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" !
MOTOR RACING July 20, 2008 Lewis Hamilton wins the German Grand Prix driving for McLaren-Mercedes. The victory was Hamilton’s second consecutive triumph after taking the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. At season’s end, the 23-year old would become the then youngest and only black racer in F1 history to win a championship title.
GOLF July 17, 1998 Mark O’Meara shoots a 280 to win the 127th British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. In a playoff against fellow American Brian Watts, O’Meara claimed his second major championship of the year after topping the Masters three months earlier. Those victories were the only major titles of his 34 professional wins.
HOCKEY July 16, 1988 In a lavish event dubbed by the Canadian press as the “Royal Wedding”, Wayne Gretsky weds actress Janet Jones; the couple would have 5 children. After 20 seasons in professional hockey, Gretsky wrapped up his career in 1999 playing for 4 teams and producing more goals and assists than any other player in NHL history.
BASEBALL July 17, 1978 Yankee Manager Billy Martin and slugger Reggie Jackson clash at a Royals game after Jackson tried to bunt when he was told to hit away, causing Martin to suspend him. A week later, Martin himself would resign following 3 tumultuous years with the NY club, but the troubled and controversial manager would eventually return.