Stock car racing, traditionally a southern sport, is said to have gotten it’s start in the Appalachian mountains during prohibition, when moonshine runners would outrun law enforcement with modified cars through the winding mountain roads. The practice continued even after the end of Prohibition, running non taxed homemade hooch to a thirsty population.During the 1930s the need for bootleggers started to decrease but the desire to drive faster than the next guy continued to be an obsession and the competition known as stock car races began. By 1935 a then sparsely populated beach town known as Daytona Beach, Florida became one of the nations hotspots for competition.
Unfortunately, many of the promoters in those days were less than honest and often drivers were not paid their winnings. That is when mechanic and entrepreneur Bill France stepped in and founded NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Racing. Bill had left Washington D.C. during the great depression to move to Daytona Beach. And he never looked back. Bill France Sr once said “On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of millions who when within the grasp of victory sat and waited and waiting died.”
Over the decades, NASCAR has grown and has become the standard for stock car racing worldwide. Fans have their favorite drivers and know their stats like they would any other sports celebrity, names like Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty. NASCAR is the second biggest sport in the United States second only to the National Football League and while like any high-speed and high impact activity it can be dangerous and sometimes there is death on the track. There have been 12 deaths at Daytona Beach alone. The tragedy goes back to Larry Mann in 1952 all the way to the tragic death of one of NASCAR most legendary drivers Dale Earnhardt. The death of a NASCAR driver is tragic not only for the family of the driver, but also for the fans, the entire teams and the teams sponsors. NASCAR is a billion dollar business.
The future of NASCAR is positive, while there have been a few scandals including some recent investigation into race fixing NASCAR is a growing sport and is attracting a divers line up with drivers such as Danica Patrick and Darrell Wallace Jr.
Interest in NASCAR is worldwide and every track has its nuances, challenging both the skill of the driver and keeping it exciting for the fans. It is no secret that attendance has plunged in the last few years, NASCAR will definitely be around for years to come with new drivers, sponsors and merchandising.
I recently spoke to a coworker who was talking about the restrictor plates used at Daytona and Talladega. He added once you stand on the first turns and feel the powers as the cars pass you, the adrenalin will make you a fan for life.
We’ll see you at the races.