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Article: NASCAR

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the largest sanctioning body of motorsports in the United States. The three largest racing series sanctioned by NASCAR are the NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series. It also oversees NASCAR Regional Racing, the Whelen Modified Tour, and the Whelen All-American Series. NASCAR sanctions over 1,500 races at over 100 tracks in 39 states, Canada, and Mexico. From 1996 to 1998, NASCAR held exhibition races in Japan, and an exhibition race in Australia in 1988.

With roots as regional entertainment in the Southeastern U.S., NASCAR has grown to become the second-most popular professional sport in terms of television ratings inside the U.S., ranking behind only the National Football League.[1] Internationally, NASCAR races are broadcast in over 150 countries. It holds 17 of the top 20 attended sporting events in the U.S.,1 and has 75 million fans[citation needed] who purchase over $3 billion in annual licensed product sales. These fans are considered the most brand-loyal in all of sports and, as a result, Fortune 500 companies sponsor NASCAR more than any other sport.

NASCAR's headquarters are located in Daytona Beach, Florida, although it also maintains offices in four North Carolina cities: Charlotte, Mooresville, Concord, and Conover. Regional offices are also located in New York City, Los Angeles, Arkansas, and international offices in Mexico City and Toronto, Ontario. NASCAR and the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) cooperated and opened a technical school in North Carolina called NASCAR Technical Institute, where aspiring students train to be NASCAR mechanics.

Early stock car racing

In the first few decades of the 1900s, Daytona Beach became known as the place to set world land speed records. The beach became a mecca for racing enthusiasts and fifteen records were set on this beach between 1905 and 1935. Then, in 1936, the Bonneville Salt Flats became the premier place to host land speed record attempts, so the Daytona course began hosting car racing events. Drivers raced a 1.5 to 2 mile stretch of beach as one straightaway and beachfront highway A1A as the other.

Stock car racing had its origins in bootlegging during Prohibition. Bootleggers needed to distribute their illicit products, and they typically used small, fast vehicles to better evade the police. Many of the drivers would modify their cars for speed and handling, as well as increased cargo capacity, and some of them came to love the fast-paced driving down twisty mountain roads. One of the main 'strips' in Knoxville, Tennessee, had its beginning as a mecca for aspiring bootlegging drivers.

The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 dried up some of their business, but by then Southerners had developed a taste for moonshine, and a number of the drivers continued "runnin' shine," this time evading the "revenuers" who were attempting to tax their operations. The cars continued to improve, and by the late 1940's, races featuring these cars were being run for pride and profit. These races were popular entertainment in the rural Southern United States, and they are most closely associated with the Wilkes County region of North Carolina. Most races in those days were of modified cars, street vehicles which were lightened and reinforced.

Significant people

William France, Sr.
Main article: Bill France, Sr.
Mechanic William France, Sr., moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, from Washington, DC, in 1935 to escape the Great Depression. He was familiar with the history of the area from the land speed record attempts. France entered the 1936 Daytona event, finishing fifth. He took over running the course in 1938. He promoted a few races before World War II.

France had the notion that people would enjoy watching "stock cars" race. Drivers were frequently victimized by unscrupulous promoters who would leave events with all the money before drivers were paid. In 1947, he decided this racing would not grow without a formal sanctioning organization, standardized rules, regular schedule, and an organized championship. On December 14, 1947, France began talks with other influential racers and promoters at the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel at Daytona Beach, Florida, that ended with the formation of NASCAR on February 21, 1948.

NASCAR was founded by William France, Sr., on February 21, 1948, with the help of several other drivers of the time. The points system was written on a bar room napkin. The sanctioning body hosted its first event at Daytona Beach on February 15, 1948. Red Byron beat Marshall Teague in the Modified division race.


