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1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities

1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities

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1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities

ratings:
4.5/5 (9 ratings)
Length:
498 pages
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 15, 2017
ISBN:
9781613254257
Format:
Book

Description

For nearly 70 years, NASCAR has been the premier sanctioning body for organized Stock Car Racing in the United States. During that time, the sport has grown from a Southern, regional series to a global brand with its races telecast in more than 100 countries around the world.

Author John Close details the earliest races of the 20th Century that laid the groundwork for the formation of NASCAR through today's modern events at mega-race stadiums across the country.

Presented in an easy-to-read decade-by-decade "Fact Format," this books allows you to spend a couple of minutes or hours at a time learning about the Cars (and Trucks), Personalities, Tracks, and Milestones of NASCAR, America's most popular and attended form of motorsports.

Close, a longtime NASCAR journalist, author, team member, and race-day Spotter, also includes dozens of rare and informative photos that take you from the famed "Beach Course" at Daytona to the high banks of today's NASCAR tracks.

A must read for any NASCAR, Stock Car Racing, and American Motorsports fan, the book will provide hours of interesting entertainment as it uncovers rare information and statistical anomalies.

Publisher:
Released:
May 15, 2017
ISBN:
9781613254257
Format:
Book

About the author

Wisconsin native John Close grew up in racing in the 1950s cheering on his father's jalopy stock cars four or five nights a. John took his love of the sport to Charlotte assuming public relations duties for Bobby Labonte in 1994. John also managed marketing and media projects with Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Ultra Motorsports. His biggest thrills came at the track, though, being a Spotter for more than 14 years and 150 NASCAR races.

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1001 NASCAR Facts - John Close

possible.

INTRODUCTION

The basic definition of a fact is a piece of information that is known to be true.

The greatest mathematical minds have determined the number of facts to be infinite.

People love facts and support every imaginable topic with countless facts every day.

There are even special ways of stating our facts.

I know for a fact.

The fact is . . .

It’s a well/little known fact.

Due to the fact that . . .

The fact remains.

Okay, you get the picture.

It’s always all about the facts, right?

Heck, let’s just admit it. We’re addicted to facts.

Fortunately, facts aren’t much of a health hazard unless you don’t have them right. If that’s the case, you better be ready to hear, Get your facts straight. Or Stick to the facts!

Always remember to be very careful when you question someone else’s facts. If you use the wrong tone to ask someone Is that a fact? you’d better be prepared for an argument or worse, a fight over the facts.

In the end, all this talking about facts and how important they are is a bit silly because, as we all know, The facts speak for themselves.

As one of America’s most popular forms of professional motorsports today, NASCAR can trace its roots back to the late 1800s and the beginning of the motoring age. That history, along with eight decades of organized NASCAR races, milestones, equipment evolution, and personalities has created a list of amazing facts. Breaking them down to just 1,001 was one heck of a challenge.

That’s a fact, Jack.

Enjoy the book.

Chapter 1

BNR: Before NASCAR Ruled

Early cars were hardly anything you’d consider strapping on for some hot laps at Darlington, Bristol, or Talladega. They were little more than motorized horse carriages created by eccentric tinkerers. By 1900, more than 100 different brands of cars were available and they were offered in all sorts of configurations.

Then, as now, you only needed two cars to race. The earliest races were total run what ya brung events contested on primitive roads and later at developed driving parks. Most early races were time trials, hill climbs, or endurance runs. Eventually, as the automobile became more prevalent at the turn of the century, oval racetracks began to spring up around the country.

During the Roaring Twenties, tracks of all kinds appeared across the nation as a speed-crazy culture contributed to one of America’s most explosive decades. Races were held everywhere with most still featuring purpose-built, high-speed racers.

Racing stock cars off the assembly line became more prevalent in the 1930s. For as little as $5, a thrill-seeking daredevil could buy an old roadster, coupe, or sedan at the junkyard, get it running, and take it racing at the local county fairgrounds dirt oval. Regardless of where you lived (New England, California, the Midwest, or the Southern United States) stock car racing was gaining in popularity.

