The most popular form of auto racing in the United States. NASCAR is an acronym for the "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing."
The organization (and sport of stock car racing) has its roots in the American Deep South during the Prohibition period, when "moonshiners," as they were called, would soup up their cars so they could outrun the police. After Prohibition ended, these moonshiners found themselves out of a job and instead of looking for more illegal activity, began racing against each other. It also has roots in Daytona Beach, Florida, where some people would race on the hard-packed sand beaches. Many speed records were in fact broken on those beaches. By the 1940s, these races with the former moonshiners became popular entertainment in the rural areas of the South. After years of having to put up with (some) unscrupulous and (more) unorganized promoters, several drivers and promoters, headed by Bill France Sr., founded the organization in Daytona Beach in 1948. It's that rare North American sports organization that has never had its predominance challenged (viz. USFL, World Hockey Association, ABA, innumerable attempts at new major leagues, etc.), which is testimony to France's business clout, vision, and force of personality.note
The early years of NASCAR were mostly a period of growth. Most of the early tracks were short dirt tracks in the South. The first race of the "Strictly Stock" series (later to be known as the Winston Cup, NEXTEL Cup, Sprint Cup, Monster Energy Cup, and now as just the Cup Series but then accurately named as the cars were stock right down to column-shifted transmissions whose linkages could not be rushed) was held in 1949 at Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. The first series champion was a man by the name of Red Byronnote . The only track still on the series schedule from the 1949 season is Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The first completely paved track and the first over one mile long was Darlington Raceway, which had its first race in 1950. In 1957, the new "fuelie" Chevrolets dominated so thoroughly that NASCAR banned fuel injection (a ban that persisted until the 2012 season, almost 20 years after the last carbureted road cars disappeared from US showrooms); in retaliation, GM not only pulled out but maneuvered the Automobile Manufacturers' Association trade group into banning its members from supporting racing in any way (a ban that was worked around within a year and gone within the decade). Then, in 1959, everything changed. For years, the Daytona event had been run on the Beach-Road Course, a half-beach, half-road course that used half of the Florida State Road A1A. Because the event was attracting large crowds — and because the occasional accident where said crowds became human guard rails — there needed to be a permanent track to race on, so the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway was built, and the first running of what would be known as the Daytona 500 was run on February 22, 1959. Today, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR's Super Bowl and World Series, unique in that it's the first event on their yearly schedule (having been so since 1982), running on the Sunday of Presidents' Day weekend.
The 1960s and 70s were a time of growth for the organization and the sport of stock car racing. This is the time when the sport and organization really began to gain attention around the country and the world. Despite some races run in the Northern United States (and Canada) in the early years, stock car racing was still considered a Southern sport. However, with TV coverage, the sport began to find some popularity outside the South. In the 1960s, the Daytona 500 was usually taped and presented as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports package. However, in 1974, ABC began to broadcast the race itself live, starting with the halfway point at lap 101. The first live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race was done in 1979 by CBS, which included a memorable last-lap crash between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, which resulted in a fistfight between the two drivers and Donnie's brother Bobby. The 60s and 70s were dominated by Richard Petty, who later became known as "The King", winning 7 Grand National (now Cup Series) championships and 200 races total. (Even now, almost thirty years after his retirement, no driver has even come close to that number of wins; second-place goes to Petty's early days rival David Pearson, with 105).
The 1980s saw a slow, steady rise in NASCAR's popularity, in part thanks to a driver by the name of Dale Earnhardt, who won four Winston Cup championships in that decade. The dawn of cable TV also provided NASCAR with significantly more national exposure, as ESPN and other channels began broadcasting the majority of Winston Cup races live and flag-to-flag. Starting in 1981, the cars became less and less "stock" and turned into actual, purpose-built race cars; the days of buying a car and driving it to the track to race were over. The sport's slow expansion would turn into a boom in the 1990s, thanks largely to a driver by the name of Jeff Gordon, who was from — shock! — Californianote and — horrors! — clean-cut, photogenic, and a good interview. In 2001, NASCAR lost Earnhardt, its biggest star, who had won seven Cup championships by that time. He was killed in a crash in the final lap of the Daytona 500, which forced the organization to review its safety policies.
Today, NASCAR is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world, with audiences and drivers from around the world. However, this popularity has been waning in recent years. Much of it can be blamed on Brian France constantly making changes. While some changes reflect the modern reality of sports politics (such as the move from traditional tracks such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro to newer facilities located nationwide such as Las Vegas and Kansas City), others see many of the changes as a cash-grab or a way to rig races in the favor of whatever driver the sanctioning body wants to win, usually whoever is supposedly selling the most merchandise. The decline set in when the fifth-generation car (known as the Car of Tomorrow) was introduced in 2007. The car was met negatively, as there was little, if any, difference between the four manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota), which NASCAR attempted to justify by trying to make it more about driver skill rather than manufacturer support. The car also nixed the rear spoiler in favor of a wing, making the car look more like a touring car than a stock car; this wing was re-replaced by the spoiler in 2010 after it was found that the wing made the roof flaps (which are supposed to set the car down when it spins) useless and caused several airborne crashes (two in Talladega and one at Atlanta), one of which looked eerily similar to Bobby Allison's 1987 crash at Talladega that led to the restrictor plate being mandated at Talladega and Daytona starting the following year. In addition, the Car of Tomorrow was also slow and boxy, and the racing product degraded, as a result. Despite this, the Car of Tomorrow, statistically, actually created the most competitive period in NASCAR history to date. The Car of Tomorrow was introduced to the Nationwide Series in 2010, but they were more accepted due to resembling ther street counterparts more (the Dodge Challenger in particular, was declared the best-looking car in all of NASCAR).
