The inventive minds behind the creation of the first stock cars didn’t have sporting amusement on their minds when they pioneered the modification of early-era automobiles.
Nope, the good old southern boys of the 1920s had more pressing concerns than daydreaming about a future when their creations would spear one of the most popular spectator sports in the country. They were more worried about just eking out a living.
An illicit living.
NASCAR’s forefathers didn’t “soup up” their rides in order to outrun each other around an oval track in hopes of taking home the checkered flag.
On the contrary, the purpose was to outrun the law and get home with a few barrels of whiskey.
Yes, while other American sports are steeped in tradition (baseball) or immersed in warfare (football) the history of NASCAR is soaked in prohibition-era moonshine.
The earliest “stock car racers” were mostly located in the Appalachian region of the United States, where drivers modified their cars to improve speed and handling. The earliest “stock car races” took place down winding mountain roads and involved bootleggers attempting to outrun the police. With these modified early version stock cars, many of them succeeded.
The repeal of prohibition diminished the amount of bootleggers in operation, but by then a demand for moonshine had developed and many still transported moonshine while running from “revenuers” who wanted to tax them.
It is believed that while on these runs, many bootleggers would often race each other; creating the earliest stock car races. Read the rest of this entry →
This late race accident by Jimmie Johnson helped give his teammate, Jeff Gordon, a chance to pass many of the race leaders and remain within contention for the Chase.
With their rulings this week that ultimately ensured that NASCAR darlings Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman were in the “Chase for the Cup”, NASCAR showed that manipulating results to benefit your teammates is only okay if done in a covert manner.
Much has been made of Clint Bowyer’s spin and the apparent attempts by some teams to help certain drivers (Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano) earn additional points to ensure their participation in the NASCAR Chase.
Based on the history of race manipulation in NASCAR, what they are really guilty of is not being stealth enough in their approach.
They need to work at emulating the expert performances of Hendrick Motorsport teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Two of the most successful drivers of the last decade, both drivers have well deserved reputations for bending ethics to ensure success.
Both drivers have more than a wall full of trophies earned as a result of knocking drivers out of their way, in many of those cases doing so by masking intentional unfair actions under the guise of “that’s just racing.”
So it should be no surprise that during the final green light pits of the Richmond race (and thus the last real big chance to alter chase order), Johnson mysteriously had a “tire get low” and banged into the wall just in time for Gordon, who seemed hopelessly out of the points race, to work his way through and pass many of the race leaders to suddenly get back in contention. Read the rest of this entry →
Attendance and TV ratings have declined in recent years for the Brickyard 400.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its annual trip to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend for the 18th running of the Brickyard 400.
While the event is still regarded as the second biggest race of the NASCAR season behind the Daytona 500, it seems that the popularity of the race among fans has reached an all-time low.
Back in May, the Associated Press reported that ticket sales for the race were down from last year’s event where only 140,000 people, almost a 50% decrease from 2007 where an estimated 270,000 fans showed up for that year’s race.
There was also a 13 percent decrease in the television ratings from the 2009 Brickyard 400 to last year’s race, which was both telecasted on ESPN.
So, what is the reason for this precipitous decline in the interest of the Brickyard 400?
Some blame the economic downturn and high gas prices, while others have suggested Indianapolis has to fight with tracks such as Chicago, Kentucky, and Kansas to get Midwestern fans to come out to the track.
But the most likely reason for NASCAR’s problem at the Brickyard is what happened in the 2008 race.
That was the first time that NASCAR raced the Car of Tomorrow at the speedway and the results proved to be disastrous. The combination of the new car and the abrasive pavement caused the rear tires to explode after several laps of racing. Read the rest of this entry →
Ten years after his death, Dale Earnhardt is still casting a shadow over NASCAR.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the darkest day in NASCAR history, the death of Dale Earnhardt in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
“The Intimidator” is considered by many as the greatest NASCAR driver of all time as won 76 races and seven season championships, a record he shares with “The King” (Richard Petty), in his illustrious career.
Earnhardt’s death sent shockwaves throughout the sports world as the biggest star of the nation’s fastest growing sport was suddenly gone.
While they have been numerous safety advances in the decade since his death, there has been no driver that has captured the imagination of NASCAR fans throughout the world like the way Earnhardt and his famous #3 black Goodwrench Service Chevrolet did.
With their beloved icon no longer on the race track, the many fans of the “Man in Black” had to find a new favorite driver to root for.
The most logical choice was Earnhardt’s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who drove for his father’s racing team, Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet. Read the rest of this entry →
Jimmie Johnson's victory in the Auto Club 500 is just a reminder of his dominance.
The victory by four-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the second race of the season is an early reminder to the other drivers in NASCAR that this is Johnson’s sport and he is simply letting everyone else round out the field.
After struggling in the season opener at Daytona, you knew Johnson would be looking for a strong showing in his home state of California. His victory was his second straight at Fontana and fourth in the last six races there.
Now the drivers head to Las Vegas where Johnson won three straight times between 2005 and 2007, but has struggled with disappointing finishes the last two years (29th in 2008, 24th in 2009). Given his competitive nature, watch for Johnson to again be near the front at the end of the race on Sunday.
Johnson’s dominance of the sport has come at a time when NASCAR is struggling to maintain the growth in the fan base that has occurred over the past decade.
Because Johnson is not the typical car-loving, spend all day under the hood guy from the Southeast that has historically been your prototype for a NASCAR driver, he and fellow Californian Jeff Gordon have been given some of the credit for bringing people outside of the core fan base into racing. Read the rest of this entry →
The December Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was once famously shuffled out of a window during the AFL-NFL player wars and went on to become one of the top big-play receivers of his era.
After playing college football at the tiny, historically black, Prairie View A&M University, Otis Taylor was selected in the 1965 draft by both the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL and Philadelphia Eagles from the NFL. He ultimately signed with the Chiefs and became a key weapon for a Kansas City team that appeared in two of the first four Super Bowls.