NASCAR exploded in popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s, surging past IndyCar as America's premiere motorsport. But the rise of stock car racing left many casual fans wondering what the sport's unique name actually stands for.
The fitting name is indeed associated with the unique brand of stock-car racing. The National Association for Stock Car Racing was founded in 1948 in Daytona Beach, Fla. by racer and race-track promoter Bill France Sr. France partnered with other racers and track promoters to organize a sanctioned racing series that spawned from moonshining and back-country racing in souped-up cars throughout the South.
France Sr. was succeeded as NASCAR Chairman by his son, Bill France Jr., in the 1970s, with his grandson, Brian France, taking over the early 2000s. His other son, Jim France, now serves as chairman of the organization.
NASCAR ran its first race on the beach in Daytona on Feb. 15, 1948 and ran its first "Strictly Stock" race a year later on June 19, 1949 at Charlotte Speedway.
The sport developed a big fan following in the 1970s behind the popularity of such stars as seven-time champion Richard Petty and rival stars like David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. Petty, now a team owner, has been one of the sport's greatest ambassadors for five decades. His 200 Cup victories are a record and his seven championships have been matched only by the late Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson, who retired last year.
NASCAR now sanctions more than 1,500 races at more than 100 tracks across the country, as well as series in Canada, Mexico and Europe. It's three biggest series in the United States are the NASCAR Cup Series, the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series.
The elite Cup Series features 38 races a year at 23 tracks across the country. Many of those tracks are owned by NASCAR through its International Speedway Corp. The 38-race (36 points events) are televised by FOX and NBC and their respective family of networks.
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The 2021 Cup season begins Feb. 9 with the Clash, a special non-points event at the Daytona Road Course. That kicks off a week of racing activity leading up to the 63rd Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.
The season will conclude with a 10-race playoff that begins Sept. 5 at Darlington Raceway and ends with the championship race Nov. 7 at Phoenix International Raceway. Sixteen drivers qualify for the elimination-style playoffs, which includes four rounds.
Chase Elliott from Hendrick Motorsports won the 2020 Cup championship, beating Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joe Logano in the championship race at Phoenix.