NASCAR was founded in the late 1940’s by Bill France Sr. after he served in World War II. Most of the sports early competitors were bootleggers from Southern states or war veterans looking to find an adrenaline rush. Fans fell in love with the personalities and the “down home” persona of the racing series.
Stars like Red Byron and Herb Thomas would give way to names like Earnhardt and Petty as the series would continue to grow across Dixie in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Races like the Daytona 500, World 600 and Southern 500 would become sporting spectacles.
In the 1990’s, NASCAR expanded nationally. Fans watched and attended races from coast-to-coast as Fontana and Las Vegas were added out West. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, traditionally a venue for open-wheel cars and drivers, hosted its first NASCAR race in 1994. The downside to these changes was that the sport lost some of its “down-home feel and became more political. Innovations such as the Chase for the Sprint Cup angered portions of the fan base. On the plus side, the France Family head the Number One Spectator Sport in the country.
The series moves into Darlington this weekend. This venue was a barometer for the governing body during this period of change. Originally contested on Labor Day, Brian France made it a spring event on Mother’s Day. When the move didn’t reap the desire jump in attendance or viewership, the Leadership and the race track put it back on Labor Day Weekend.