NASCAR Through The Years: A Deep Look At What The High Octane Sport Used To Look Like

NASCAR and stock car racing have a rich history in the United States. Its roots trace back to the days of prohibition when bootleggers used small but fast cars to transport alcohol while evading police. When prohibition ended, people’s obsession with fast cars didn’t, and stock car racing was born. in 1948, Bill France officially established NASCAR as the sport’s formal governing body. Today, the sport is just popular as ever, so let’s take a look back at it. From 1948 to the modern day, it’s incredible how racing has evolved.

Just wait until you see Vicki Wood and her ride on slide 7!

Joie Chitwood Sr. Gets Set Behind The Wheel

joie chitwood sr with his car
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Before NASCAR became an official governing body, stock car racing was like the Wild West. This picture, taken in the 1930s, shows Joie Chitwood Sr. in one of his sprint cars. Over the next two decades, he raced in the Indy 500 seven times.

After retiring from racing, Chitwood Sr. developed his own automotive show. The Joie Chitwood Thrill Show, putting stunt drivers on display for fans to enjoy. After intentionally crashing more than 3,000 vehicles for his show, Chitwood became a car safety consultant.

NASCAR Modified Champion Jack Choquette

jack choquette nascar champion
ISC Archives via Getty Images

In 1954, Jack Choquette became the NASCAR Modified Champion with the racer you see above. Over the next two years, Choquette competed in six Grand National Races, placing highest at Palm Beach Speedway in 1955.

Choquette’s last NASCAR race happened one year later, in 1956. He finished his career with two top ten finishes, but zero wins. For the next two decades, he continued to drive modified cars, but never re-found the glory that made him so competitive early in his career.

On the next slide, an incredible look at Daytona before it was built!

Daytona Groundbreaking Ceremony of 1958

daytona groundbreaking ceremony
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Although groundbreaking began on Daytona International Speedway in 1957, the actual ceremony was held in 1958. This picture was taken during that ceremony, which was partially coordinated by Speed Weeks.

The speedway, one of the most iconic in the world, cost $3 million dollars and took two years to build. It officially opened in 1959 with a seating capacity of over 100,000. At the time it was the fastest track that was able to host stock car races.

Randy Lajoie’s Epic Pit Stop

randy lajoie pitsop nascar
ISC Archives via Getty Images

The snapshot of Randy Lajoie sitting in his car during a pit stop shows just how intense the situation is. Lajoie won back-to-back NASCAR titles in 1996 and 1997 in no small because of his fantastically efficient pit crew.

One of the most challenging parts of participating in NASCAR is knowing when to take a pit stop. The goal is to get in an out, fill up on gas and replace a car’s tires, without losing positioning in the race.

Coming up, a classic look at stock car racing’s 1947 champion!

Fonty Flock Wins The 1947 Championship

fonty flock nascar 1947
ISC Archives via Getty Images

One year before NASCAR officially came into being, Fonty Flock replaced his injured brother, Bob, as the driver of the car pictured above. That year he won the National Championship Stock Car Circuit.

Once NASCAR was official, Flock continued to race modified cars. He even won another championship, taking the 1949 NASCAR Modified Championship title. He retired in 1957 after a terrible in-race accident. In 2004 he was inducted in the Georgia Automobile Hall of Fame and the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame.

Fonty Flock Flips A Car

fonty flock flips a car
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

This is not the accident that ended Fonty Flock’s career, but this incredible picture was too perfect not to share. This took place in the late ’40s. Flock was driving a modified car when he flipped it.

The car’s owner, Joe Wood, was not happy with the damage done to his number 47, Flock was unable to return to the race. Today, with backup cars on hand in team garages, Fonty’s day would have continued, although it would be a struggle to finish first.

Find out what Vicki Wood drove to out muscle the men, next!

Vicki Wood At Toledo Raceway

vicki wood poses with her stock car
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Taken in the 1950s, this colorful photo shows Vikki Wood and her short track car. She wasn’t afraid to tangle with her male counterparts, and showed up at Toledo Raceway Park to qualify for an upcoming race.

Wood didn’t just qualify, though, she beat every man who was there, taking the pole position for the event. Thanks to Wood, the road was paved in NASCAR for women to compete long before other sports. Danica Patrick is the most famous female driver today.

Jay Leno Interviews A Legend

jay leno and dale earnhardt sr
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Jay Leno is a known automobile junkie, so it only makes sense that he would interview some of the greats. Here he is with the late, great Dale Earnhardt Sr., one of the best drivers in NASCAR history.

Tragically, Earnhardt died doing the thing he loves. In 2001, he got into a three way crash during the Daytona 500. His son placed second in the race that day, and continued to race until 2017, when he transitioned to broadcasting.

Dale Earnhardt Behind The Wheel

Dale Earnhadt discussing the race with richard childress
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

This picture might not seem like much at first, but it really is an incredible sneak peek into the driver’s seat of NASCAR with two of the sport’s icons. That’s Dale Earnhardt sitting patiently in his car talking with team owner Richard Childress.

The legendary racing friendship between the two men started when Earnhardt brought his Wrangler sponsorship to Childress racing. That was 1985. The relationship ended in 2001. During their 15 years together they won six NASCAR Cup championships.