Rajo Jack was also an extremely talented engine builder. Here’s a 1930s Champ Car racer proudly announcing he has a Rajo under the hood. (Photo Courtesy Steve Zautke Collection)

By the turn of the 20th Century, half- and one-mile county and state fairgrounds horse racing ovals were among the first tracks to host automobile races. (Photo Courtesy Steve Zautke Collection)

Stock car racing hit the beach at Daytona Beach in 1936 and set the stage for gas station proprietor and racer William Getty France to form a national organization that prompted the founding of NASCAR a decade later.

With that history as a backdrop, these are facts about cars, tracks, people, and events that had an impact on stock car racing in the 50-plus years leading up to the formation of the sport known today as NASCAR.

CARS

1At the turn of the 20th Century, the total number of automobiles in the United States was estimated at around 10,000, about a quarter of the number of cars in the parking lot at any NASCAR Sprint Cup race today. By 1905, the number of cars in the United States had grown to 25,000; more than 200 companies tooled up to produce the new horseless carriage. Today, new auto sales in America total nearly 17 million units annually.

2Sweepstakes was Henry Ford’s first race car. This 2,200-pound, 96-inch-wheelbase racer was built on a steel-reinforced wooden chassis. The 2-cylinder, water-cooled engine featured a massive 7 × 7–inch bore and stroke per cylinder. Mounted horizontally in the chassis, the estimated engine displacement was 538 ci (8.8 liters) topping out at 26 hp at 900 rpm. This is thought to be the first engine to have spark plugs with porcelain insulators. A 2-speed transmission and chain-drive configuration delivered the power payload to the rear axle. The car hit a top speed of 72 mph in testing, which bested the official automobile world speed record of 65.79 mph. Ford drove the car to victory over Alexander Winton in a historic 1901 race at Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He attracted enough financial interest to form the Henry Ford Company and later, the Ford Motor Company. Today, Sweepstakes is on display at the Henry Ford museum.

3Steam-powered race cars were common at the dawn of the 20th Century. One of the earliest models to race consistently was the Keene Steammobile Runabout, a formidable car weighing 1,125 pounds. The Steammobile Runabout’s water tank capacity was 26 gallons and the chassis wheelbase measured 96 inches. Grounded by 35-inch wheels and 3-inch pneumatic tires, the Steammobile Runabout routinely ran in the 1901 Boston to Keene endurance races. These 85-mile events were organized and supported by Bay State Automobile Association and the New Hampshire Automobile Club.

4Andrew L. Riker was one of America’s first tycoon racers. In 1900, Riker drove the Riker Torpedo to an electric-car world speed record of 29 mph over a 5-mile closed course. The record stood for more than 10 years. Riker was later instrumental in designing and producing the 1906 gas-powered, chain-driven Locomobile Old 16. With the famed George Robertson behind the wheel, the car went on to win the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup, which was, at the time, America’s most prestigious auto race.

5Henry Ford was completely comfortable behind the wheel of Sweepstakes while racing Alexander Winton in 1901, but common sense told him he didn’t want anything to do with driving the company’s next racing creation, the Ford 999. In racing terms, the 999 was a beast. It was named (appropriately) after the famous New York Central Empire Express steam locomotive of the 1800s, which was the first man-made vehicle of any kind to exceed 100 mph. An iron-bar tiller steered 999; it featured a bare bones wood structure frame housing a massive 1,155-ci inline 4-cylinder engine capable of producing an estimated 70 to 80 hp. The car had a giant 230-pound flywheel with no transmission, just a wooden-block clutch and a solid-shaft direct drive to a rear ring and pinion gear. The 109-inch-wheelbase chassis had no rear springs and because the valvetrain and clutch were exposed, the ill-handling beast provided a constant oil bath for its driver. The 999 made its racing debut on October 25, 1902, at the Grosse Pointe track outside Detroit. With newcomer Barney Oldfield behind the wheel, the 999 secured the Manufacturers’ Challenge Cup for Ford with a time of 5 minutes 28 seconds, a world record for a 5-mile race on a closed course. Through the next year, Oldfield and the 999 toured the country and set countless speed records.