In 2011, the Car of Tomorrow received a slight redesign to the nose, once again allowing the grille area to resemble their street counterparts. This led to a new form of racing known as the two-car tandem, which was heavily criticized, even though it did create two first-time winners at Daytona (Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500, and David Ragan in the Coke Zero 400) and a photo-finish at Talladega, as well as first-time winners in Regan Smith at Darlington, Paul Menard at Indianapolis, and Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen, plus the most competitive title fight since 1992 that ended in a tie between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (Stewart ultimately won the tiebreaker by virtue of having five wins that season, while Edwards only had one). The cars received a new superspeedway package in 2012 that made the tandem all but impossible, though it remained prevalent in the Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) until a crash at the 2013 Drive4COPD 300 that saw Kyle Larson fly into the catchfence at the end of the race, ripping out the front of the car and injuring 33 fans. That same year, the Car of Tomorrow was replaced with the Gen-6 car, which is not only much faster but has more clear-cut differences between the Chevy, Ford, and Toyota models (Dodge left the sport after 2012 when Penske switched back to Ford, and no other major teams would switch, though they did design a new Charger model; Dodge cars continued running unsupported in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series until 2018, ARCA until 2019, and the Truck Series via the Ram Trucks brand until 2016; a few Dodge-engined cars are still running in the Whelen Modified Tour, many Dodges can still be found in the Whelen All-American Racing Series, and the Pinty's Series in Canada is dominated by factory-supported Dodge cars, since Fiat Automobili, S.p.A. supports it via its Canadian arm).
The 2021 season also saw significant changes to the schedule. The number of road course races jumped from three to six, and for the first time since 1970, a race was held on a dirt track. These changes came mainly at the expense of "intermediate tracks" (those in the 1.5-mile range); most notably, Chicagoland and Kentucky Speedway were removed entirely from all three national touring series (while the loss of Chicagoland was mourned, Kentucky had developed a reputation as one of the worst tracks ever run by NASCAR, and nobody was sad to see it go).
In 2022, the long-awaited "Next Gen" (or "Gen 7") car finally replaced the Gen 6 car in the Cup series; it had originally been slated to debut in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent ban on testing sessions caused it to be delayed a year. The new car updated much of the antiquated technology still present in the old car, such as a 5-speed sequential transmission replacing the old "four-on-the-floor" H-pattern shifter and an independent rear suspension instead of a solid rear axle to massively improve handling. Additionally, for the first time in Cup series history, all Next Gen chassis are built by a single manufacturer instead of by the teams themselves, with the goal of reducing disparity between bigger and smaller teams.
In 2018, NASCAR bought longtime Alternate Company Equivalent ARCA, thus meaning NASCAR now has a extra minor league in the form of ARCA Menards Series. Further integration between NASCAR and ARCA occurred in 2020, as both K&N Series' (East and West) joined the ARCA banner and were renamed into the ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West starting from the 2020 season.
Currently, NASCAR has 13 series under its sanction: 3 major national series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck), 5 regional series (ARCA, ARCA East, ARCA West, Modified, and All-American), 3 international series (Pinty's, Mexico, Euro), and 2 Professional Gaming ("eNASCAR") series (PEAK Antifreeze Series for iRacing, Heat Pro League for NASCAR Heat).
Major National Series
- NASCAR Cup Series
First Season: 1949Current Drivers Champion: Kyle LarsonCurrent Team Owners Champion: Hendrick MotorsportsCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ChevroletFormer Names: NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (1949); NASCAR Grand National Series (1950-1970); NASCAR Winston Cup Series (1971-2003); NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (2004-2007); NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (2008-2016); Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (2017-2019)The highest level of NASCAR racing. In the current format, a Cup Series season consists of 36 races and is divided into two segments: The "regular season", which consists of the first 26 races, and the "Playoffs", where the top 16 drivers, seeded based on their total number of wins or playoff/points, will compete against each other in the last ten races for the championship. In the Playoffs, the first nine races are divided into three rounds, with four participants being eliminated after each round before the surviving four participants compete in the Grand Finale at Homestead where the highest finisher of the four will be declared as champion. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the most titles in the series with 7. Petty is also the most successful driver statistically with a staggering 200 race wins, a number that is practically impossible to beat today due to the fact that Petty raced in seasons where there were 50+ races in a single season, as well as having a longer career than most modern-day drivers (Petty raced from 1958 to 1992, while a typical career these days lasts, at most, 20 years). The current "modern era" (1972 onwards) record for the most race wins is 4-time champion Jeff Gordon, with 93. Kyle Larson is the current champion of the series having earned his first title with 10 wins in the 2021 season.
