The history of NASCAR began with a small track in Massachusetts named “Garden State”. It soon evolved into what is now known as the “triple crown” – winning the most prestigious race for drivers, the Indianapolis 500, and the NASCAR Cup Series. But what happened in between?
In 1982, the first of the modern iterations of NASCAR, known as the “Winningest Race”, was established. It was named the Daytona 500, and it was won by Richard Petty. Since then, the race has been nicknamed the “Great American Race”, “The Grand Ole Opry” and “The Southern Doubleheader”.
Each year, the Daytona 500 is the culmination of months of training and preparation. A professional driver will spend many hours in the cold, analyzing data, and refining their driving technique so that they can be at their best when the big day arrives.
The cars are prepared with the utmost care, and the pit crews are highly trained to ensure that the drivers have everything they need when they arrive at the start of the race. After all, nothing can substitute for good, old-fashioned driveability. That’s what makes this annual event so special.
So, who owns this beautiful thing called “Galesburg Speedway”?
The Early Years (1927-1961)
The first NASCAR race ever was held at Galesburg Speedway back in 1927. It was an unsanctioned event, and it was a major reason why NASCAR never really caught on back then. The cars were primitive, and the track was rough. They didn’t have the luxury of replacing broken-down vehicles, so the drivers were constantly changing their vehicles’, and therefore, their drivers’, mindsets and temperaments throughout the race.
It wasn’t until 1935 that NASCAR was actually established as an organization. That year, the track was renamed “Garden State Speedway”, after the state of New Jersey, where it is located. However, it was short-lived, because in 1939, the name was changed again to “Waukegan Speedway”. In 1961, it was finally named “Galesburg Speedway” after William Gale, the owner of the track at that time. Since then, it has been a regular part of NASCAR season, and it is one of the biggest races of the year. This prestigious event is a testament to William Gale’s vision and tireless promotion of the sport.
The Post-War Years (1962-1974)
After the Second World War, NASCAR started to boom. More and more people wanted to be a part of the action, and this led to the creation of more tracks. One of the major reasons for this growth was that the cars had now become more sophisticated. The military had also helped create a demand for vehicles, as they had been a part of the fighting, and the manufacturing plants that had made a comeback were now turning out cars at a furious rate. This is also the year that stock car racing really started to take off, as some of the biggest names in American history began entering the sport. The most memorable race of this era was the 1972 Olympic 500 Miles, which was won by Richard Petty. The following year, Richard Petty would go on to win the Daytona 500.
An interesting side note: in 1968, Richard Petty was the first driver to exceed 200 mph in a stock car. He did this at the Daytona International Speedway, setting a new world record.
NASCAR had become a popular sport, and this led to a number of tracks being built across America. Unfortunately, it also led to an explosion in traffic, as people had started to take an interest in following the action live. This couldn’t have been avoided, as NASCAR had gained such an enormous following that it became a matter of national pride when they visited your town.
In 1974, the Sports Car Club of America introduced an entirely new category: the Sports Car Grand Prix. This was a race that was established for drivers who wanted to make a name for themselves, and it attracted worldwide attention. This was also the year that the National Association of Stock Car Racers, later to become the current NASCAR, was officially established. The series had been a loose confederation of drivers who raced together, but this was now formalized, with the creation of the series’ rulebook, which would govern the races going forward.
The Modern Era (1975-Present)
The sports car era came to an end in 1975, as NASCAR started to take a back seat to Formula One, which was beginning to boom in popularity at the time. This was simply a result of the fuel crisis that year. The following year, however, would see a return to form as the American public started filling up the empty petrol stations, and the interest in stock car racing was once again brought to the forefront.
In 1978, NASCAR split into two different championships: the Winston Cup, which was started by Richard Petty, and the Chase for the Cup, which was started by Darryl Waltrip. This was done to encourage more people to participate in the sport. However, it also meant that races were won and lost on the basis of points, rather than on the basis of performance
In 1981, the All-Star race was introduced. It was originally supposed to be an exhibition race that showcased the sport’s stars from the Winston Cup and the Chase for the Cup. However, it evolved into a full-fledged contest that saw the best drivers in the world duke it out for supremacy. The following year, the Busch Grand Prix was also introduced. This was an alternative to the Daytona 500, and it was for the drivers who were excluded from the Daytona race – due to financial reasons. In 1984, the Brickyard 400 was introduced, and it was named after a legendary sprint car race that took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in the 1930s. This race was originally supposed to be held each year at the Daytona International Speedway, but due to the proliferation of NASCAR tracks, it had to be moved. It’s been a part of NASCAR ever since.
In 1985, the Craftsman Truck Series was founded. This was primarily designed for independent truckers who didn’t have enough money to run in the more prestigious Winston Cup and the Chase for the Cup races. The following year would see the creation of another new championship: the Winston West, which was started by Bobby Allison. This would see him win six out of eight races that year, and he would go on to establish a record for most wins in a season. He also set a record for most consecutive wins (11), and he is still the only individual to win both the Winston Cup and the Chase for the Cup in the same year. It should come as no great surprise that a man with such a record of achievement would found a championship named after him: the Bobby Allison World Championship.
In 1987, more changes were made, and the number of different championships soared. Not only did NASCAR split its drivers into “Winston Cup” and “Chase for the Cup” teams, but it also established a developmental league called the “Busch League”. The idea behind this was to create a league of sorts for aspiring drivers who couldn’t afford the entry fees for the more prestigious series.
This was also the year that Dale Earnhardt became the first driver to win both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year. Dale went on to establish himself as the greatest stock car racer of all time. In 1991, the Winston Cup and the Chase for the Cup were recombined into a singular championship, the Winston Cup Circuit, meaning that the races were now held on a single tour. The objective was to make it simpler for fans to keep track of all the activity. This would have a significant impact on the future of NASCAR, as it led to a golden era where fans could follow the action live, on television, for the entirety of the season. In 1992, the Winston Million, an all-in-one race, was introduced. This was a test of speed, and it was intended to be a qualifier for the Winston Cup race. In 1993, the Nextel Cup was started. It was designed to be an affordable alternative for fans who could not afford the more expensive Winston Cup. The following year, the Winston Western and the Busch Grand Prix were disbanded, and a new championship, the Craftsman Craftsman Truck Series, was created out of the remnants. This championship would also become famous for its unusual name, which is said to be an acronym for “Can’t Afford the Winners”. It’s been a year of transformation, and it’s now time for a whole new set of challenges as NASCAR looks to the future.