6The Arrow was a twin sister to the Ford 999; both cars were built at the same time in 1902 by Ford engineer Tom Cooper. The Arrow was considered more sophisticated than the 999 because of an enhanced intake manifold that made the Arrow the faster of the two. Unlike the 999 however, the Arrow was star-crossed as it was involved in the first recorded fatality in American motorsports. On September 11, 1903, driver Frank Day was killed at the first automobile race at The Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Henry Ford brought the Arrow back to Michigan where he repaired it in preparation for a land speed run. Ford, who originally declined to drive either car, wheeled the newly rechristened Red Devil 999 to a new land speed record of 91.37 mph on Anchor Bay at Lake St. Charles on January 12, 1904. Ford eventually retired both vehicles by the end of 1904.

7Untold thousands of cars have raced at Daytona, both on the beach and at Daytona International Speedway. Only one, however, can claim to be the first at the World Center of Speed. Created by Ransom Olds, the Olds Pirate was the first car to make a timed pass at the first Daytona Beach Speed Trials in 1902. A bare-bones model of the Olds Curved Dash Runabout, the Pirate had no bodywork of any kind. Its most prominent feature was a pair of horizontally mounted torpedo-like gas and oil tanks. Propelled by a 95-ci single-cylinder engine, the Pirate and driver Horace T. Thomas cruised to a blazing 54.38 mph in the gasoline-powered 1,000-pound class in the 1902 Daytona trials. Because the event was officially sanctioned and scored by the American Automobile Association, the Pirate will forever have the distinction of being the first car to take an official race run at Daytona.

The Olds Pirate will be forever identified as the first great car to hit the sands and make an official timed speed run at Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Courtesy General Motors)

8Built in 1904, the Pope Toledo Racer was a prototype for the company’s stock Touring models introduced over the next several years. The car featured a 120-hp 4-cylinder gas internal combustion engine with twin cast heads and integrated copper water jackets. The car also had a gear-driven magneto and multiple-disc clutch. The Pope was one of the first American cars with a 4-speed transmission, as well a fifth reverse gear. All were fitted into a frame of chrome-nickel steel construction with a 104-inch wheelbase and 34-inch wheels. The Pope Toledo competed in the first Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1904; it finished third. Over the next several years, Pope continued to race the Torpedo model and use its successes to promote its Touring cars as one of the most advanced, fastest, and reliable cars available. Unfortunately, the strategy didn’t work and Albert Pope declared his auto company bankrupt in 1907.

9Chrysler Corporation took NASCAR by storm in the 1960s when it introduced its 426 Hemi engine. The powerplant, while revolutionary in NASCAR, was not a new concept. The Hemi had made its debut in 1906 in the Pungs-Finch Limited. Built in Detroit, the Pungs-Finch engine was a 600-ci 4-cylinder model featuring hemispherical combustion chambers and angled valves. Thanks to the giant engine, the wooden-frame and -body car had an estimated top speed of 55 mph. Today, only one 1906 Pungs-Finch car remains in existence. The restored classic has won numerous vintage racer awards at both the Pebble Beach and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance meets. It sold at auction in 2015 for $852,500.

10Maybe the most important car ever, Henry Ford rolled out his first Model T October 1, 1908. Ford had been actively producing automobiles since 1903 with eight different models (the A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S cars) before launching the Model T in 1908. The T featured a 4-cylinder 20-hp engine and was available in two models: the Runabout ($825), and the Touring model ($850). It quickly sold 10,000 units in the first year of production which led Ford to drop all other models in order to satisfy the demand for the Model T. With the advent of the automated assembly line in 1913, Ford ramped up Model T production and produced more than 15 million units before ending the car’s run in 1927. Due to the massive build numbers, the cost of a new Model T fell to around $300 in the mid-1920s making it the first affordable car for working-class Americans.

