Today in sports history: NASCAR is officially incorporated

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Today in sports history (1948), the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is officially incorporated. William “Bill” France Sr. probably never could have imagined that the sport he created would become a multi-billion dollar industry. Today, the brand better known as NASCAR is one of the most popular spectator sports in America.

Today, a sport that has its roots in the smugglers of Prohibition and the Deep South, is truly a national brand. NASCAR has truly expanded far beyond Daytona Beach where France first incorporated the sport.

Bill France Sr. Incorporates NASCAR | Today in sports history

Born in 1909, Bill France Sr. packed his bags and moved from Washington D.C. to Daytona Beach in the 1930s. A mechanic and auto repair shop owner, France sought new clientele in the hotbed of racing that was Daytona. The city’s flat beaches in North Florida have proven perfect for auto enthusiasts to hold drag races. Several speed records have been broken while running along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

As automotive technology advanced, drag racing eventually evolved into full-fledged track racing. Indeed, early renditions of stock car racing at Daytona Beach featured a half-paved, half-sand track! Drivers did laps around a track that included both the flat beach and part of the A1A highway.

A car mechanic and enthusiast himself, France couldn’t resist getting involved in car racing. He drove and promoted stock car racing in the Daytona Beach area for several years. However, France noticed that a lack of organization was hurting the sport. Without a governing body, early stock car racing was plagued with varying rules, dishonest promoters and stolen prizes. If the sport was ever to progress, it was clear to France that some sort of organized governing body was needed.

France leads NASCAR training and is the sport’s first president

France brought together several members of the Daytona Beach racing community to discuss the future prospects for stock car racing. This led to the official incorporation of NASCAR today into sports history in 1948. After spearheading the incorporation of NASCAR, France served as the first president. He continued to be instrumental in the development and influence of the sport over the next few decades.

Of course, there were a lot of differences between the sport then and now. The more modern NASCAR adage of “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” dates back to the early days when racers drove the exact same cars that daily commuters used on the street. Compared to the passenger versions of the same cars, very few changes were made to the Buicks, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles that NASCAR drivers raced in competition.

NASCAR governing body put to the test in first strictly stock race

Just over a year later, the very first Strictly Stock race was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. More than 13,000 spectators watched Glenn Dunnaway win the 200-lap race, only to be disqualified afterward due to illegal rear springs on his vehicle. This earned Jim Roper the $2,000 prize. In the very first race, the rules and governing body of NASCAR were put to the test.

Today in sports history, NASCAR incorporated Daytona Beach stock car racing
Credit: AP File Photo

New tracks built and opened specifically for NASCAR racing

As the sport continued to grow, new racing facilities began to appear rapidly. After all, a track made up of a half-sand, half-paved highway wasn’t exactly conducive to an incorporated sport. Additionally, NASCAR had now organized funds to be allocated for the construction of race tracks. In 1950, Darlington Raceway in South Carolina opened as the first-ever NASCAR-based speedway. To this day, the NASCAR Cup Series is still held at Darlington Raceway each year.

Less than a decade later, the birthplace of NASCAR and stock racing itself got an all-new track. Daytona International Speedway hosted the inaugural Daytona 500 on February 22, 1959. Lee Petty won the inaugural race for the event, which quickly became the most prestigious NASCAR race on the annual calendar. The Daytona 500 has been raced every year since.

The France family continues to oversee NASCAR in the 21st century

In 1972, Bill France Sr. passed the title of President of NASCAR to his son, William France Jr. Young France was hugely influential in transforming stock car racing from a regional Southeast sport into an entity national and even global. In the three decades since assuming the presidency, France Jr. has helped NASCAR land numerous corporate sponsorships to accompany billion-dollar television deals. Thanks to these lucrative contracts and sponsorships, the sport continues to thrive in the 21st century.


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