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" !
FOOTBALL April 26, 2008- Jake Long of the University of Michigan is first pick by the Miami Dolphins at the NFL draft. He signs a 5-year, $58 million contract, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league’s history. Long would stay with the Dolphins through 2012 and later join the Rams, Falcons and Vikings before retiring in 2017.
NASCAR April 26, 1998- Bobby Labonte wins the DieHard 500 as the only driver for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. It was the 2nd season victory for the Texas native who also took 1st place at the Primestar 500. At season start, Labonte had finished 2nd to Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500, but landed 6th in final points standings at year-end.
GOLF April 24, 1988- Rosie Jones wins the LPGA USX Golf Classic in a playoff against Kathy Postlewait. It was the second of what would be 13 total victories at the LPGA. The California native attended Ohio State University and turned professional in 1982. Though never clinching a Major, she placed 2nd four times in her career.
TENNIS April 29, 1978- Tennis twin prodigies Mike and Bob Bryan are born in Camarillo, California. The duo won 16 Grand Slam Doubles championships between 2003-2014 and were named ATP team of the decade. They also took gold in Doubles Tennis at the 2012 Olympics. Both played at Stanford University, winning back-to-back NCAA titles.