Erwin "Cannonball" Baker
Main article: Erwin George Baker
The first Commissioner of NASCAR was Erwin "Cannonball" Baker. A former stock car, motorcycle, and open-wheel racer who competed in the Indianapolis 500 and set over one hundred land speed records. Cannonball Baker earned most of his fame for his transcontinental speed runs. Baker would prove a car's worth by driving it from New York to Los Angeles. After his death, the famous transcontinental race the 'Cannonball Run' and the film that was inspired by it were both named in his honor. Baker is enshrined in the Automotive Hall of Fame, The Motorcycle Hall of Fame, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, and The NASCAR Hall of Fame. This level of honor and success in each diverse racing association earned Baker the title "King of the Road".

Bob "Barky" Barkhimer
In the early 1950s the United States Navy stationed Bill France, Jr., at the Moffett Federal Airfield in northern California. His father asked him to look up Bob Barkhimer in San Jose, California. Barkhimer was a star of midget car racing from the World War II era, and later ran about 22 different speedways as the head of the California Stock Car Racing Association. Young Bill developed a relationship with Bob Barkhimer and his partner, Margo Burke. He went to events with them, stayed weekends with them and generally became very familiar with racing on the west coast. "Barky," as he was called by his friends, journeyed to Daytona Beach and met with Bill France, Sr. In the spring of 1954, NASCAR became the stock car sanctioning body on the Pacific Coast under Barky.


Strictly Stock to Grand National
The first NASCAR "Strictly Stock" race ever was held at Charlotte Speedway (not the Charlotte Motor Speedway) on June 19, 1949 -- a race won by Jim Roper after Glenn Dunnaway was disqualified after the discovery of his altered rear springs. Initially, the cars were known as the "Strictly Stock Division" and raced with virtually no modifications on the factory models. This division was renamed "Grand National" beginning in the 1950 season. However, over a period of about a dozen years, modifications for both safety and performance were allowed and, by the mid-1960s, the vehicles were purpose-built race cars with a stock-appearing body.

One of the tracks used in the inaugural season is still on today's premier circuit: Martinsville Speedway. Another old track which is still in use is Darlington Raceway, which opened in 1950. (The oldest track on today's NEXTEL Cup circuit is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which dates back to 1909; however, the first Brickyard 400 did not take place until 1994.)

Most races were on half-mile to one-mile (800 to 1600 m) oval tracks. However, the first "superspeedway" was built in Darlington, South Carolina, in 1950. This track, at 1.38 miles (2.22 km), was wider, faster and higher-banked than the racers had seen. Darlington was the premiere event of the series until 1959. Daytona International Speedway, a 2.5-mile (4 km) high-banked track, opened in 1959, and became the icon of the sport. The track was built on a swamp, so France took a huge risk in building the track.

The first NASCAR competition held outside of the U.S. was in Canada, where on July 1, 1952, Buddy Shuman won a 200-lap race on a half-mile (800 m) dirt track in Stamford Park, Ontario, near Niagara Falls.


Beginning of the modern era
NASCAR made major changes in its structure in the early 1970s. The top series found sponsorship from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) (tobacco companies had been banned from television advertising and were looking for a promotional outlet). The "Winston Cup" (begun in 1971) became the top competitive series, with a new points system and some significant cash benefits to compete for championship points. The next division down, called Late Model Sportsman, gained the "Grand National" title passed down from the top division and soon found a sponsor in Busch Beer. In the mid-1970s, some races began to get partial television coverage, frequently on the ABC sports variety show "Wide World of Sports."


Finally, in 1979, the Daytona 500 became the first stock car race that was nationally televised from flag to flag on CBS. The leaders going into the last lap, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, wrecked on the backstretch while dicing for the lead, allowing Richard Petty to pass them both and win the race. Immediately, Yarborough, Allison, and Allison's brother Bobby were engaged in a fistfight on national television. This underlined the drama and emotion of the sport and increased its broadcast marketability. Luckily for NASCAR, the race coincided with a major snowstorm along the United States' eastern seaboard, successfully introducing much of the captive audience to the sport.

The beginning of the modern era also brought a change in the competitive structure. The purse awarded for championship points accumulated over the course of the season began to be significant. Previously, drivers were mostly concerned about winning individual races. Now, their standing in championship points became an important factor.

