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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

Coffee Machine?

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Tim Richmond was an IndyCar racer before he became a staple of NASCAR. He’s from Ohio and Folgers sponsored him. He was a pioneer because he switched it up from open wheel racing to NASCAR stock cars every race.

After he did that, many followed in his path. In 1980, Richmond won the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. Not only that, he had 13 victories in eight NASCAR seasons which is pretty impressive.

Pearson Won A Lot

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Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Wayne Gretzky and more are just a few people who would be able to take a picture like this. David Pearson clearly won a lot of hardware during his day and didn’t mind showing it off.

You’d be reading forever if we listed all his winnings so we’ll only share a few. 1969 Grand National Series Champion, 1976 Daytona 500 Winner, 1976, 1977, 1979 Southern 500 Winner, and 1961, 1974, 1976 World 600 Winner are just a few of his achievements.

Welcome To The Jungle

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One of the most classic duos in all of racing history has to be Jungle Jim and Jungle Pam! Jim was a drag racer who earned his fame for winning his races, but for also going 100 MPH in reverse once the races were over.

You would always catch him with his sidekick and promoter “Jungle Pam” Hardy. She gained her fame for her hot looks, effective promoting, and amazing personality. When it came to duos, these two were for sure at the top of the discussion.

Marketing Schemes!

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One thing many people loved about the glory days of racing is that every new marketing scheme was just that – new. That’s not everyday you get all new marketing ploys on every occasion.

This included huge inflatable beer six-packs! In this picture, you see Neil Bonnett sitting on his stock Budweiser car cracking a smile fro the ad. In the 1998 season, he became NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. That’s good marketing and good driving.

No Roofs!

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Have you ever seen a roofless NASCAR? If no, take a look at these beauties. These 1957 Ford Fairlanes were great to look at when stock car racing began. Not only did they look nice, but they had good stuff under the hood too.

The Fairlanes were supercharged from 312 CID Thunderbird Special engines. As the hoods on these cars outline, they were capable of unleashing 300 HP. Oh how fast the good times come and go.

The Richard Petty Switch

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If it weren’t for Richard Petty, then Plymouth race cars probably wouldn’t have ever become as popular as they back in the day. Petty raced his whole career in the Plymouth’s except for one year.

Dodge created the supercharged Daytona and that’s when Petty asked Plymouth to make something equally as fast. They didn’t and assumed Petty would stick with them until the end. To their surprise, Petty signed a deal with Ford in 1969.

The Pike Peak Climb

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One of the most legendary races is the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. For 12.42 miles, racers go through an uphill climb to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. If you’ve ever been to Pikes Peak than you know what it’s like.

In the image you see above, Parnelli Jones is drifting in his red, white, and blue Mercury. Jones would go on to win his class that year in 1963 in that same Mercury.

Look At Those Wings

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As much as it seems hard to believe, big wings were almost mandatory for drivers in 1970. Just get a load of this image! The top five slots consist of huge wings.

Leading this pack we see Richard Petty in front driving his Petty Blue Superbird, and then you have Bobby Allison in the Dodge Daytona. These were two cars that big wings were almost mandatory for in 1970. Don’t ask us why just accept it.

The Lee Roy Pit Crew

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In 1969, NASCAR No. 98 Ford Torino Talladega you see above was the first car to cross the finish line at the Daytona 500. If it weren’t for put crews, that wouldn’t have happened because they play an integral part.

You can see Lee Roy Yarbrough’s crew doing their dirty work changing the left side tires and giving the car the fuel it needs. Working in the pit is plenty dangerous, but these guys make it look like a breeze.

Are You Seeing Double?

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Wait, what’s this? Are these two of the same cars on the track going at it? They look identical, but aren’t the same. The leader is a 1968 Ford Torino Cobra and the follower is a Ford Torina Talledega.

