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 →
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 →
Few sports legends are remembered as fondly within the annals of their sport as the King of NASCAR, Richard Petty, who was born 74 years ago today.
As the first crossover superstar of the sport, Petty became a household name to people who had never seen an auto race through a variety of television commercials that began in the 1970s and continue today.
On the track, Petty had no equal as he won a record 200 races and is one of only two drivers (Dale Earnhardt being the other) to win seven NASCAR season championships.
He was the NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1959 and won his first race the following year. He would win at least one race for 18 consecutive years and claimed his final trip to victory lane in the Firecracker 500 on July 4th 1984.
Petty won a record 27 races (races of 250 miles or less counted on the NASCAR schedule until 1972) in 1967, including 10 victories in a row. He won the Daytona 500 seven times and finished in the top 10 in races 712 times during his career.
After retiring following the 1992 season, Petty served as a team owner and has been involved in many other endeavors, including running for North Carolina Secretary of State in 1996.
He was introduced to an entirely new generation of fans thanks to the 2006 move Cars, where the number 43 car was known as “The King” and Petty served as the voice.
He was among the initial inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. His father, Lee Petty, was inducted the following year.
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 April Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was 29-years-old when he made his major league debut, but still managed to pitch for 21 years and become the first pitcher in MLB history to appear in more than 1,000 games.
Hoyt Wilhelm made his professional baseball debut as a 19-year-old in 1942, but after serving in World War II (earning a Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge) and then spending five years in the minor leagues it wasn’t until 10 years later that he would make his major league debut.