NASCAR-sanctioned series

NEXTEL Cup
Main article: NEXTEL Cup
The "NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series" is the sport's highest level of professional competition. It is consequently the most popular and most profitable NASCAR series. The 2006 NEXTEL Cup season consisted of 36 races over 10 months, with over $4 million in total prize money at stake at each race. Writers and fans often use "Cup" to refer to the NEXTEL Cup series and the ambiguous use of "NASCAR" as a synonym for the NEXTEL Cup series is common. As of 2007, the defending champion is Jimmie Johnson.

In 2004, NEXTEL took over sponsorship of the premier series from R.J. Reynolds, formally renaming it from the Winston Cup to the NEXTEL Cup Series. A new championship points system, "The Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" was also developed, which reset the point standings with ten races to go, making only drivers in the top ten or within 400 points of the leader eligible to win the championship. In 2007, NASCAR announced it was expanding "The Chase" from ten to twelve drivers, eliminating the 400-point cutoff, and giving a ten-point bonus to the top twelve drivers for each of the races they have won out of the first 26. Wins throughout the season will also be worth five more points than in previous seasons.


Busch Series
Main article: Busch Series
The "NASCAR Busch Series" is the second-highest level of professional competition in NASCAR. The cars look very similar to Nextel Cup cars with only a few differences, such as the weight of the car and the power output of the engine. As of 2007, the defending champion is Kevin Harvick.

The Busch Series is currently the only series of the top three to race outside the United States and the only series to have ever held points-paying international events. The season is a few races shorter and the prize money is significantly lower. Over the last several years, a number of NEXTEL Cup drivers have tried to run races in both series, using the Busch race as a warm-up to the Cup event at the same facility. Detractors of this practice have labeled such drivers as "Busch-whackers." The Busch sponsorship is set to expire at the end of 2007 and the series is currently looking for a new title sponsor for 2008 and beyond.


Craftsman Truck Series
Main article: Craftsman Truck Series
The '"NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series" features modified pickup trucks. It is one of the three national divisions of NASCAR, together with the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup. As of 2007, the defending champion is Todd Bodine.

In 1994, NASCAR announced the formation of the NASCAR SuperTruck Series presented by Craftsman. The first series race followed in 1995. In 1996, the series was renamed the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to emphasize Craftsman's involvement. The series was first considered something of an oddity or a "senior tour" for NASCAR drivers, but eventually grew in popularity and has produced Nextel Cup series drivers who had never raced in the Busch Series.


NASCAR Canadian Tire Series
Main article: NASCAR Canadian Tire Series
NASCAR announced the purchase of Canadian racing series CASCAR in September of 2006. The CASCAR Western Series will become NASCAR's fourth-tier series starting in the Fall of 2007.


NASCAR Mexico Corona Series
Main article: NASCAR Mexico Corona Series
In December of 2006, NASCAR also announced the creation of the NASCAR Mexico Corona Series, replacing the existing Desafio Corona Series, to begin in 2007.[2]


Other NASCAR racing series
In addition to the five main series, NASCAR operates several other racing circuits:

Many local race tracks across the United States and Canada run under the Whelen All-American Series banner, where local drivers are compared against each other in a formula where the best local track champion of the nation wins the Whelen All-American Weekly Series National Championship. The Whelen All-American series is split into four divisions. Each division champion receives a point-fund money payout and even more goes to the National champion (driver with most points out of the four division winners). The Whelen All-American Series is the base for stock car racing, developing NASCAR names such as Clint Bowyer, Jimmy Spencer, Tony Stewart, the Bodine brothers and many others along the way.

NASCAR also sanctions three regional racing divisions: The Whelen Modified Tour, which races open-wheel "modified" cars in Northern and Southern divisions; the Grand National Division, which races in the Busch East (formerly Busch North); and the AutoZone West Series. Grand National cars are similar to Busch Series cars, although they are less powerful. The AutoZone Elite Division, which races late-model cars which are lighter and less powerful than NEXTEL Cup cars, is split into four divisions: Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, and Midwest. At the end of 2005, NASCAR announced that the AutoZone Elite Division would be discontinued after the 2006 season due to having trouble securing NASCAR-sanctioned tracks to successfully host AutoZone Elite Division events, plus escalating costs of competing and downsizing of the Division in recent years.

