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The Origins of Nascar from Bootlegging to a Multi-million Dollar Industry

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Some people may view NASCAR as just a bunch of good old boys, driving cars around in a circle circles on a Sunday afternoon. The sport stock car racing is more than just Sunday at the race track. How did this sport go from its small regional upstart in the hills of the Carolina’s? To becoming the second biggest sport in America we call NASCAR? Second only to National Football League in viewership and fan base loyalty. The sport stock car racing may have gotten its roots on the back roads of Southeastern states of the nation during the prohibition area, but through sponsorship it has grown to be so much more. The focus of this paper will look at the history, social, economic, and technological innovations that drive that have developed from the sport of stock car racing in NASCAR.

History of NASCAR

The debate over the origin of stock car racing has been a subject of debate on who founded this sport. Some believe it originated from the lower class criminal bootlegging operation during the prohibition area. While other view it’s root are a carryover from the horse racing and betting culture of the upper class gentry, which progressed with the invention of the automobile. Even though the lower class provided the drivers that made the sport exciting. It could never have prospered into the sanctioned sport of NASCAR, without the support of the elite upper class. They were the ones that built the race tracks, organized meetings to develop rules to regulate the sport, and sanctioned the bodies to run it.

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No matter what side of the argument they side with on the origins of NASCAR. Most would agree that the sport of stock car racing would not be what it is today, without the innovative genius of a Washington D. C. gas station owner; the founder of NASCAR Bill France. France during a visit in February of 1936 to a 250-mile stock car race in Daytona sponsored by Sig Haughdahl saw the need in the organization of stock car racing events. To building of better tracks, establishment rules, organization of the event, better sponsorship, and scoring of stock car races. Bill France a stock car racer himself in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s along with the help of a local restaurant owner Charlie Reese promoted a 150-mile stock car race on July 4, 1938 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The event was such a success France and Reese decided to sponsor another even event in on Labor day in 1938. Sponsors of the event provided funding to build a better track, erect a grand stand for seating on the north end of the track, place a scoreboard in the infield to keep track of the leaders in the race, and install a sound system. The early days of NASCAR were not the big sponsored events or making industry we see today. Most drivers of those early days in the 1940’s and 1950’s had to sponsor themselves, and often mortgage their farms and homes to compete in races. In hopes of a big win to settle their debts.

One such driver Ned Jarrett father of NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett who did not have the sponsorship allotted to him as his son does. In order to compete needed a race car, so he purchased one from Junior Johnson another driver for $2000. 00 dollars. Unfortunately, Ned didn’t have the money in the bank to cover the check. He wrote the check on a Friday afternoon with hopes of claiming enough money from winning of races over the weekend to cover his check by Monday morning when the banks reopened. Ned won his first race in Mettle Beach, South Carolina that weekend, but someone had taped his steering wheel backwards. This caused extensive damage to his hands and left them torn open and bleeding by the end of the race. Unable to withdraw from racing for weekend due to his debt he had incurred. Ned drove onto Charlotte to drive in another race on Sunday in spite of his injuries. He was only able to complete 100 miles of the 200-mile race as he pulled into the pit area. As Ned exited the vehicle disheartened he would not be able to cover his debts and lose everything. He noticed Junior Johnson who had heard about Ned’s situation standing their waiting to take his place and finish the race for him. Junior went on to win the race and Ned was credited with the win. The early competitors of racing did receive the big money sponsorship often seen today in the sport of NASCAR. One of the early sponsor Pure Oil would often provide racers with fuel for the cans for the race and their trucks that pulled these cars. This all changes for the racers as sponsorship improved throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s into the million-dollar industry it is today.

