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" !
BASKETBALL February 15, 2009 The NBA holds its 58th annual All-Star game in Phoenix, Arizona. The Western Conference defeats the East 149-119 with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal sharing the MVP Award. The former received his 15th and final All-Star selection, the second highest in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 19.
FOOTBALL February 16, 1999 O.J. Simpson’s Heisman Trophy is sold for $230,000 to help settle a civil judgement against him for the deaths of his ex-wife and friend. O.J. won the Trophy in 1968 as a running back for USC; he later played for the Buffalo Bills and SF 49ers. His life began to spiral downward in 1994 following murder charges against him.
BASEBALL February 16, 1989 Pitcher Roger Clemens signs a record $7.5 Million, 3-year contract to extend his tenure with the Boston Red Sox. The 11x career All-Star would win the Cy Young Award 7 times, more than any other pitcher, and the World Series twice, in 1999 and 2000 with the NY Yankees. He retired in 2007 with a W/L record of 354/184.
AUTO RACING February 18, 1979 In a race for the ages, Rich Petty wins the Daytona 500 at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Trailing in 3rd place towards the end of the chase, the North Carolina native cleared the finish line after Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, driving 1st and 2nd place cars, collided in the final lap and opened up the win for Petty.