- NASCAR Xfinity Series
First Season: 1982Current Drivers Champion: Daniel HemricCurrent Team Owners Champion: Team PenskeCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ChevroletFormer Names: Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series (1982-1983); NASCAR Busch Grand National Series (1984-2002); NASCAR Busch Series (2003-2007); NASCAR Nationwide Series (2008-2014)The second-highest level of NASCAR racing and usually seen as the last step for a driver before making their way to Cup. The Xfinity races are frequently held as support races on the day prior to a Cup Series event scheduled for that weekend. In the current format, a season consists of 33 races and similar to Cup, it is also divided into two segments: The "regular season", which consists of the first 26 races, and the "Playoffs", where the top 12 drivers, also seeded based on their total number of wins, will compete against each other in the last seven races for the championship. Because the Xfinity Playoffs only have 7 races, only two elimination rounds are held, but otherwise the rest of the Playoff system remains the same: Four participants are eliminated after each round, and the surviving four will compete at Homestead for the title. Xfinity became infamous for its tendency to have drivers do "Buschwhacking", in which drivers who are regulars in the Cup Series also compete on a regular basis here, forcing NASCAR to institute a rule where the drivers had to lock their eligibility to one national series only in 2011 before ultimately limiting how many races a Cup driver can participate in both Xfinity and Truck starting from 2017. 2009 champion (and a regular Buschwhacker) Kyle Busch is the most successful driver here with 95 wins. Austin Cindric is the champion here, having previously put on an average performance with Penske for the previous 2 years, only managing 2 wins and 21 top 5s in both combined. However, he achieved 5 wins and 19 top 5s in his hard fought battle for the championship in 2020. Nine separate drivers Sam Ard, Jack Ingram, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Reddick won the most titles in the series with two. The Xfinity Series is notable for having the first occasion in the national series where a driver was crowned champion despite not scoring any wins during the season (Austin Dillon, 2013) as well as the only occasion in the national series (so far) where a non-American driver has won the championship title (Mexican Daniel Suárez in 2016).
- NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
First Season: 1995Current Drivers Champion: Ben RhodesCurrent Team Owners Champion: ThorSport RacingCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ToyotaFormer Names: NASCAR Super Truck Series (1995), NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (1996-2008), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2009-2018, 2021-onward); NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (2019-2020)The third-highest level of NASCAR racing and usually seen as either the second-to-last step for a driver on their way to Cup or as the series where former Cup drivers continued to race before retiring. As the name implies, the Truck Series features racing silhouette versions of pickup trucks. The Truck races are also frequently held as support races to a Cup Series event scheduled for that weekend, usually the first one held should all three national series be hosted on the same weekend. In the current format, a season consists of 23 races, and it is also divided into two segments: The "regular season", which consists of the first 16 races, and the "Playoffs", where the top 8 drivers that were seeded based on their total number of wins will compete against each other in the last seven races for the championship. Similar to the Xfinity Playoffs, the Truck Playoffs has only two rounds, but unlike Cup and Xfinity, only two participants are eliminated after both rounds before the surviving four drivers compete in the season finale at Homestead for the title. While the "Buschwhacking" tendencies do appear here, generally they gained much less heat here as full-time Cup drivers for the most part never tried to compete for a full season in Trucks and when they do appear, its mostly for owner-driver duties like Kyle Busch. Ron Hornaday Jr. is the most successful driver in terms of titles with 4 (and 51 wins), while Kyle Busch is the most successful driver in terms of wins with 56. Toyota made their national series debut here in 2004. GMS Racing driver Sheldon Creed took the 2020 title by storm, only having achieved his first win that year; he achieved 4 more as well. The Truck Series is notable for having the first non-American owner to win a NASCAR national series title: Shigeaki Hattori, the Japanese who owned Hattori Racing Enterprises (the 2018 champions with Brett Moffitt).
Regional National Series
- ARCA Menards Series
First Season: 1953 (2018 under NASCAR sanctioning)Current Drivers Champion: Ty GibbsCurrent Team Owners Champion: Joe Gibbs RacingCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ToyotaFormer Names: ARCA Racing Series (1953-1985; 1992); ARCA Permatex SuperCar Series (1986-1991); ARCA Hooters SuperCar Series (1993-1995); ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series (1996-2000); ARCA RE/MAX Series (2001-2009); ARCA Racing Series presented by Re/MAX and Menards (2010); ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards (2011-February 2019)The former Alternate Company Equivalent for NASCAR, the ARCA Menards Series officially became a NASCAR-sanctioned series after NASCAR bought ARCA in 2018 and following the integration of both K&N Series' to ARCA in 2020, the ARCA Menards Series now stands as the sole main fourth-division category in the NASCAR ladder. ARCA in its old guise is considered a minor but professional league of stock car racing, often used as a feeder series into the three national touring series of NASCAR like K&N, and hosts events at a variety of track types from superspeedways, road courses, and dirt tracks. It became infamous for the "ARCA Brakes" terminology where drivers, due to their inexperience, will not use their brakes to avoid or mitigate the effects of a crash. Before the Gen-6 car was introduced in 2015, ARCA was a dumping ground for older Cup Series cars, and older models of cars were common (Pontiacs ran in the series as late as 2007); as of 2020, such bodies are illegal in ARCA competition. Frank Kimmel is the most successful driver in the series with 10 titles and 80 wins. Owner-driver Bret Holmes is the current champion, having won a closely-contested title battle with Michael Self despite not initially planning to compete the full season at first.
