June 19, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1949 NASCAR stages first Grand National

NASCAR staged its first Grand National event at the Charlotte Fairgrounds; the event marked the birth of NASCAR racing as we know it today. In 1946, race promoter Bill France began promoting an event in Charlotte. As he explains it, "I wanted to run a 100-mile national championship race at the fairgrounds, but [local sports editor] Wilton Garrison said I couldn't call it a national championship race." Garrison argued that France "might call it a North Carolina championship race, but you have to get some kind of a national organization to sanction it in order to call it a national championship race." So began Bill France's dream of creating a national sanctioning body for stock-car racing, which would govern a points standing as well as organize races in states across the country. During the 1946 stock-car season, France formed the National Championship Stock-Car Circuit. France withheld a purse for the point fund, kept track of standings, attempted to enforce uniform rules, and paid the drivers on time. That year, France expanded stock-car racing's range, arranging races all over the South. The 1947 season began with a 160-mile race at Daytona Beach. By the middle of the season, France had incorporated more than a dozen tracks into his circuit; he offered a guaranteed purse of $2,000 at each event; and he had a slogan, "Where the fastest that run, run the fastest." But at that point most of the race cars were modified stock pre-war Fords, and France and his governing body had a nearly impossible time enforcing regulations placed on modification of the car engines. The combination of his success with the NCSCC and his failure to enforce strict rules led him to call a meeting in December of 1947 at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona to discuss a more substantial governing body for stock-car racing. What emerged from the meetings was the National Association for Stock-Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR. The 1948 season was a more tightly governed version of the previous year; the sport's final breakthrough came in 1949. France decided that product identification would greatly add to fan interest in stock-car racing. As all of the major car companies had released postwar models, France created rules in the off-season that would allow for a Grand National division of NASCAR racing. Only late-model, strictly stock cars would be allowed in the Grand National class. A crowd of 13,000 watched as Jim Roper won the inaugural event on the three-quarter-mile dirt track at the Charlotte Fairgrounds. The Grand Nationals later became Winston Cup Series events.

Posted by Quality Weenie at June 19, 2006 07:16 AM | TrackBack