Stock car racing is a distinctly American sport. Many other sports have their origins in antiquity or as variations on classic activities, but stock car racing is unique to the United States.Stock car racing, which began during the Prohibition era, quickly became popular among the general public. It first became popular in the 1920s, and by the late 1940s, it had become a popular form of entertainment. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was founded in 1948 to bring the many leagues around the country together. Stock car racing is now a well-regulated sport.
NASCAR is the most popular spectator sport in the United States and the world’s second most popular televised sport [source: NASCAR]. Its popularity continues to rise, with around 40% of its fans now being female [source: Wise]. Few professional sports can boast that women account for over half of their fans.
Stock car racing began as a competition between automobiles that had not been modified from their factory configuration. The sport, however, evolved as time passed and technology advanced. The cars are still semistock these days, but they’re a little different beneath the hood than what you’d find on your local dealer’s lot.
NASCAR has done everything it can to keep the original sport’s integrity. When the “aero wars” of the 1970s constantly pitted two automotive behemoths against each other, NASCAR stepped in to level the playing field by imposing restrictions on all cars. Other safety-related adjustments have been made by the organisation: each automotive and technical advancement made cars faster, but with increased speed came more hazard.
The Impact of Prohibition on Stock Car Racing
Prohibition formally began in 1920, when the 18th Amendment made it illegal to produce and possess alcohol. Because it wasn’t illegal to drink alcohol, many individuals turned to making their own booze, known as moonshine.
As law enforcement officers attempted to implement the 18th Amendment, alcohol producers had to be as creative as possible. They required vehicles that would blend in and not draw notice in order to convey illegal liquor. They began transporting the liquor at night in their personal cars, dubbed “moon runners.” The moon runners, however, were unable to outrun the cops. They began customising their cars to give them an advantage.
Ordinary automobiles would be modified significantly by producers and runners to allow them to reach high speeds. The cars appeared to be identical to other vehicles on the road, but they were now capable of outrunning law police.
The moon runners were always bragging about their accomplishments. They boasted about driving at speeds of above 120 mph (194 km/h) over dirt roads at night, with no headlights. Runners began racing on weekends soon after, and stock car racing was established.
Racing, as well as the practise of souping up cars, had become quite popular by the time Prohibition ended in 1933. During the next 15 years, the sport grew even further. It was a popular sport by 1948, though it differed from region to region. NASCAR was founded in 1949 to provide order to the turmoil.NASCAR had a lot of work ahead of them. Continue reading to learn more about this well-known racing league.
The Roles of Automobile Manufacturers in Stock Car Racing History
In the 1950s, as NASCAR’s popularity grew, automakers began to be more engaged in the sport by providing “factory backing” to individual drivers. To put it another way, they paid people to drive their cars. During this time, there was a widespread slogan among manufacturers: “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” [source: AeroWarriors].
However, after an 8-year-old kid and five others were hurt by flying debris from an accident in 1957, all automotive manufacturers withdrew from racing It would take another five years for the manufacturers to return to NASCAR, and another seven years for Chrysler to launch the 426-cubic-inch (6,980 cubic cm) hemispherical engine known as the “hemi.” The sport was quickly dominated by the powerful new engine, and competitiveness suffered as a result. Bill France outlawed the hemi after only one season of racing, and Chrysler withdrew from NASCAR in protest. In 1966, France granted permission for a modified version of the hemi, and Chrysler returned quickly [source: NASCARonlinebetting].
By the late 1960s, most automakers had developed the most powerful engines they could while still remaining legal to compete. Smaller and smaller horsepower gains become more and more costly to obtain. As a result, the makers focused on a new frontier: aerodynamics.
It was the start of the “aero wars,” a fierce battle between automakers to create the sport’s most aerodynamic vehicle. Chrysler and Ford were the principal competitors, and each claimed victory when the dust settled [source: AeroWarriors]. After France intervened to impose an engine-size limit, several drivers returned to the original stock cars.
With drivers reaching speeds of above 200 mph (322 km/h), safety has become a far more important consideration. Restriction plates, which slow cars down, are now required on several speedways. The message is clear: cars cannot drive faster unless they are safer. Automobile manufacturers will undoubtedly play a significant role in the creation of safer and quicker stock cars.