- ARCA Menards Series East
First Season: 1987Current Drivers Champion: Sammy SmithCurrent Teams Champion: Joe Gibbs RacingCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ToyotaFormer Names: NASCAR Busch North Series (1987-2005); NASCAR Busch East Series (2006-2007); NASCAR Camping World East Series (2008-2009); NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (2010-2019)The former main fourth-division category of NASCAR, ARCA East in recent history is often used as the series for young drivers to gain experience before moving to the national series. Generally the series races in short oval tracks ranging from 0.33 to 1 mile in length and as the name implies, the tracks used in the series are located in the Eastern half of the United States. Notable for having the first occurrence in NASCAR where a driver won the championship title with no wins (Dale Shaw, 1994). Andy Santerre has the most titles with 4, while 1995 champion Kelly Moore has the most wins with 27. GMS Racing driver NASCAR's youngest-ever champion Sam Mayer is the current champion, having successfully defended the K&N East title that he won in 2019.
- ARCA Menards Series West
First Season: 1954Current Drivers Champion: Jesse LoveCurrent Teams Champion: Bill McAnally RacingCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ToyotaFormer Names: Pacific Coast Late Model Division (1954-1970); NASCAR Grand National West (1970); NASCAR Winston West Series (1971-2003); NASCAR West Series (2004-2005, 2007); NASCAR AutoZone West Series (2006); NASCAR Camping World West Series (2008-2009); NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (2010-2019)The other former main fourth-division category of NASCAR, ARCA West is generally similar to its East counterpart with the only notable difference being that, as the name implies, the tracks raced in ARCA West are located in the Western half of the United States. The series is also known for having the first NASCAR race to be held outside of the United States (an exhibition race at Australia's Calder Park in 1988) as well as the only NASCAR series so far to have hosted a championship race in Asia (Motegi in 1999). Jack McCoy has the most race wins here with 54, but Ray Elder has the most titles with 6. Jesse Love is the current champion.
- NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
First Season: 1985Current Drivers Champion: Justin BonsignoreCurrent Teams Champion: Ken Massa MotorsportsCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ChevroletFormer Names: NASCAR Modified Division (1948-1950s); NASCAR National Modified Championship (1950s-1984); NASCAR Winston Modified Series (1985-1993); NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series (1994-2004)The Modified category is actually NASCAR's oldest category, as the first Modified races were held in 1948 (one year before the first Cup race was held), although the modern Whelen Modified Tour wasn't held until 1985. The only open-wheeled division in NASCAR (though the open-wheel design was only formalized in 1985; before then, the Modified Series was absolutely bonkers, as there weren't really any rules and anyone could race whatever they wanted; there were still 1930s Ford Coupes racing as late as the 1970s), the series primarily races on short paved oval tracks, although the Modified Tour has also made appearances at larger ovals and road courses. Modified cars can be best described as open-wheel stock cars. Whelen Modified Tour is the only series across all of NASCAR that has a retired number: Richie Evans' No. 61. Evans is the most accomplished driver in Modified's history with 9 titles, 8 of them were won consecutively between 1978-1985 using a car that was later adopted as the standard design for the entire series. His number, 61, was retired after he was killed during practice at the season finale race in Martinsville after he clinched the inaugural Modified Tour title the week before at Thompson. Mike Stefanik is the most successful driver in the NWMT era of the Modifieds with 7 titles, and has become a bit of an internet meme for giving what is often considered the greatest interview in NASCAR history. Justin Bonsignore is the current champion after reclaiming the title that he lost to six-time champion Doug Coby in the previous year.
- NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series
First Season: 1982Current Drivers Champion: Josh BerryCurrent Manufacturers Champion: ChevroletFormer Names: NASCAR Winston Racing Series (1982-2000s); NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series (early 2000s-2006), NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series (2006-June 2020)Many local race tracks across the United States and Canada run races under the Whelen All-American Series banner, where the local drivers who compete in the series then race against each other in a formula where the best local track champion of the nation wins the Whelen All-American Weekly Series National Championship. Josh Berry, who grew to fame as a driver hand-picked by Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself after he impressed Jr. in iRacing, is the defending champion of the Weekly Series.
- NASCAR Pinty's Series
First Season: 2007Current Drivers Champion: Louis-Philippe DumoulinCurrent Teams Champion: Marc-Andre BergeronCurrent Manufacturers Champion: DodgeFormer Names: NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (2007-2015), NASCAR Pinty's FanCave Challenge (2020)Inaugurated in 2007 after NASCAR bought out CASCAR, the Pinty's Series is the highest level of stock car racing in Canada. After the so-called "Zombie" Dodge Challenger was retired from the Xfinity Series at the end of the 2018 season, Pinty's is currently the only series where Dodges compete in NASCAR (in fact, there's more Dodges in the series than Chevys and Fords combined), and is also currently the only series where Toyota doesn't run; it was also the last holdout for Pontiac prior to its shutdown during the Great Recession. Currently has a 13-race calendar with a balanced amount of oval and road course races, as well as a race in the United States (New Hampshire) the only International Series to host a race in the United States currently. Scott Steckly has the most titles with 4, while three-time champion Andrew Ranger has the most wins with 28. Jason Hathaway is the defending champion of the series, having won his first and only title in the shortened 2020 season as he's set to become the team manager for the team that he won the title with.
- NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series
First Season: 2004 (2007 under NASCAR sanctioning)Current Drivers Champion: Ruben Garcia JrCurrent Teams Champion: Rev RacingCurrent Manufacturers Champion: FordFormer Names: Desafio Corona (2004-2006), NASCAR Corona Mexico Series (2007-2011), NASCAR Toyota Series (2012-2014); NASCAR Mexico Series (2015)Inaugurated as an official NASCAR series on the same year as the Pinty's Series, the PEAK Mexico Series is the highest level of stock car racing in Mexico. Having been held for every year bar 2016 (supposedly due to the organizers wanting to support the then-returning Mexican Grand Prix), the Mexico Series generally features a balanced amount of oval and road course races, although the current schedule currently has more oval races compared to road course races (9 to 3). Mazda participates in this series. Germán Quiroga and Rubén García, Jr. has the most titles with 3, while Rogelio López has the most wins with 25. Series veteran Rubén Rovelo is the current champion, having won his first title in 2020.
- NASCAR Whelen Euro Series
First Season: 2009 (2012 under NASCAR sanctioning)Current Drivers Champion: Loris Hezemans (PRO), Martin Doubek (EN2)Current Teams Champion: Hendriks MotorsportFormer Names: Racecar Euro Series (2009-2012); Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series (2012-June 2013)The first official NASCAR series to be held outside of the American continent, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is unique in many ways: Not only it is held in Europe and the schedule primarily consists of road courses, it also have two separate classes with their own separate championship and field of drivers. The races are also generally held as double-header races with one race for both classes in Saturday and Sunday, although some rounds (such as Venray in 2019 and Vallelunga in 2020) had different formats. The season currently consists of 14 races held on 7 tracks across Europe. The main championship, the EuroNASCAR PRO class, is open to everyone (mainly the pro drivers) while the EuroNASCAR 2 (EN2) class is generally restricted to either young or amateur drivers. Another unique aspect to the series is that despite having two classes competing at once, it is mandatory for teams that field drivers in both classes to have their drivers to share the same car. While it is an leftover from the series' initial roots as a supporting event for multi-class sports car racing series, it has been kept to this day to cut costs, spice up the competition, and gave an importance to the team aspect as one driver's mistake can prove costly for the other driver of the team. It is the only non-national series to have a Playoff system, although unlike the Playoff system that Cup/Xfinity/Truck used, Euro's Playoffs are double points-paying races and it is open to everyone participating. Israeli driver and the current champion Alon Day is the series' most successful driver, having won 3 titles (tied with Spaniard Ander Vilariño) and 24 races so far. Italian driver Vittorio Ghirelli, a former champion in the now-defunct Auto GP series, is the defending champion EuroNASCAR 2 class while his team Hendriks Motorsport (no relation to Cup's Hendrick Motorsports) is the defending Teams Champion, having swept the competition in the EuroNASCAR 2 class by taking all possible wins, poles, fastest laps, and led all but two laps in the class that year . Euro Series is also notable for having the first NASCAR champion with a disability (2018 EuroNASCAR 2 champion Ulysse Delsaux had high-functioning autism). Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve currently competes here in the PRO class as an owner-driver.
Professional Gaming Series
- eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series
First Season: 2010Current Drivers Champion: Zack NovakFormer Names: eNASCAR iRacing World Championship (2010-2013), eNASCAR iRacing PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series (2014-2019)The first official eSports championship that is sanctioned by NASCAR, and the first official sim racing eSports championship that was held by any major racing series across the world. As the name implies, the drivers compete on simulated versions of the actual real-world tracks and cars on iRacing. Starting from the 2019 season, the series now features sim racing teams that are run by real teams (such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Wood Brothers, and Williams), as well as professional eSports organizations such as Renegades. Ray Alfalla is a 4-time champion in this series(the most), and 17-year-old Zack Novak is the defending champion. Dale Earnhardt Jr. notably won the very first race of the series in 2010.
- eNASCAR Heat Pro League
First Season: 2019The newest officially sanctioned NASCAR series, Heat Pro League is the first NASCAR eSports league to be held on consoles using 704Games' NASCAR Heat as the game of choice. Like the PEAK Antifreeze Series, the drivers compete on simulated versions of the actual real-world tracks and cars. Currently there are 28 drivers on 14 teams, with each of the participating teams fielding two drivers, one competing on Xbox One and the other on PlayStation 4.
- The Allison Family consists of Bobby, Davey, Clifford and Donnie.
- Bobby Allison (1936) is one of the original members of the famed "Alabama Gang"note . He began his career in 1961, and picked up his first win in 1966. He could seen as NASCAR's greatest journeyman, he won for an impressive 14 teams, representing an equally impressive 8 manufactures during his career, including his own team on multiple occasions. He also helped NASCAR become more a mainstream sport, as he was involved in the infamous 1979 Daytona 500 scuffle, as he prevented Cale Yarborough from picking on his brother Donnie after Donnie and Cale wrecked each other on the last lap. He won 85 races, including 3 Daytona 500s (although one isn't officially counted by NASCAR, as it called his Grand American car an illegal entrant in a 1971 race). He was forced to retire after suffering life-threatening injuries in a crash at Pocono in 1988. His sons, Clifford and Davey, also continued the family tradition. He was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2011.
- Clifford Allison (19641992) was a journeyman driver in the Busch Series from 1990-1992. He was fired from his ride in 1990 after only 7 races due to poor performances. In 1991,he ran a limited schedule, picking the best finish of his brief career with a 6th place at Bristol. In 1992, he was attempting to run a more complete schedule, but his life ended after hitting the wall during a practice session at Michigan.