They both have the same colorway and classic East Tennessee Motor Co. logos on the rear fenders. They’re almost identical, but the Talledega has a shape more aerodynamically designed than its predecessor Torino. You have to look closely!

History Lesson

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Here’s a trip down memory lane. In this row of cars you can see a list of names you don’t hear much about anymore as far as sponsors go. Names like Levi Garrett, Kodak, and Havoline.

These are all legends lined up. They really make it hard to not miss the glory days. Its like seeing a vintage picture of the great football players from the ’80s in the Pro Bowl before the game begins.

Hurst Wasn’t The Worst

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Do you remember Hurst Performance, Inc? Hurst came about in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania. Miss Hurst, the Golden Shifter became a legend, but what about eh company? They made and marketed products that enhanced the performance of cars.

Their specialty was muscle cars used for drag, stock, and street racing. It all started in 1958 and was bought out in 1970. A daughter company still exists in a small capacity today. Oh how time flies by.

Golden Days

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There was once a time when dirt and grass tracks was all people needed to see for enjoyment. When the only hint of sponsorship was a number or a name on the vehicle for that matter.

This is when it all started. The humble beginnings of NASCAR is something that should never be forgotten. It’s a part of American culture and that’s evident from this picture above. Racing has always been a thing and the ’50s helped put that on notice!

James Hunt The Shunt

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From England, James Hunt had all the makings of a superstar. Not only was he well-known in F1 thanks to his talents, but he also had that rock-star look and personality going for him.

Before retiring in 1979, Hunt won the Formula One World Championship in 1976. That wasn’t his only big accomplishment. Hunt won the Dutch Grand Prix, and the Japan Grand Prix. Those are the biggest to mention but he also was victorious in many other events.

Cale Yarborough

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We could go on and on on this man, so we’ll keep it simple. Cale Yarborough has a ton of wins and accolades and his blue and white No. 11 is icon in the world of NASCAR.

With the sixth-most wins in Monster Energy Series history which includes four Daytona 500’s, three straight eyars of being named National Motorsports Press Association’s Driver of the Year, and three Winston Cup Series wins, was there anything this man couldn’t do?

Remember The Name

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Not once did Ray Fox cross the finish line at Daytona. However, his cars certainly did. If you didn’t know, Fox is a legendary engine builder as well as a car owner. He then became an engine inspector for NASCAR.

Many of the greatest drivers to do have stepped foot into one of Fox’s cars. Back in 2003, Fox found himself inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. When you do good work, you are rewarded.

The First Lady

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Say hello to Shirley Muldowney. Who is she? She’s the first lady of drag racing. 1965 is when she began drag racing, becoming the first woman to do it under license by the National Hot Rod Association.

In a few short years (1973), she had climbed her way all the way to the peak of drag racing and that is Top Fuel. When she dominated at the 1976 Spring Nationals, she got her first NHRA Professional win.

Fighting Time

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After Cale Yarborough came off three seasons in a row winning the Winston Cup, something no one has done and only Jimmie Johnson has managed to do since, Tensions were high to knock the king out of his throne.

When the Daytona 500 in 1979 came around, the tensions peaked. Yarborough and Donnie Allison bumped cars all race long (Yarborough intended to slingshot him in the end). Neither of them won and they took matters into their own hands, literally.

Origins Of Daytona 500

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Since 1959 fans and drivers have made their way to Daytona Florida to witness and drive in The Great American Race.” The Daytona 500 has continued to run ever since and become one of the staples in the sports world.

The Beach Road Course is why racing is so huge in that part of the Sunshine state. Richard Petty won the most with seven under his belt, while Yarborough (above) won four during his time.

Lucky Number 7

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We just mentioned the Richard Petty has the most Daytona victories, but it was his seventh one that was the most thrilling. There were three racers trading the lead all race long until Petty took the lead for the first time in the 174th lap.

After he achieved first place, he never let it go. He edged out one of the other three races that had the lead (Bobby Allison) by 3.5 seconds as he crossed the finish line.