is huge. At last count there were 75 million NASCAR fans in the USA alone. Factor in live broadcasts to 150 countries and stock car racing is a global phenomenon.
With so many people turning up at the racing circuits, it’s time to find out exactly why NASCAR is so popular.
Bootlegging Spawned Stock Car Racing
Stock car racing has its roots in bootlegging. Drivers needed pace and agility to outrun the law as they delivered booze made in the Appalachians to the cities’ speakeasys. Vehicles of choice were small, snappy automobiles modified for maximized speed and handling.
After the lifting of Prohibition, the bootlegging boys transferred their breathtaking driving skills to the track. The precursor to formalized NASCAR racing was born out of America’s unquenchable thirst for whiskey and moonshine!
Seventy Years of Speed
The official sanctioning body of stock car racing - the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing - was founded way back in 1948. It’s a privately-owned company and the dynastic stomping grounds of the France family. According to recent reports, the family fortune is conservatively valued at $5.7 billion!
In 1953 a rhesus monkey called Jocko rode shotgun in eight NASCAR races. The speedy little simian had his own racing suit, helmet and goggles and accompanied star driver Tim Flocko in his quest for NASCAR glory.
According to newspaper reports, Jocko was trained to grin and wave at competitors and nearly caused a high-speed pile-up in his first outing on the track!
King of the Road
The first commissioner of NASCAR and one of the legends of the sport is Erwin Baker, a man who knocked up more than 550,000 miles or 890,000 km in cross-country speed runs. His record 53,5-hour dash between New York City and Los Angeles inspired the ‘Cannonball Run’ and a litany of movies and TV series honoring the event.
Baker’s runs across the country were designed to showcase the pace and power of the leading American automobiles of the day - the Cadillac Roadster, Stutz Bearcat, Chrysler Imperial, Columbia Tiger and the record setting Graham-Paige Model 57 Blue Streak 8.
NASCAR Drivers Earn Mega-Millions
Merchandise sales, sponsorships, personal endorsements and salaries combine to create jaw dropping annual earnings for the ‘top guns’ of the sport. In 2017 Dale Earnhardt Junior banked a juicy $22 million to become the big money generator of the year.
Sponsors splurged around $1 million per race on Earnhardt’s fabled number 88 car. Endorsements from the likes of Chevrolet, Wrangler and Nationwide accounted for four times that amount!
It’s the Speed Stupid
NASCAR cars are capable of reaching speeds of up to 200 mph. At top speed, drivers cover the length of a football field in just one second. The pure adrenalin of pushing cars to the limit increases the driver’s heart beat to around 150 beats a second, equalling that of a marathon runner.
At tracks with elevated banks like the Talladega and Daytona Speedways, restrictor plates are fitted to the cars to slow them down!
Driving at top speed is serious stuff. When there are no side mirrors fitted to the car and the driver’s head and neck are secured to the seat for safety reasons, winning a NASCAR race takes luck, skill and plenty of guesswork.
What many folks don’t know is NASCAR drivers rely on team members called ‘spotters’ to instruct them when to overtake, when to stay put and how to manoeuvre through the traffic. Instructions are conveyed in real-time via an ear piece fitted in the driver’s helmet.
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