11Few automobile inventions had as big an impact on the automobile as the electric starter. The concept was pioneered and patented in America at Dayton Engineering Laboratories (DELCO) in 1911 by Charles Kettering and Henry Leland. Prior to the electric starter, cars were started by hand cranking, often kicking back and resulting in untold numbers of hand, wrist, and arm injuries. Cadillac was the first major brand to implement the electric starter in 1912; Ford was one of the last to abandon the crank-starting method in 1919. By the 1920s, nearly all of the major U.S. brands featured electric starters, further fueling the automotive craze of the Roaring Twenties.

12Crafted by the E. R. Thomas Motor Company in 1907, the Thomas Model 35 Flyer is arguably the most famous American turn-of-the-century race car. The 5,000-pound car, featuring a 4-cylinder 60-hp engine, won the first, and, to date, only race around the world in 1908. Driver George Schuster took the green flag in Times Square in New York City on February 12, and along with five other teams, headed for Paris, France. However, only three cars finished the 22,000-mile race with the Thomas Flyer declared the winner 169 days later on July 30, 1908. The Flyer, dubbed Leslie Special, was introduced to a new generation of racing fans in the 1965 movie The Great Race. Today, the original Thomas Flyer is on exhibit at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

13Organized by General Motors founder William Durant and driver Bob Burman, the Buick Racing Team dominated much of the early racing scene. The team, which was the first factory-backed racing effort, included Burman and the Chevrolet brothers (Louis and Arthur) as drivers. The team won hundreds of events during its run from 1908 to 1911, including a victory by Burman in the first American Automobile Association (AAA) –sanctioned race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the Prest-O-Lite 250) August 19, 1909. With its racing heritage firmly established, Buick became a long-time NASCAR player, capturing two Sprint Cup Manufacturers’ Championships (1981 and 1982).

14Winner of the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, the Marmon Wasp Model 32 was the only single-seat race car in the field that day. Piloted by the 1910 AAA driving champion Ray Harroun, the first use of a rear-view mirror was employed, allowing Harroun to be the only driver in the field without a riding mechanic. The feat introduced one of countless innovations developed in auto racing that eventually made their way into the production of everyday passenger vehicles.

Ray Harroun’s Marmon Wasp, a 6-cylinder car with an engine displacing 477 ci, was based on the 1909 Marmon Model 32 production car. (John Close Photo)

15While aerodynamic testing is commonplace in today’s modern NASCAR, it wasn’t a consideration in racing until Frank Lockhart debuted the Stutz Black Hawk Special in 1928. Scale models of the car were constructed and aero-tested in both the Curtiss Aircraft and Army Air Services wind tunnels, one of the first American cars to be tested in such a manner. At 2,800-pounds, the vehicle featured a twin turbocharged Miller U-16 engine. It was also the first land speed record car to use an intercooler for the turbos. After a failed land speed record run at Daytona Beach that ended when Lockhart barrel-rolled the car into the ocean, the Black Hawk was repaired for another run at Daytona Beach on April 25. This time, the right-rear tire blew at more than 220 mph sending the car into a series of prolonged flips. Lockhart (the winner of the 1926 Indianapolis 500) was thrown from the vehicle and killed instantly. The engine was salvaged and later installed in the Sampson 16 Special for the 1939 Indianapolis 500, as well as the 1940, 1941, and 1946 Indy 500s. The engine is on display in the Indianapolis Hall of Fame Museum today.

16Developed in 1929, the Chevrolet inline 6-cylinder engine quickly became a challenger to the Ford Flathead V-8 engine in the early years of stock car racing. The 193.9-ci six-banger produced 50 hp and featured cast-iron pistons and a forged-steel crankshaft. The engine, lighter than the Ford V-8, enabled Chevrolet and other 1930s GM coupes and sedans using the Stovebolt 6 to win countless local stock car, roadster, and Jalopy races against their Blue Oval competitors all the way into the 1960s. The only engine Chevrolet offered from 1929 through 1954 (including a 235-ci model in the new 1953 Chevrolet Corvette) was relegated to a secondary racing option with the 1955 introduction of the Chevy small-block V-8.