- Davey Allison (19611993) was a driver most known for his time in the Havoline sponsored #28 Ford. He began racing in the ARCA series in 1980 and racing in the Cup Series by 1985. He picked up his first in the 1987 season, and would win a total of 19 races in his career, including the 1992 Daytona 500. His life was tragically ended in 1993 after crashing his helicopter at Talladega. He was posthumously inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2019, alongside Alan Kulwicki (below), who also died in an aviation incident in 1993.
- Donnie Allison (1939) was a successful driver from 1976-1980. He won 10 races, but his career highlight was getting involved in a last lap scuffle with Cale Yarborough during the 1979 Daytona 500. His brother, Bobby, got involved and stopped Cale Yarborough from beating Donnie up.
- The Busch family:
- Kyle Busch (1985) is the driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and one of the winningest—and most hated—drivers in the sport. After growing up around his father and older brother's racing operations in Las Vegas, he quickly proved to be a can't miss prospect by posting a top-10 finish during his first race in the Truck Series at the age of 16. He was chosen to drive the #5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports full-time in 2005, and that year became the youngest driver to win a Cup race at the age of 20, winning two races that year (since surpassed by Joey Logano, see below). After moving to Gibbs in 2008, he had his breakout season and has continually set records ever since, becoming the winningest driver in all three combined national series with 222, the all-time wins leader in both the Grand National/Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity and Truck Series, a two-time Cup champion in 2015 and 2019, and the first driver to win all three top series races in one weekend, just to name a few. At the same time, he was almost more well known for an infamous temper and frequent Freak Outs that were frequently compared by his detractors to childish tantrums. After wrecking the beloved Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win at Richmond in 2008, he quickly became the most hated driver in the sport, and it's never let up from there, with every single one of his wins or temper-driven incidents like wrecking Ron Hornaday under caution in 2011 bringing out more and more detractors. To his credit, he's embraced his role as NASCAR's biggest heel of the 21st century, as it seems like he enjoys doing things that piss the fans off just as much as they enjoy booing him. With a surefire Hall of Fame career in the books, it's caused even many of his detractors to have a grudging respect for him, as despite the many things he's done to rankle them over the years, he is nothing if not entertaining.
- Kurt Busch (1978) currently drives the #45 Monster Energy Toyota for 23XI Racing. He's currently one of NASCAR's most respected veterans, but it didn't start out that way for him—when he made his full-time Cup Series debut in 2001, his young age and give-no-flips attitude and driving style quickly rubbed veteran drivers and long-time fans the wrong way. This was emphasized with his ongoing feud with veteran Jimmy Spencer in 2002, where they continued to intentionally wreck each other for several weeks until the sanctioning body finally brought the hammer down after Spencer punched Busch in the face hard enough to knock a couple teeth out. While he became the first champion of the Chase for the Cup era in 2004, he was also known for a Hair-Trigger Temper and a penchant for off-the-track controversy and inability to get along with his bosses and teammates, which along with a DUI in 2005 led to him leaving Roush Racing, joining Penske, then getting fired from them as well in 2011 after Flipping the Bird to ESPN cameras and verbally berating an interviewer. He reached a nadir in 2012, being relegated to driving for backmarker Phoenix Racing, getting put on probation for wrecking Ryan Newman and a post-race confrontation, then getting suspended for swearing at a reporter. He began to turn it around after making Furniture Row Racing a household name in 2013, continuing that trend with Stewart-Haas Racing (ironically, run by long-time rival Tony Stewart) from 2014-18, then driving for Chip Ganassi between 2019-21 before moving to his current ride. Having consistently outperformed his equipment and toned down his temper during the latter years of his career, the fan animosity he used to have has mostly dissipated and he's pretty well-respected today. Fun fact: he was the last driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. ever flipped off (during the 2001 Daytona 500 that took his life).
- The Earnhardt family:
- Dale Earnhardt (19512001) was, as mentioned above, one of the most dominant drivers throughout the 80's and 90's, tying Richard Petty for most Cup championships and finding success at just about every type of track. He was nicknamed "The Intimidator" due to his very aggressive, take-no-prisoners driving style, often to the point where other drivers would accuse him of deliberately wrecking them, and fans tended to either love or hate him for exactly that reason. Tragically killed in a crash on Turn 4 in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Part of the inaugural class of the NASCAR HOF in 2010.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1974) —often known as "Dale Jr." or simply "Junior" to distinguish him from his father—worked his way up through the ranks in the mid-90's, eventually making his Winston Cup debut driving for his father's team in 1999. He scored his first Cup victory in just his 12th career start in 2000. In contrast to his often-polarizing father, Dale Jr. is generally well-liked and often seen as an ambassador for the sport. In 2008, he infamously left his own family's team (which was being horribly mismanaged by Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Sr.'s widow and Jr.'s stepmom) to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. He retired from full-time racing after 2017, but continues to make occasional appearances in lower-tier series and provides color commentary for NBC's NASCAR broadcasts. Dale Jr. joined his father in the NASCAR HOF in 2022 (he was announced as an inductee in 2020, but COVID-19 scuttled a 2021 induction).