In 2003, NASCAR standardized rules for its AutoZone Elite and Grand National divisions regional touring series as to permit cars in one series to race against cars in another series in the same division. The top 15 (Grand National) or 10 (AutoZone Elite) in each series will race in a one-race playoff, called the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, to determine the annual AutoZone Elite and Grand National champions. This event has been hosted at Irwindale Speedway in California since its inception.

Many drivers move up through the series before reaching the NEXTEL Cup series. In 2002, over 9,000 drivers had licenses from NASCAR to race at all levels.

The winners of the Dodge Weekly Series National Championship, the four AutoZone Elite Divisions, the two Whelen Modified and Grand National Divisions, and the three national series are invited to New York City in December to participate in Champions Week ceremonies which conclude with the annual awards banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.


North Carolina race shops
Most NASCAR teams are based in North Carolina, especially near Charlotte. Cities in North Carolina that are home to NASCAR teams include: Charlotte, Wilkesboro, Mooresville, Concord, Statesville, Huntersville, Welcome, Kernersville, Randleman, Greensboro, High Point, Harrisburg, and Kannapolis.


NASCAR media

Video games
See: NASCAR Video Games


NASCAR compared to other forms of motorsport
NASCAR races take place predominantly on oval tracks of 3 or 4 turns, with all turns to the left. Oval tracks are classified as short track (less than 1 mile), intermediate or speedway (1 to 2 miles) or superspeedway (over 2 miles). Road courses are any tracks having both left and right turns. As of 2007, the NEXTEL Cup series includes 36 points races, comprised of 34 oval tracks and 2 road courses.

NASCAR races are different compared to the rough terrain and sharp turns of Rally, as well as the complicated twists and turns seen in the Formula One course that put up to 5 or 6 g's of stress on the driver's body. NASCAR is not the only racing league to run a large number of races on oval tracks; the Indy Racing League also runs many oval track races, although Indy cars usually average over 30-40 miles an hour faster thanks to high downforce designs.

NEXTEL Cup races have 43 cars in competition at the start of each race, compared to 22 for Formula One and 18-20 for IndyCar and Champ Cars. NASCAR teams must also endure a 36-race schedule over 41 weeks, at a wide variety of tracks, with different setups and strategies being required for each track. Teams usually only have about five days to prepare before arriving at any given track.


Criticism

Technology far from "stock" or production
The 1950s-era technologies used in the "stock cars" bear little resemblance to modern-day street vehicles. Modern NASCAR vehicles share very few attributes of the commercial models with which they are associated; for example, the production Chevrolet Monte Carlo weighs nearly the same as the NASCAR Chevy Monte Carlo, but the NASCAR vehicle has a cast-iron eight-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels, whereas the production car has an aluminum alloy front-wheel-drive V8. Also, NASCAR vehicles continue to use carburetors instead of the now-common fuel injection, and they also use a 2-valve per cylinder configuration operated by a single cam-in-block using push rods, instead of the double overhead cams operating 4-valves per cylinder that are common on production cars.

Supporters note that this is a modern condition: when NASCAR first started nearly 60 years ago, the race cars were substantially similar to production vehicles, but the safety and performance needs of modern racing have required custom-built race cars. Supporters also note that the strict equipment rules place less emphasis on getting a technological advantage, and thus more emphasis on individual driver skill. All of NASCAR's series also run on spec tires made by certain tire manufacturers such as Goodyear and American Racer. Some suggest that this discourages tire competition and development, which they further assert has led to the absence of rain/wet condition tires, and to races (such as the 2005 UAW-GM Quality 500) where tires seem to self-destruct.[citation needed]


