.C., who in the mid-1930s moved to Daytona Beach, Florida. The Daytona area was a gathering spot for racing enthusiasts, and France became involved in racing cars and promoting races. After witnessing how racing rules could vary from event to event and how dishonest promoters could abscond with prize money, France felt there was a need for a governing body to sanction and promote racing. He gathered members of the racing community to discuss the idea, and NASCAR was born, with its official incorporation in February 1921. France served as NASCAR’s first president and played a key role in shaping its development in the sport’s early decades. NASCAR held its first Strictly Stock race on June 19, 1949, at the Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. Some 13,000 fans were on hand to watch Glenn Dunnaway finish the 200-lap race first in his Ford; however, Jim Roper (who drove a Lincoln) collected the $2,000 prize after Dunnaway was disqualified for illegal rear springs on his vehicle. In the early years of NASCAR, competitors drove the same types of cars that people drove on the street–Buicks, Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, among others–with minimal modifications. (Today, the cars are highly customized.) From the beginning, stock car racing had a widespread appeal with its fan base. As the legend goes, the sport evolved from Southern liquor smugglers who souped up their pre-war Fords to outrun the police. NASCAR brought the sport organization and legitimacy. It was Bill France who realized that product identification would increase enthusiasm for the sport. He wanted the fans to see the cars they drove to the track win the races on the track. By 1949, all the post-war car models had been released, so NASCAR held a 150-mile race at the Charlotte Speedway to introduce its Grand National Division. The race was restricted to late-model strictly stock automobiles. NASCAR held nine Grand National events that year. By the end of the year, it was apparent that the strictly stock cars could not withstand the pounding of the Grand Nationals, so NASCAR drafted rules to govern the changes drivers could make to their cars. Modified stock car racing was born. Starting in 1953, the major auto makers invested heavily in stock car racing teams, believing that good results on the track would translate into better sales in the showroom. In 1957, rising production costs and tightened NASCAR rules forced the factories out of the sport. NASCAR is the largest sanctioning body of stock car racing in the United States. The three largest racing series sanctioned by this company are the Sprint Cup Series, the Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. The company also oversees NASCAR Local Racing, the Whelen Modified Tour, the Whelen All-American Series, and the NASCAR iRacing.com Series. NASCAR sanctions over 1,500 races at over 100 tracks in 39 of the 50 US states as well as Canada. NASCAR has presented exhibition races at the Suzuka and Motegi circuits in Japan, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico, and the Calder Park Thunderdome in Australia.