17Although not the first V-8 engine produced, the Ford Flathead V-8 is one of the most important. Introduced in 1932, the engine was the first V-8 offered in an affordable American passenger car. It became a stalwart of the early stock car racing community as 1930s Ford coupes, roadsters, and sedans became the hot iron at local racetracks and stock car events throughout the country. The original engine measured 221 ci and produced about 65 hp. Juiced up with aftermarket items such as multiple carburetors, performance pistons, heads, and crankshaft, the Ford Flathead V-8 could easily be pushed to over 200 hp. The engine made the early stripped-down Fords the cars to beat in the early days of stock car racing and remained a stout competitor into the 1970s.

18Today’s NASCAR Modified division got its start in the 1933 Elgin Road Races. The event was supposed to be for stock roadster cars but thanks to Edsel Ford, it turned out to be anything but Ford’s car featured a Harry Miller–built Ford 221-ci L-Flathead V-8 with a 3-speed manual transmission and live axle suspension. The 112-inch wheelbase featured transverse leaf springs and four-wheel mechanically actuated drum brakes. Stripped down to its most basic essentials with no fenders, interior, rumble seat, glass, or lighting, it was so fast that Ford immediately ordered Miller to build 10 of them. The day before the Elgin races, driver Fred Frame crashed his car into a grove of trees in Turn 7 and destroyed it. Ford had a back-up car readied and entered it in the race; Frame drove it to what is widely considered one of the greatest early stock car races ever. After a promotional victory tour, the car was stored in a barn for decades before a full restoration in 1988. It remains one of the most important race cars in the history of Ford Motor Company.

Jalopy Stock Car Racing was the grassroots backbone of the sport for nearly three decades. Here, a packed hill and infield crowd presses forward to get the best look at this action. (Photo Courtesy Georgia Racing Hall of Fame)

19The engineers who control the building and performance of today’s modern NASCAR vehicles have nothing on the men who fashioned Jalopy stock cars from the 1930s through the late 1950s. The lack of money in the 1930s led to the Jalopy movement by using the ever-increasing car parts inventories at local junkyards. Basically stripped of their fenders, running boards, glass, and anything else deemed unnecessary to race, these rudimentary cars featured items such as a belt to strap the doors shut, large stripped bolts as welded braces, and fuel tanks crafted out of wash tubs. As racing became more sophisticated in the 1950s, the Jalopy class began to die out and was eventually replaced by a new brand of purpose-built lightweight modified cars. America’s first entry-level stock car racing class, the Jalopies, eventually faded from the racing scene completely by the 1970s.

20Given that the earliest race cars were production vehicles, getting to and from the racetrack was a simple exercise of driving the car there and back. By the 1920s, Indy and sprint car drivers started using trailers to haul their race cars. Stock car racing, however, didn’t adopt this trend until the mid-1950s. Meanwhile, early Jalopy and roadster cars (illegal to drive on the street) were pulled to and from the track by trucks or more powerful production cars using a tow bar.

21The front fenders of today’s NASCAR entries are stickered up with the logos of companies offering contingency prize money in addition to the winnings earned in the race. The first time these types of contingency awards were used in American racing was in the 1906 American Grand Prize Race at Savannah, Georgia. There, Continental Tires and Bosch Magneto posted additional contingency money ($4,500 and $1,000, respectively) for the winner while Michelin Tire paid $1,000 to the winner.

22The 1930s saw car designers literally switch gears. The emphasis from luxury and style to mechanical innovation and reliability. Improvements that became part of NASCAR vehicles in later decades were smooth shifting synchromesh transmissions, hydraulic brakes, power steering, and a sleeker, all-steel aerodynamic body shape. Two other 1930s innovations (a steering column–mounted gearshift and in-dash AM radio) never really caught on with the racing crowd but proved to be popular options with the buying public just the same.

