Stock Car Racing- "Made In America"
An ear-piercing, speed-thrilling, stock car pursuit is the most lucrative spectator sport in America, taking in $3 Billion a year in corporate sponsorships, more than double that of the NFL.
The sport's premier governing body, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), screams and screeches a “Made in America” label. From motor oil to cooking oil, the list of sponsors that plaster their logos on race cars and drivers' suits is akin to nothing less than a who’s who in American consumer products, .
Unlike the international jet set prestige associated with IndyCar and Formula 1, NASCAR has remained fundamentally red, white and blue.
In an annual Cup schedule that hosts 36 races, only six individual pursuits were ever won by foreign born drivers, the first in 1967 by Mario Andretti (Italy) and the last in 2012 by Marcos Ambrose (Australia).
Toyota is also the only non-domestic car to ever celebrate a series victory, in 2015 with Kyle Busch behind the wheel.
Its origins rooted in the southeast and on the other side of the law, stock car racing echoes an American spirit that embodies freedom, ingenuity and competition.
During prohibition in the 1920’s, moonshine runners modified their car engines to outrun the police on rural roads but maintained the vehicles’ outer appearance to avoid attention. Hooch drivers later teamed up and took their skills on dirt racetracks.
Auto mechanic and racer Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1948 to standardize rules among the different racetracks. The following year, the group sanctioned its first “Strictly Stock” series.
Red Byron won the inaugural eight race season driving his #22 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, regarded by some as the first muscle car. 1950 saw the first asphalt superspeedway in Darlington, SC. Daytona followed nine years later with the 500 opener.
After initial success, NASCAR rebranded the series the “Grand National” and beginning 1971 it kicked off a modern era by leasing its name to a succession of sponsors: Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, Sprint Cup and rolling off in 2017, the Monster Energy Cup.
Over the decades, records were broken and legends were made. Former whiskey runner Junior Johnson won 50 races in the 1950’s-60’s and is credited as the first driver to use “drafting” in the stock car chase.
Johnson's imprisonment for owning an illegal still only added to his lore. Author Tom Wolfe featured his story in a 1965 Esquire article that was later made into a film, “The Last American Hero”.
In the 1980's, President Ronald Reagan pardoned the North Carolina native for his conviction. It's all "Made in America" !
HOCKEY May 18, 2008- The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 at the Eastern Conference Final. They had previously knocked out Montreal and Ottawa at the playoffs, but would then lose the championship title to Detroit. Though, the Penguins would take their revenge the following year by beating the Red Wings 4-3 for the trophy.
HORSE RACING May 16, 1998- Real Quiet wins the 123rd Preakness with Kent Desormeaux aboard. Nicknamed “The Fish” by his trainer due to his narrow frame, Real Quiet took the Kentucky Derby before claiming the Preakness. Going for the Triple Crown at Belmont, he missed first place by only 4 inches, the smallest margin ever for the championship.
BASEBALL May 19, 1988- Red Sox retire Bobby Doerr’s #1 jersey. Doerr spent his entire career with the Red Sox from 1937-51, batting .288, knocking 233 homers and 1,247 runs batted in. A 9x All-Star, Doerr was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1986. Prior to his death in 2017, he was the last living person to have played in MLB during the 1930’s.
GOLF May 14, 1978- Nancy Lopez wins the LPGA Greater Baltimore Golf Classic. It was the 3rd LPGA victory for the California native who would later appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and make Rookie of The Year. Lopez had attended the University of Tulsa briefly before turning pro in 1977. She retired with 48 LPGA wins, including 3 majors.