Business structure and decision-making policies
NASCAR's business structure has also been criticized. Since its founding in 1947 by William France Sr., the overall NASCAR organization has been majority owned by the France family, ensuring that the family controls a majority of the overwhelming revenue that the sport generates (compared to other sports where the owners and players split revenue almost evenly). NASCAR is also criticized for its reluctance to promote some aspects of safety that it would have to pay for (e.g., traveling safety crew),[3][4] and other allegedly monopolistic aspects such as merchandising and race-track ownership. In addition, due to its overwhelming influence and lack of drivers' say, NASCAR has even been compared to a dictatorship by some motorsports, political, and economic analysts.[5][6] Examples of such influence include the cancellation of the SPEED Channel television show Pit Bull (which frequently criticized many of NASCAR's decisions and policies and enjoyed modest ratings), frequent use of the vague "detrimental to NASCAR" rule, and the creation of rules on whim, especially during a race. NASCAR has taken to penalizing drivers in recent years, with fines, point penalties, and lap penalties in races for drivers or mechanics who use obscene language in interviews to the media.[7][8]


Driver competition in multiple series
NASCAR has long allowed drivers to compete in as many series and events as they like, with few restrictions. However, in recent years, top NEXTEL Cup drivers have competed in and dominated the lower tier Busch races on a regular basis, earning NEXTEL drivers the nickname "Buschwhackers". The situation is compounded by the close timing of the races in the two series: a typical NASCAR weekend has a Busch race on Saturday followed by a NEXTEL race on Sunday at the same track. Some have wondered why "major league" NEXTEL drivers are allowed to compete in the "minor league" Busch races with such frequency, and whether Busch is an adequate developmental series. Sportswriter Bob Margolis noted that much of this is due to the similarities between the cars used in the two series (they are mostly alike except for the engines), and the desire for NEXTEL drivers to get as much practice time as possible to learn about the track and car setup before the main race. [9] The extra skill and money brought in by teams and drivers from the NEXTEL Cup Series has led to a wide gap above the Busch Series only teams, which was most evident in 2006 when NEXTEL Cup driver Kevin Harvick clinched the Busch Series title with four races to go.


Environmental impact

Fuel consumption
According to NASCAR, about 6,000 US gallons of fuel are consumed during a typical NEXTEL Cup weekend. [10] For the 2006 season, which includes 36 points races, the total for the season would be 216,000 US gallons. One environmental critic recently estimated NASCAR's total fuel consumption across all series at 2 million US gallons (7.57 million liters) of gas for one season; [11] however, the methodology used has been a point of dispute.

At race speeds, NEXTEL Cup cars get 2 to 5 miles per gallon. [12] [13] [14] Consumption under caution can be estimated at 14-18 mpg, based on comparable engines generally available to the public. Interestingly, the rate of fuel consumption tends to be the same regardless of the actual speeds of the cars, as teams change gear ratios for each race to ensure that the engine always operates in its optimum power band; however, the fuel mileage will vary for each race, depending on the maximum speeds attained.


Emissions and pollution
The consumption figures above provide no insight on environmental impact in terms of emissions. NASCAR vehicles are generally unregulated by the EPA, and in particular, they have no mufflers, catalytic converters or other emissions control devices. However, some local short tracks which run under NASCAR sanction require certain emissions control devices. Many short tracks run mufflers in compliance with noise ordinances at some tracks; in the early years of the Craftsman Truck Series, some races were held at venues which required mufflers, a requirement still used in some Busch East, AutoZone West, and Whelen Modified races.


Use of lead additives in gasoline
NASCAR continued to use lead additives in its race gasoline until the 2007 Auto Club 500 at California Speedway on February 25,[15] which led to concerns about the health of those exposed to the fumes of the cars (fans and residents living near the race tracks). Lead is a well-known environmental risk, but the performance needs of race engines (in particular, the high compression ratios) once made it difficult to switch to unleaded fuel.

In the US, the commercial use of leaded fuel has been phased out since the early 1970's, when catalytic converters were required to be installed on new cars, making unleaded fuel a requirement (leaded fuel will destroy a catalytic converter). The sale of leaded fuel has been mostly banned in the US since 1996, but exemptions exist for auto racing, as well as aircraft, farm and marine equipment.