23Unlike today’s modern NASCAR driver who goes into battle with the highest-quality personal safety gear available, early racers wore little to protect themselves from injury. Stock car racing helmets in the 1920s and 1930s were often little more than replicas of leather football helmets or football helmets themselves. Usually a T-shirt, work pants and boots, goggles, and leather driving gloves completed the driver’s safety ensemble.

24Although Goodyear and Firestone churned out racing tires for Indy Cars in the 1920s and 1930s, neither firm made an attempt to create a racing-specific tire for the emerging stock car market. That left the stock car, roadster, and Jalopy racers of the 1920s and 1930s to seek out the best production tires for their racers. These early tires featured an inner tube of compressed air inside a hard rubber outer casing reinforced with layers or plies of fabric cords. Initially made of cotton, the cords were replaced by rayon in the 1930s. The best of these bias-ply tires for racing proved to be harder rubber composition truck tires built to withstand the loads and long distances of commercial vehicles. At a cost of nearly $8 for a set of four, most Depression-era racers didn’t have money for new tires, which sent drivers and teams scurrying around the local junkyard for used tires. These racing scuffs usually cost 10 to 25 cents each.

TRACKS

25There is no record of a NASCAR race ever being held at the Narragansett Trotting Park or Rhode Island State Fairgrounds racetrack, but the sanctioning body owes a tip of the hat to the 1-mile dirt oval just the same. The first automobile oval-track race in America was held at the Narragansett Trotting Park September 7, 1896. With an estimated 60,000 fair-goers on hand to watch the race, seven cars (five internal combustion, one steam, and one electric powered) entered the event. A Riker Motor Company Electric Car won the five-lap race in 15 minutes logging a top speed of 24 mph. Narragansett Trotting Park continued to be the hub for auto racing in the Northeast and hosted numerous events through 1913. The popularity of the races doomed the horse races there. Eventually, the facility was taken over by the state and renamed the Rhode Island State Fairgrounds in 1913. The track was paved and reconfigured with banked turns in 1915. Eddie Rickenbacker, who went on to be America’s top flying ace in World War I, won the first race on the new track September 18, 1915. The track continued to host racing events until closing for good after the 1924 racing season.

26Located in Yonkers, New York, the Empire City Race Track was one of the first facilities in New York State to host auto races. Built in 1899 as the Empire City Trotting Club at a cost of $780,000, the half-mile dirt oval track featured a 7,500-seat grandstand. Closed for horse racing almost as quickly as it opened, the track began hosting select auto racing–related events including a world record speed run in 1902 by Barney Oldfield and the Ford 999. Oldfield covered the 1.6-kilometer distance in 55.54 seconds. Auto racing continued at Empire City until 1907 when the track was purchased and reopened as a thoroughbred horse racing facility. The last vestiges of Empire City Racetrack came down in 1950 when the track was renamed Yonkers Raceway. In 1972, the Rooney family (owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers) purchased the track. Today, it flourishes as one of the top horse trotting facilities in the United States, hosting nearly 250 events annually.

Here is what’s left of Frank Day’s Ford Arrow after he crashed at Milwaukee Mile’s inaugural event in 1903. Day was the first driver to perish in a race. (Photo Courtesy Steve Zautke Collection)

27Opened in 1903, The Milwaukee Mile, on the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis, today stands as America’s longest continuously operating speedway. The Mile first came on the scene as a privately owned, 1-mile horse racing track in 1876. It was then purchased by the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society as part of the property used to create a new, permanent site for the Wisconsin State Fair in 1891. A decade later, interest in staging automobile auto races on the dirt oval sparked the first race. Thousands of spectators flocked to the track on Friday, September 11, to witness the two-day event highlighted by match races between Henry Ford’s 999 and Arrow racers. Both cars had mechanical trouble on the first day allowing William Jones of Chicago to wheel a Columbia to victory in the speedway’s first auto race. His time of 8 minutes, 21 seconds in the five-lap event was good enough to beat four other competitors including the second-place driver, an unknown African-American racer simply known as Black Jack. Unfortunately, no motorsports events of any kind were scheduled for the Milwaukee Mile in 2017. In all, nearly 40 different NASCAR-sanctioned events were held at the track from 1984 to 2009.

