On February 21, 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Racing–or NASCAR–was officially incorporated. The force behind NASCAR was William France Sr. (1909-1992). France, a mechanic and auto-repair shop owner from Washington, D.C., moved to Daytona Beach, Florida in the mid-1930s.
The Daytona area was a focal point for racing enthusiasts, and France became involved in racing cars and promoting races. At that time, racing rules could vary from event to event and racing promoters who were less that honest, could take off with the prize money.
France saw the need for a governing body to sanction and promote racing. After discussing the idea with the racing community, NASCAR was born with its official incorporation in February 1921. France was chosen as NASCAR’s first president and played a key role in shaping its development during the early decades.
The Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina ran NASCARs first strictly Stock Car race on June 19, 1949, with 13,000 fans present to watch Glenn Dunnaway finish the 200-lap race in his Ford, but Jim Roper (who drove a Lincoln) collected the $2000 prize because Dunnaway was disqualified for illegal rear springs on his Ford.
In the early years, competitors drove the same types of cars that people drove on the street–Buicks, Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, and others, with minimal modifications. It’s a very different situation today. NASCAR has come a long way.
Darlington Raceway in South Carolina opened in 1950 and was the first NASCAR based track. More raceways followed, including the Daytona International Speedway, which opened in 1959.
Lee Petty (“The King” Richard Petty’s father) won the first Daytona 500 run on February22, 1950. The Daytona 500 became NASCAR’s season opener and one of its premier events.
Richard Petty, NASCAR’s first superstar, won the Daytona 500 seven times. His historical career began in 1958 and ended in retirement in 1992. He’s still very much involved and good to his fans.
NASCAR’s popularity was boosted on February 18, 1979, when the first live flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500 was broadcast on television. An end-of-the-race brawl between drivers Cale Yarborough and Donnie and Bobby Allison was a huge publicity generator on a national scale.
“In 1972, France’s son, William France Jr., took over the presidency of NASCAR from his father. Over the next three decades, the younger France (1933-2007) was instrumental in transforming NASCAR from a regional sport popular primarily in the southeast U.S. into one with a global fan base. France led NASCAR into a new era of lucrative corporate sponsorships and billion-dollar TV contracts. Today, NASCAR has three national series as well as four regional series and two international series. The organization sanctions over 1,200 races at 100 tracks across North America.”
If you ever attend a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, I can recommend that you visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s right next to the Convention Center, so you wouldn’t have far to walk. Charlotte, known as “The Queen City”, is a lovely place to visit and I think the NASCAR Hall of Fame is certainly a jewel in her crown. Our American history at its best.
Here’s the link to the NASCAR Hall of Fame website
Here too is the link to NASCARs official website
A fan sent me this You Tube link in the comments section so, as suggested, here it is. I saw the race too–I loved every part of it.