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From muffler sellers in the Philippines to your next door neighbour, many car enthusiasts are fans of racing events. Various racing events are held around the world every year, where millions of viewers can watch the best drivers compete on racetracks. One of the most popular sports events in the United States is NASCAR, the country’s largest racing event.
NASCAR, short for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, is a stock car racing series held on racetracks across the country. Some of the world’s best drivers such as A.J. Foyt and Juan Pablo Montoya have competed in these events. With how big NASCAR is today, it is worth looking back to how it all started.
The roots of NASCAR can be traced back to the Prohibition era of 1920-1933, the time when the distribution of alcoholic beverages was banned in the United States. This led to the rise of organized crime and illegal production of alcohol. These organized crime syndicates and illegal manufacturers needed people to deliver these beverages to their clients, henceforth called runners.
These runners used customized high-performance cars to deliver the alcohol, using their mad driving skills to evade the authorities. They took pride in being fast and skilled drivers, and held their own underground racing events to prove it.
By the late 1940s, these once illegal races became official events thanks to the work of Bill France. In 1947, France, along with other drivers and race organizers, established the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR. The association held its very first race on February 15, 1948 in Daytona Beach. By 1949, the first NASCAR Cup Series was organized.
NASCAR continued to grow since the first Cup Series with more drivers, better racetracks, and faster cars. The sport spawned famous names like Lee and Richard Petty, who have 10 championships between them (3 for Lee, and 7 for Richard), Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, and Joe Weatherly. By 1976, it became the most watched sport in the country, with over 1.4 million spectators. Television numbers also rose up with full races being shown live for the first time.
The sport continued to grow during the 1980s, with some of the largest American companies sponsoring each team. Some of these companies, became well-known due to their brands being on a NASCAR vehicle.
NASCAR also added truck racing by the mid-90s, with the first Truck Series being held in 1994. The number of fans kept growing, more races were covered on television, and the NASCAR lifestyle was featured in various media outlets.
Along with the Cup and Truck Series, NASCAR also added racing series in Mexico, Europe, and the second-tier Xfinity Series. New safety regulations were developed to ensure the safety of the drivers.
Presently, the Cup Series is being dominated by driver Jimmie Johnson, who has won it over 7 times. A new format was introduced to the Cup Series as well, with a playoff format being established to make the races more exciting to watch. As the sport enters into the next decade, NASCAR continues to flourish and create breakthroughs like no other sport has seen.
NASCAR continues to be one of the largest sporting events in the United States and followed by millions across the globe. As it gets better and faster, expect it to continue to remain as one of America’s biggest sports.