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Only Yesterday: Cheers to 75 Years of NASCAR

On Feb. 21, NASCAR will officially be 75 years old.

After several years of racing informally, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was officially founded on Feb. 21, 1948, at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla. This came 69 days after the initial meeting on Dec. 14, 1947.

The city is now the site of the opening race of the season, the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, but that racetrack and subsequent crown jewel race didn’t come into existence until 1959.

While the Daytona 500 is set to kick off the 75th season on Feb. 19, it was instead the Daytona Beach and Road Course that served as the first ever NASCAR-sanctioned race on Feb. 15, 1948 (days before its official founding). As a reflection of that first season, and in honor of the 75th anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the history-makers in that first season of racing.

Bill France Sr.

Perhaps the most influential name in early NASCAR history is that of Bill France Sr. “Big Bill” had spent many years trying to find a way to organize a profession of racecar drivers, and after failing to secure financial backing, went his own way to create his own stock car series.

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NASCAR's 75 Greatest Drivers: Jacks of All Trades

France’s first interest in organizing a professional group came in 1947, and once he founded NASCAR, its popularity took off. He then built Daytona in 1959 as a means of moving away from the Beach and Road Course. Just 10 years later, he built its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway. Both tracks remain on the schedule to this day.

France’s legacy in NASCAR continues on today through his family lineage. His son, Bill France Jr., was the CEO of NASCAR from 1972-2003. His grandson Brian (Bill Jr.’s son) became CEO in 2003 after Bill Jr.’s retirement, holding the office until 2018, when he was succeeded by his uncle, Jim France, Bill Sr.’s son and Bill Jr.’s brother.

A family affair, indeed.

Red Vogt

While Red Vogt is one of the greatest mechanics in NASCAR history, Vogt actually came up with the name “NASCAR”. In preliminary meetings about the formation of NASCAR, France had originally suggested the name NSCRA, short for the National Stock Car Racing Association. However, it was discovered that the name was actually taken, leading to Vogt’s proposal of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

Vogt went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career of his own. He teamed up with fellow Hall of Famer Raymond Parks to field a car for another successful driver in NASCAR’s early days. Coincidentally, that driver also went by Red.

Red Byron

Red Byron took part in the first-ever season of NASCAR and was a force to be reckoned with. He ended up winning the first-ever NASCAR Strictly Stock (now known as the NASCAR Cup Series) championship, earning 842.5 points throughout the season (side note: the usage of half-points seems like an intriguing thing to think about and would be interesting to see in practice in today’s point system).

Byron was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2018.

Bob Flock & Jim Roper

At the first-ever NASCAR Strictly Stock race in 1949, Bob Flock won the very first pole at Charlotte Speedway (not to be confused with Charlotte Motor Speedway), a half-mile dirt track in Charlotte, N.C., that no longer exists today.

Flock only led five laps before engine troubles took him out. Bill Blair led most of the race before Roper took over with 50 laps to go in the 200-lap event. He was, however, passed by Glenn Dunaway, who went on to win. However, upon further inspection of Dunaway’s car, illegal shocks were found, resulting in Dunaway having the infamous statistic of the first disqualification in NASCAR history. Roper was awarded the victory.

An interesting note found while researching this: That NSCRA organization I mentioned earlier? They had a race held on the same day in Atlanta, so France offered up prize money for the race to convince more drivers to race at Charlotte. The head of NSCRA at the time? A little known businessman named Bruton Smith. Despite a rivalry forming between the two families, Smith later went on to create his own legacy in NASCAR.

So as the green flag flies on the 2023 NASCAR season, just remember that several key people helped get it off the ground, and several hundred more along the way have only added to the legacy that Bill France Sr. started at the Streamline Hotel on Feb. 21, 1948.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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