The NASCAR Sprint Cup season officially starts February 24 with the Daytona 500. The premier race of the season is also one of the organization’s most exciting, with lots of pageantry events leading up to the race. The race is so highly regarded, in fact, that they frequently mention the number of Daytona 500 wins a driver has when speaking of each competitor’s record as a NASCAR driver.
NASCAR’s roots stretch back to the early 1920s. Land speed record seekers would often go to Daytona Beach, FL when looking to set or break a speed record. So many were sent there that soon the area became famous worldwide as the place to go for speed. Automobile racing, then, existed in this region for as nearly long as the automobile.
Stock car racing began when bootleggers (men who hauled illegal corn whiskey in heavily modified cars) would boast to each other about who had the fastest car. Soon impromptu races were being held along back roads and by-ways all over the South. It wasn’t long before small race tracks began appearing, and these unscheduled races became organized by promoters who saw a golden opportunity.
They would pay these “moonshiners” to race on their tracks on the weekends, and ticket sales were good to watch these expert drivers wheel their machines around the small dirt tracks and ovals. Every year the sport became bigger and bigger, and sponsors came in, bringing much larger purses. It wasn’t long before many of the old bootleggers gave up hauling whiskey during the week, concentrating on repairing and updating their old shine hauling cars into purebred racers.
And the sport continued to grow, with NASCAR securing deals for TV coverage, and having races all across the south, and along the northeastern seaboard. By the 1980’s, NASCAR had become a nationwide phenomenon, and races were being held at venues across the country. The backwoods racing teams had evolved into multi-million dollar organizations. Winnings continued to skyrocket and drivers were treated like rock stars wherever they went.
If you want to see why NASCAR is one of the most popular spectator sports in America, go to one of their many upcoming races and feel the raw excitement for yourself.