28It was inevitable that NASCAR would one day race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning with the first Brickyard 400 in 1994. More than 80 years earlier, the track opened on June 9, 1909. Ironically, the first competition at America’s motorsports Mecca wasn’t a car race but rather a National Hot Air Balloon Championship held on June 5, 1909. Organized by track founder, builder, and president Carl Fischer, the balloon event drew more than 40,000 people providing working capital to complete the unfinished 2.5-mile racetrack. Opened for car racing on August 19, 1909, the track’s original crushed stone surface couldn’t withstand the pressure of heavy automobiles, so in late 1909, Fischer had the surface repaved with more than 3.2-million bricks held together with grouted cement. After a series of 1910 race festivals featuring as many as 40 events over three days, Indy hosted its first 500-mile race May 30, 1911. A field of 40 cars took a five-wide start in front of an estimated 80,000 fans with Ray Harroun and his Marmon Wasp holding off Ralph Mulford for the victory. The event drew unprecedented exposure for the sport and new fans throughout the country, ultimately setting the stage for decades-long expansion of motorsports in America including the formation of NASCAR.

29Long before Richmond International Raceway hosted its first NASCAR event, racing was a mainstay at the Virginia State Fairgrounds. In August 1907, the 1-mile dirt oval at the State Fairgrounds hosted the first race in Richmond. The event drew 2,500 fans and set the stage for the Fairgrounds to host countless open-wheel races throughout the next four decades. By 1928, the Richmond Fairgrounds was hosting unmodified stock car races. Jalopy races made their debut at the track in the 1930s and on July 4, 1941, the track held its first sanctioned stock car race. After World War II, racing continued at the Virginia State Fairgrounds at a new site in rural Henrico County, now home to Richmond International Raceway. The track was a mainstay for stock car racing throughout the remainder of the decade and into the early 1950s, joining the NASCAR ranks on April 19, 1953, when Lee Petty won the track’s first Grand National event in a Petty Enterprises Dodge. Since then, the facility has hosted more than 200 races in seven different NASCAR divisions.

30Can you imagine a NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, or Truck Series race being run on a superspeedway made out of wood? Of course not, but that’s exactly what made up the racing surface of America’s first superspeedways. With both land and wood plentiful and inexpensive, giant wooden racetracks made their first appearance in America in 1910. That’s when the first of these Board Tracks (a 1.25-mile oval constructed of 2 × 4–foot wooden planks) was built in Playa del Rey, California. In addition to its unique construction, Playa del Rey also had 20-degree banking in the corners making it the first high-banked speedway in the country. Wooden superspeedway construction surged in 1915 with the addition of a 2-mile banked oval in Chicago, 1-mile banked ovals in Brooklyn, New York, and Des Moines, Iowa, and a 1.25-mile banked oval in Omaha, Nebraska. By far the most unique Board Track constructed in 1915 was a 2-mile Tacoma, Washington, oval banked 18 feet (more than 50 degrees). Eventually, a total of 19 high-banked, 1-mile or longer wooden-surface speedways were built through the late 1920s, most hosting AAA National Championship IndyCar-style races during that period. The Board Track era proved to be short, however, as weather played havoc with the untreated wooden surface. Heat, cold, rain and snow caused warping, cracking, and rotting surface conditions. In the end, most Board Tracks existed two or three years before figuratively rotting into the record books, but they remain a forerunner to Bill France’s NASCAR high-banked superspeedway dream that became a reality at Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