NASCAR eventually took steps to eliminate the need for leaded fuels. In 1998, NASCAR and then-fuel supplier Tosco (76 Product) conducted an unsuccessful test of unleaded fuel in selected Busch Series races. In July 2006, in the first in a four-week test run of unleaded fuel, the first race since 1998 to run unleaded gasoline, known as Sunoco 260 GT Plus, the same fuel used in road races, was held during a Busch race at the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois. The testing in July 2006 was successful with no suspected engine failures or malfunctions from the new fuel. In October 2006, NASCAR stated its intention to transition to unleaded fuel in all three top series (Craftsman, Busch and Nextel Cup) in 2007, with the exception of the Daytona 500.

During the first race in which unleaded fuel was used, there were a number of engine failures during the race, leading many to believe that the unleaded fuel is to be blamed. The drivers who encountered failures include Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Kasey Kahne of Evernham Motorsports. The engine failures of both Earnhardt and Truex were attributed in part to the lack of a lead additive, but also to centrifugal force causing improper distribution of oil between the left and right sides of the engine. Evernham Motorsports has not disclosed the reason behind Kahne's engine failure.


Participation of non-US manufacturers
NASCAR's early history included several foreign manufacturers, such as Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, CitroŽn, Jaguar, MG, Morgan, Porsche, Renault, and Volkswagen.[16] At a 1954 road race in Linden, New Jersey, Jaguar cars finished first, fourth, fifth and sixth.[17]

As a matter of policy, NASCAR has restricted entry to American car makers since the 1960s, but in 2004, Toyota was allowed to enter the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with the Toyota Tundra. The restriction was relaxed in recognition of the fact that the Tundra, while Japanese in origin, is built in America. Commentators have also noted that the "American" cars are often built or assembled in Canada and Mexico.

Fans have complained about the entry of a foreign manufacturer into what is perceived as an American sport, while drivers and owners have expressed concern that Toyota's deep pockets, and stated willingness to spend, may increase costs for other teams as well.[18]

NASCAR announced in 2006 the addition of Toyota to both the Busch Series and NEXTEL Cup Series for the 2007 season. Toyota is supporting three Cup teams in a total of seven cars in 2007. Notable drivers that switched to the Toyota Camry include Dave Blaney, Michael Waltrip, and Dale Jarrett.

Four Camrys qualified for and ran in the 2007 Daytona 500, becoming the first foreign make to compete in a NEXTEL Cup race since the British-made MG in 1962. However, Toyota's debut was marred by a cheating scandal involving owner/driver Michael Waltrip, arguably the most popular of the new Toyota drivers.[19]


Driver safety
Although NASCAR frequently publicizes the safety measures it mandates for drivers, these features are often only adopted long after they were initially developed. The impact-absorbing "SAFER Barrier" that is now in use had been proposed by legendary mechanic Smokey Yunick during the 1970's, but his idea had been dismissed as too expensive and unnecessary. Only after the deaths of Kenny Irwin, Tony Roper, and Dale Earnhardt in 2000 and 2001 did NASCAR revisit the idea of decreasing the G-forces a driver sustained during a crash. Other examples of slow reactions include the mandating of a throttle "kill switch" (mandated after the death of Adam Petty) and requiring anti-spill bladders in fuel cells and improved fire-retardant driver suits following the death of Glen Fireball Roberts.


Education
NASCAR Technical Institute* located in Mooresville, North Carolina, is the country's first technical training school to combine a complete automotive technology program and a NASCAR-specific motor sports program, and is the exclusive educational partner of NASCAR.


Movies and songs based on NASCAR
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Movies and television
Ta Ra Rum Pum
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Days of Thunder
Six Pack
NASCAR Racers
Stroker Ace
3: The Dale Earnhardt Story
Cars

Songs
"Dale Darrell Waltrip Richard Petty Rusty Awesome Bill Irvin Gordon Earnhardt Smith... Johnson, Jr." by Tim Wilson
"I Love NASCAR" by Cledus T. Judd with Toby Keith
"Ridin' With the Legend" by Keith Bryant
"The Intimidator" by Charlie Daniels
"Fassst" by Kafani with Keak Da Sneak
"Speedway at Nazareth" by Mark Knopfler
 



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