NASCAR history is filled with influential people. A few influential individuals, including William France, Sr., have been responsible for creating the sport and taking it to where it is today.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was founded by France on February 21st, 1948. France, together with other drivers, designed a points system that would become the foundation of NASCAR racing. As early as 1948, the schedule consisted of 52 modified races that were run on dirt tracks. The first National Championship was won by Red Byron.
Named its first commissioner, Erwin "Cannonball" Baker had a big impact on the history of NASCAR. An accomplished racer who set dozens of land speed records himself (hence his nickname), Baker allowed almost no changes to the cars that were raced.
Glenn Dunnaway became the first NASCAR driver to be disqualified after it was discovered that he had altered the rear springs in his cars. However, over a 10-15 year period, modifications were allowed for safety and performance periods, until by the mid-1960s almost all stock cars were built solely for the purpose of racing them.
Most NASCAR race tracks were from half a mile to a mile long, and the action in a relatively compact area added to the excitement of the sport. Some of the earlier tracks, such as the Martinsville Speedway and the Darlington Raceway are still in use today. Even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has been in existence since 1909, is still being used. However, the most famous race track of the NEXTEL Cup Series, the Daytona International Speedway was built in 1959, with a length of 2.5 miles.
The Later Years
In the early 1970s, the history of NASCAR took a dramatic turn. It increased in popularity due in large part to an altered points system as well as new sponsorship including the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
In 1979, the Daytona 500 was shown on CBS, making it the first NASCAR race to be shown from start to finish on television. Going into the last lap, leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison got into a wreck, allowing a third driver to pass them both for the win. Yarborough and Allison got into a fistfight, and the drama and emotion that was shown in that race might be the defining moment in the history of NASCAR. Its popularity has steadily increased since.
NASCAR counts today amongst the most popular sports in the USA. It is hugely profitable for the participants as well, with at least million in prize money up for grabs at every race in the NEXTEL Cup Series. The NEXTEL Cup is run over 36 races. The sport is so popular that the successful drivers have millions of devoted fans that watch every single race and spend a lot of money on fan gear every year. In a way, the history of NASCAR is still in the writing.
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