Pre-Race Pump Up

Greg Xipadelli rallies his pit crew before a race
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Believe it or not, NASCAR is a team sport. The driver gets the spotlight, but where would he be with his pit crew? This picture shows Greg Zipadelli rallying his pit crew before a race, pumping them up the best he can.

Zipadelli began his career in 1988 as the crew chief for Mike McLaughlin. McLaughlin won the championship that year. He was 21 years old. Today, Zipadelli is the competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, but still fills in as a crew chief when needed.

Up next, a legend’s dad takes the spotlight!

Racing Runs In The Family

ralph earnhardt holiding his trophy
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Ralph Earnhardt holding a victory trophy after a race in 1950 is proof that racing runs deep in the Earnhardt family. A true NASCAR legacy family, Ralph began racing on dirt tracks as a way to get out of poverty.

His professional career started in 1953. In 1956, he won the NASCAR Sportsman Championship. The next two years he finished second in the standings. The eldest Earnhardt is credited as being the first driver to stagger his tires – employing tires with different circumferences on the left and ride side.

Larry Pearson And His Championship Car

larry pearson dash driver nascar
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Kneeling next to his Mercury Capri, Larry Pearson was a force to be reckoned with in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Racing in the NASCAR Dash Series, he won five times.

He also raced in the Busch Series and competed in the NASCAR Cup circuit. In the Busch Series, Pearson was just as dominant, winning the Championship twice. He retired in 1999 after the Textilease Medique 300 in Boston, four years after his last trip to victory lane.

The Race Begins

NASCAR race in color
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

This vintage photo was taken in the 1950s at the start of NASCAR Cup race. The track featured is the one-mile Raleigh Speedway. The speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races, as well as Convertible races from 1953 until 1958.

Sadly, the track became obsolete when Daytona International Speedway opened. The July 4th Grand National race was moved to the new track, and Raleigh was left to the dogs. In 1967, the once-storied track was demolished, taking its history with it.

Our next photo serves as a reminder that not every driver can have an illustrious career!

One And Done

nascar walt flanders flipped car
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

The man you see above, Walt Flanders, only competed in one NASCAR race. During the 1951 race, he flipped his Ford on its hood. As you can see, he survived the wreck. His car, and career, did not.

Oddly enough, Flanders finished 31st that day out of 59 possible positions after completing 145 of 250 laps. Everyone he beat either overheated and had to forfeit or got into accidents before him. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!

Nothing Is Better Than A Day At The Beach

First Place Finishers Marshall Teague and Herb Thomas
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Taken in 1952, this championship worthy picture shows Marshall Teague and Herb Thomas holding their race trophies. They finished in first and second on this day. The Cup race, against the backdrop of the ocean, was held at the Daytona Beach-Road Course.

Behind the pair are their legendary vehicles; two Hudson Hornets. Hudson was the first automaker to jump into the racing world. It dominated the sport for years, led by these two fearless drivers.

Mid-Race Refreshment

bill seifert getting a drink
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

This photo is amazing. Taken in 1969, it shows driver Bill Seifert being handed a soft drink while taking a pit stop during a race. Turns out pit stops are for more than just changing tires! What’s really spectacular about this image is the contrast with how athletes refresh themselves today.

Instead of a disposable cup, they are given giant squeeze bottles. They also don’t drink soda during an event, as the photographer claims is the drink being handed to Seifert in the image.

The Union 76 Girls

nascar union 76 girls
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Do you remember the always-entertaining Union 76 Girls? The picture shows them in 1969 waving to the crowd before a NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The women were employed by Union 76 Oil Company to promote their brand at NASCAR events.

After races, the Union 76 Girls would join the winner of the race in Victory Lane for a photo opportunity. In 2017, NASCAR used the Monster Energy Girls for the same purposes.

Hanging Out On The Hood

nascar conversation neil castles and gc spencer
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Sometimes, it’s easiest to play it cool. That must be what Neil Castles was thinking when he laid down on the hood of G.C. Spencer’s car in 1969 to have a chat. What were they talking about? Probably the upcoming race.

Today you would never catch two drivers talking so casually like this before a race. One thing that hasn’t changed today is the copious amounts of sponsor stickers that can be put on one car!

Bobby Allison For The Win!

nascar race in the '80s bobby allison
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Moving into the ’80s, we see a version of NACSAR that looks closer to what it is today. The cars drive in pretty uniform order, hoping to draft behind someone to gain an edge.

On this day, that edge went to Bobby Allison. Driving a Buick, he pulled ahead of Buddy Baker on the last lap of the Firecracker 400 at Daytona to win. The victory made him the oldest winner in the history of the race.

Champagne For Everyone!

victory celebration with dale earnhardt
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Finally, we get to the classic champagne soaked victory celebration! In 1987, Dale Earnhardt couldn’t help himself after being crowned the NASCAR Cup Champion. He didn’t care one bit he only finished second at Atlanta International Speedway that day.

The championship was the third of Earnhardt’s career and his second in a row. He would go on to win three more NASCAR titles and four International Race of Champions (IROC) titles. He was inducted in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2010.