Economics of NASCAR

The economics’ of NASCAR grew as sponsorship increased through the 1960’s and 1970’s which later to develop into the multimillion dollar industry we see today. In the 1960’s NASCAR drew the attention from the big 3 automotive companies of Chrysler, Ford, and GMC. The automotive industry started the early golden days of NASCAR racing as they started with backing of the Big Three for stock car teams. When they partnered with teams to assist in providing and developing technology for teams to compete on the race track. Companies like General Motors developed motors like the 427 to help improve horse power on the race track. While Ford spent over a million dollars trying to manufacture a motor that could out beat it. These lead to many competitive venture of 1960’s of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors engineering better equipment to allow their sponsored racers to go faster than their competitors’. Two vehicles of the 1960’s that can probably trace their roots to the raceways of stock car racing were the Ford Talladega, Dodge Charger Daytona, and Plymouth Superbird often driven by famous NASCAR driver Richard Petty. The 1960’S it was not unheard of for Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors to sponsor several different race teams at time. The money pouring into stock car racing from car manufactures caused many drivers to ignore pursing small sponsors to market on the side of their vehicle for financial support.

This was noted during the 11th annual Daytona 500 when Ford Motor Company’s President, General Motors Vice President, and Three Vice President from Chrysler were among members on the VIP guest list for the event (site source 4). Unfortunately, these sponsorships all came to an end when the auto manufactures started to question how much they were getting out of the money they were spending. Then at the end of the 1960 and early 1970 when the Big Three signed into a no compete clause all small amounts of sponsorship from the automotive manufactures left NASCAR. The loss of financial sponsorship from Detroit lead to hard times in sport of stock car racing. May have well doomed the sport if it hadn’t of been for the law passed by the federal government on the time that banned the advertisement of tobacco products from television that saved it. With the loss or television promotion for it products companies like R. J. Reynold were looking for new ways to market their products. They approached the driving team of Junior Johnson about sponsorship, and it was Junior’s unselfish decline for sponsorship that may have opened the door for the new area of corporate sponsorship to allow to become what it has today for the sport. He told the RJ Reynolds tobacco company why settle for one car when you could have them all. This lead to the sponsoring of the Winston Cup Race circuit, improvement of the race tracks, bringing a better family culture environment to the sport, and increase revenue from other corporate sponsorship into the sport of stock car racing. What sold RJ Reynolds about NASCAR Racing was coming to the races looking into the stand and seeing the people and saying to themselves these are our customers and this sold them finding a new way of advertising their product through sponsor ship. This also went along way into convincing other companies too. Because along with RJ Reynolds came their customers the gas station owners, supermarket owners, convenient store chair owners to the race track. Then with them they brought their customers the meat producers, beverage producers, beer industries, and other sponsors.

RJ Reynolds company was a main supporter in to NASCAR and the Winston Cup series way into the 2000’s when they were replaced after 30 years in 2003 were replaced by Nextel for corporate sponsorship in NASCAR Racing. Along with sponsorship for race teams and events came big race winnings and pay for the drivers. Early drivers like Ned Jarrett who had one of the more success careers in NASCAR total life time winnings were around $ 289, 146. 00 compared to his son Dale Garrett who has won 45. 5 million and his best year up to 4. 7 million. It is clear how the business has change. Gone were the days that drivers lived week to week on borrowed money and begging for parts and fuel. Today drivers live in 1. 5-million-dollar RV’s and often fly into the race events.

Social Influence of NASCAR

NASCAR grew its roots in the Southeastern part of the country with being a predominantly white male dominated sport. Both from the owners, participants, and the fans. Whether it is understood as the fetish of white southern Rednecks or as a sport with general appeal, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) represents a large part of white American culture branded goods. NASCAR deliver’s it messages of driving to the extreme can be reiterated in the products you buy to support your family. This entails our look at the social aspect of the conservative lifestyle of nuclear family.

The influence of NASCAR racing with American family consumption, identifying on an inherent pleasure for speed expressed in their purchases in purchases of name brand products supports conservative social values. Nationally branded goods and services promise same and standard of quality, and enable our ability to enjoy more free time for other things in our lives.

The practice of appealing to the social culture of the nuclear family and close bonded of family view. NASCAR tries to focus on drawing it roots from there, but is supported by corporations that market products that draw away from this lifestyle. National sponsorships draw away support for local places and products to center more on the national. National sponsorship has drawn the sport away from identifying with hometown working class roots and now is more about commercialized market of big business. This affects our social norms of family gatherings, home cooked meals, local business of the mom and pop stores that suffer. The American values and working class man that supported this sport are being displaced by the corporate back sponsors who support. I feel this may be what has driven from their fan base due to lack of connection with the average American family values.


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