31While Charlotte Speedway on Little Rock Road was the site of the first NASCAR Strictly Stock race in 1949, another Charlotte Speedway circa 1924 was the original venue for the Queen City. A crowd estimated at more than 50,000 poured into the 1.25-mile banked oval October 25, 1924, to see an IndyCar-style race featuring top drivers of the day. The 200-lap, 250-mile AAA-sanctioned event featured 12 cars with Tommy Milton taking home the top prize of $10,000. In all, 15 races were held at the track, including 6 in 1926. After just three events in 1927, Charlotte Speedway closed due to the significant cost of maintaining the 2 × 4–inch green pine and cypress board surface that had deteriorated significantly in the hot North Carolina summer conditions.

32Early auto racing was dangerous and fatalities were then (as they are now) an unwanted outcome. One of the most dangerous and deadly tracks of racing’s early years was Ascot Motor Speedway (later Legion Ascot) in California. The 5/8-mile dirt track opened on Thanksgiving Day 1924 and hosted open-wheel and early stock car competitions through 1936. In all, 24 drivers died racing at the killer track with 6 perishing in 1933 alone. The deaths prompted an outcry from local newspapers printing headlines such as Legalized Murder and Is It Worth It? After driver Al Gordon and his riding mechanic Spider Matlock were killed in a January 26, 1936, crash, Legion Ascot was shut down. A fire four months later

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  • (5/5)
    1001 NASCAR Facts by John Close is a true encyclopedia of everything NASCAR. It is organized by decades from the 1930s to present day. My husband was the reader on this book because he is a big fan of NASCAR racing. I've enjoyed the facts that he has shared though I'm not a fan of watching cars going in circles and not getting anywhere. Yes, those of you who love racing may cringe at my comment. I would rather read a book than watch a race. So, I think I may give this book a try myself. We have many friends and relatives who are avid NASCAR enthusiasts. This book would make a great gift.
  • (4/5)
    It had very interesting facts, but at times it was hard to follow along and out the facts together.
  • (4/5)
    I have a particular interest in stories about old race tracks so read through the sections dedicated to venues first and found it insightful and interesting, and learned a few new things. The chapter introductions do an excellent job of placing the sport in the context of the decades being discussed. Overall a book I know I'm going to be dipping in to over and over again, and a worthy addition to my shelf of motorsport reference books.
  • (3/5)
    No plot at all, except auto racing from the early days. Lots of info about the cars and drivers. Very interesting tidbits of info on drivers, tracks and cars. I am enjoying it, and will continue to read.
  • (5/5)
    Cartech Publishing has done it again with another 1001 Fact books. John Close's 1001 NASCAR Facts is a thoroughly enjoyable look at the history of NASCAR. The book begins before the advent of NASCAR and continues through to the start of the 2017 season. The book is well written and fun to read. You can skip about the book as the 1001 facts are independent of each other.I received this book as part of the LibaryThings Earlier Reviewer Program.
  • (5/5)
    I was impressed with this book as soon as I got it. Printed on heavy glossy paper. Very heavy book for its size. Many interesting Nascar facts. Recommended for all Nascar fans.
  • (5/5)
    this was a great book for any nascar fan from die hard to novice and everything in between. I liked how the book was broken up into different decades and then had sub sections for tracks, people and events. its really easy to read and just packed with info. its more of an encyclopedia of knowledge than just a "fact" book. if you like nascar, even a little, youll want to own this book!
  • (5/5)
    I just recieved this in the mail, I have read the first chapter, but reading the entire book will take much time. I am very impressed by the detail and fun little trivia that is included. I expected to find a very thin book with facts that everyone already knows and was common knowledge. However, this is a very dense book with things that I, a fan of over 20 years, didn't know. Great job on the research and a very well put together book. Everyone from the novice to the hard core fan would love this.
  • (5/5)
    Great book. Filled with tons of information that is sure to please any NASCAR fan. There's lot of facts in here, from all aspects of NASCAR, beginning to end. This a great addition to any racing fan's collection.