- The Elliott Family:
- Bill Elliott (1955) began racing in the early 80's, completing his first full-time season (and earning his first win) in 1983. Throughout the 80's, he was known for his absolute dominance of superspeedway races; in 1985 at Talladega, an unscheduled pit stop for a mechanical problem put him a full two laps down—and Bill charged back through the field and still won the race! He also holds the all-time speed record for a NASCAR driver, recording an average speed of 212.809MPH for his qualifying lap at Talladega in 1987—a record which will likely never be broken, as NASCAR began mandating the use of restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega the next year. His humble, soft-spoken nature made him a fan favorite, having been voted NASCAR's "Most Popular Driver" every year from 1991-2000 and again in 2002.note He was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2015.
- Bill's son Chase Elliott (1995) has followed in his father's footsteps as an eminently likable, down-to-earth guy...who just happens to be a badass race car driver, with an endearing awkwardness in front of cameras and a willingness to stand up for himself on and off the track that's quickly made him as beloved as his dad. Coming into the Cup Series, he was one of the most hyped-up prospects of the 21st century; while he struggled to perform for quite a while to begin his career, he scored his first Cup victory in 2018. Fittingly, it came on a road course (Watkins Glen), just as his father's first victory did 35 years earlier. He won his first Cup championship in 2020. He drives the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
- Jeff Gordon (1971) is a retired NASCAR driver with four championships and 93 victories between 1993 and 2015. Hailing from California, Gordon helped spread NASCAR's popularity beyond the South, and his rainbow-colored #24 DuPont Chevrolet was one of the most recognizable paint schemes of the 1990s. However, his performance combined with his background made him as hated among long-time Southern NASCAR fans as he was loved by new ones. He retired after the 2015 season and joined the Fox broadcasting booth beginning in 2016. He was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2019.
- Kevin Harvick (1975) was a Busch and Truck series regular whose Cup career began under rather tragic circumstances, when Richard Childress appointed him to replace Dale Earnhardt a week after the 2001 Daytona 500.note He quickly proved he belonged, however, when he edged out Jeff Gordon by only 6 thousandths of a second to win the spring race at Atlanta that year—in just his third career Cup series start. He continued to win races here and there until joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, now driving the #4 Ford (Chevrolet from 2014-16), winning his first championship that same year and firmly establishing himself as one of NASCAR's elite contenders. He gained a reputation as a driver who could pull off wins seemingly out of nowhere, and also gained an even bigger reputation for an infamous temper, leading to him gaining the Ironic Nickname "Happy". Seemed to be on track for a similarly dominant year in 2020, but a late-season slump saw him knocked out of the playoffs in the next-to-last race at Martinsville.
- Jimmie Johnson (1975) is a former NASCAR driver most famous for winning seven championships, the first five of which were won consecutively. With nothing left to prove he left NASCAR at the end of the 2020 season and now competes part time in the Indy Car Series.
- Alan Kulwicki (19541993) is one of NASCAR's sadder examples of What Could Have Been. When he made his Cup debut late in the 1985 season, he had one of the most unusual backgrounds of any driver in his day (or, frankly, even today). In his day, NASCAR was mainly a southern regional series; Kulwicki was born and raised in the Milwaukee area. Few drivers in his era had completed college; Kulwicki had a bachelor's in mechanical engineering. Finally, he entered the Cup Series off only six Busch Grand National (now Xfinity Series) starts. During his first full season in 1986, his team owner left NASCAR, selling the team to Kulwicki. He ran his team on a shoestring, performing much of his own maintenance between races, and throughout his career had difficulty finding and keeping crew members due to his perfectionism.note Nonetheless, with one car, two engines, and two full-time crew members, he was the Cup Series rookie of the year. Kulwicki went on to solid but not spectacular success as a driver-owner, notably turning down an offer from Junior Johnson's powerful team in 1990 in favor of running his own team. Then came 1992, when he erased a huge deficit in the season's final weeks to hold off Davey Allison and Bill Elliott to win the Cup Series crown by a mere 10 points, the closest finish before the introduction of the playoff format in 2004. Kulwicki became the first Cup Series champion with a college degree, the first born in a northern state, and the last driver-owner to win the series title until Tony Stewart in 2011. He seemed to be on the verge of even more until his career and life ended the following April when the plane in which he was a passenger crashed in East Tennessee. This was the first of two major NASCAR tragedies that year, followed by Davey Allison's fatal helicopter crash. Kulwicki would enter the HOF in 2019. Perhaps his most notable legacy is the "Polish victory lap" (a term he himself coined), in which he circled the track clockwise instead of the standard counterclockwise. Kulwicki did this after his first Cup race win in 1988 and after winning the 1992 series title. Since his untimely passing, the Polish victory lap has occasionally been employed by other drivers, often as an explicit tribute to him.
- David Pearson (19342018) was Richard Petty's great rival; Petty himself would say, "It didn't hurt as bad to lose to Pearson as it did to some of the others, because I knew how good he was," and believed that Pearson would have at least equaled his own 200 wins had he raced full-time throughout his career. "The Fox", later "The Silver Fox", only raced full-time in three Cup seasons (1966, 1968, 1969), but won the series title in each of them, and had at least one top-10 race finish in each of his 27 Cup seasons (19601986). Pearson, a 2011 HOF inductee, ended his Cup career with 105 race wins, second only to Petty, and had a higher winning percentage than his rival.
- The Petty family:
- Lee Petty (19142000): Patriarch of the Petty dynasty, he won 3 Cup Series titles, 54 races, and the first Daytona 500 in 1959. He also founded Petty Enterprises (19492008)* , which was the most successful racing team of NASCAR's first 50 years, claiming 268 Cup wins, a record that lasted until Hendrick Motorsports broke it in 2021. Entered the NASCAR HOF in 2011, a year after his son Richard.
- Richard Petty (1937): His record speaks for itself... 200 Cup wins, 7 Cup Series titles, 7 Daytona 500s, to name just a few. Part of the inaugural NASCAR HOF class of 2010.
- Kyle Petty (1960)
- Adam Petty (19802000)
- Wendell Scott (19211990) was NASCAR's first—and, for many years, only—African-American driver. Like many early stock-car racers, he was a bootlegger also known for his extraordinary prowess as a mechanic. Despite facing racial discrimination and using far inferior equipment compared to other better-funded drivers, he firmly established himself as someone who didn't give up, running hundreds of races throughout the 60's and early 70's and even scoring a Cup-level victory in 1964—though true to the era, NASCAR invented a "scoring error" and initially credited second-place finisher Buck Baker with the win insteadnote ; with NASCAR finally correcting the "error" in late August 2021 and crediting Scott with that 1964 victory. Scott was a 2015 NASCAR HOF inductee. The 1976 movie Greased Lightning, starring Richard Pryor, is loosely based on Scott's life.
- Tony Stewart (1971) competed in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1999-2016note , first in the #20 Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing, and then the #14 for Stewart-Haas Racing (co-owned with Gene Haas) from 2009 until his retirement in 2016. He won three Cup Series titles as a driver in 2002, 2005, and 2011, and a fourth as Kevin Harvick's car owner in 2014. Stewart's 2011 title was the first by a driver-owner since Alan Kulwicki nearly two decades earlier. Stewart was inducted into NASCAR's HOF in 2020. In that same year, he co-founded a new stock-car circuit, the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), which held its first season in 2021.note
- The Waltrip family:
- Darrell Waltrip (1947) started his Cup career in 1972 and raced his first full-time season in 1976. He was initially one of NASCAR's most polarizing drivers thanks to a take-no-prisoners driving style, but cleaned up his image and driving style by the end of the '80s, becoming one of the circuit's most popular drivers. A three-time Cup Series champion (1981, 1982, 1985), he also won the 1989 Daytona 500, a record 12 races at Bristol, a record five Coca-Cola 600s, and in one of his non-title seasons (1983), had a modern-day record of 23 top-five finishes. He retired from racing in 2000 with 84 Cup wins, a modern-era record now held by Jeff Gordon, and moved to the broadcast booth, serving as Fox's lead analyst from 2001 until retiring from that role at the end of the 2019 season. During his time in the booth, he was in the NASCAR HOF's 2012 class. Waltrip voiced race commentator Darrell Cartrip in all three films of the Cars franchise, notably using his most famous catchphrase from his Fox days: "Boogity, boogity, boogity let's go racing, boys!"
- Michael Waltrip (1963), Darrell's younger brother, is one of NASCAR's biggest examples of Overshadowed by Awesome. Debuting in 1985 and running his first full season in 1986, he never finished higher than 12th in the series standings, but did one-up his brother in one respect: two of his four Cup Series wins were in the Daytona 500. Sadly, the first is all but forgotten as it was also the one in which his car owner, the elder Dale Earnhardt, had his fatal crash just before Waltrip took the checkered flag. (The second was in 2003.) Even after running his last full-time season in 2009, he remained active as a Cup driver, mostly running only the Daytona 500, until 2017. During that time, he also ran his own NASCAR team, but had a Never Live It Down episode in 2013 when the team was one of three involved in a scheme to manipulate the results of the last pre-Chase race. Now races in SRX. As an aside, he's easy to spot at a racers' event, as he is 6 feet 5 inches tall (196 centimeters for metric folks), large for anyone but absolutely huge for a race driver.
NASCAR is frequently the victim of snark and Public Medium Ignorance, ranging from light jabs (such as the worn-to-death "left turn contest" crack that provides the page image for the latter) to vicious attacks on both the sport and its fans. A backronym popularized among NASCAR's vocal detractors is "Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks", which perfectly crystallizes the most common complaints about the sport; some have even stated that NASCAR (along with all forms of motorsport) are not sports because they don't involve physical activitynote and/or a ball, and isn't an Olympic sports. Because of its roots in the rural South, NASCAR is heavily associated with stereotypes of that region (see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, an Affectionate Parody of the sport, for one of the canonical examples). Even if you are an Ivy League grad from Boston, admitting to being a NASCAR fan is an easy way to get called a redneck, although this is becoming less the case as the sport's popularity spreads beyond the South.
In addition, a fair number of motorsport fans, particularly European ones (among them the hosts of Top Gearnote ), like to contend that NASCAR requires less skill than other motorsports like Formula One and rally racing, as nearly all of the races take place on oval circuits instead of the more technical road courses found outside NASCAR. While the courses may be "simpler" from a technical standpoint, they require a completely different set of skills to race successfully on; a fair number of Formula One drivers have floundered when making the jump to NASCAR because they underestimated how big a shift this is, only finding any success on what few road courses NASCAR visits; the only open-wheel driver who made the jump to NASCAR and flourished is Tony Stewartnote , who won 49 races, three Cup Series championships, and now owns one of the top teams in NASCAR (Unfortunately, he never won the Daytona 500 in his career, being known as "The Greatest Driver to Never Win the Daytona 500").