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Before it was NASCAR

Two significant dates stand out in defining the origins of NASCAR; December 14, 1947 and June 19, 1949.

Integral to NASCAR’s founding in 1948 was Bill France, an auto mechanic and sometime race-car driver. France had organized stock-car races in Florida throughout the 1930s and ’40s, and, after several unsuccessful attempts to create a series of races that would determine a national champion, in 1946 he created the National Championship Stock Car Circuit (NCSCC), to sanction racing for Modified pre-war sedans and coupes.  France's slogan for the new touring series is "NCSCC: Where The Fastest That Run, Run The Fastest." 

There was not a complete schedule, or list of races or race results, with very few of the races in 1946 receiving any media coverage.  The points system awarded 500 points to the race winner, 400 points for second place, 300 points for third, 200 points for 4 and 100 points for a 5th place finish.  Speed Sport names 43 drivers earning points in the 1946 season with 33 races staged that year. 

Ed Samples was named the NCSCC champion that year, having won 8 races in 1946.  He was given the  Championship trophy and received the top prize of $1000, with $500 being awarded for 2nd place, $350 for 3rd place, $300 for 4th place, $200 for 5th, $150 for 6th place and $100 going to the next six places.

France proceeded to announce a set of rules and awards for the NCSSC. France declared that the winner of the 1947 NCSSC season would receive $1000.00, and a trophy. The season would begin in January 1947 at the Daytona Beach track, and conclude in Jacksonville the following December. Nearly 40 events were logged during the season, and attendance often exceeded the venue's capacity.

The competitors were paid as promised, and by the end of the season, driver Fonty Flock was declared the season champion after winning 7 events of the 24 that he entered. Bill France delivered the $1000 and 4 foot high trophy to Flock at the end of the season, along with $3000 in prize money to other drivers who competed throughout the season.

Although the NCSCC was successful, France had greater ambitions. At the end of the 1947 season, Bill France announced that there would be a series of meetings held at the Streamline Hotel in Florida, beginning on December 14, 1947. At 1:00 pm, France called to order the 35 men who represented the NCSCC on the top floor of the hotel. The meeting was the first of four seminars in which France would outline his vision of an organized group of race car drivers.

France knew that promoters needed to organize their efforts. Drivers were frequently victimized by unscrupulous promoters who would leave events with all the money before drivers were paid. On December 14, 1947 France began talks with drivers, mechanics and car owners at the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel at Daytona Beach, Florida that ended with the formation of NASCAR on February 21, 1948. They discussed uniform rules, insurance coverage and guaranteed purses.

France was elected President of NASCAR with E.G. "Cannonball" Baker of Indianapolis as National Commissioner, Eddie Bland of Jacksonville was the new Vice-president; Bill Tuthill of Hartford, Secretary; and race driver Marshall Teague, Treasurer.

"The purpose of this association is to unite all stock car racing under one set of rules; to set up a benevolent fund and a national point standing system whereby only one stock car driver will be crowned national champion," declared France.

"Every track and every area has a 'national champion' of every type of racing. This has so confused the sports writers that they give up in disgust after trying to give the public an accurate picture."

Louis Jerome "Red" Vogt, renowned mechanic from Atlanta and one of those attending the meeting, has generally been given credit for coming up with the name for the new organization; and on February 21, 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was incorporated.

Incorporated on February 21, 1948, the organization hired Erwin "Cannonball" Baker to be the first Commissioner of Racing.  The new organization sanctioned its first race on the Daytona Beach road/beach course in February of 1948, several days before it was legally incorporated.  More than 14,000 fans watched that first event, a 150-miler that Red Byron won ahead of Teague, Raymond Parks, Buddy Shuman, and Wayne Pritchett. 

The points system was written on a bar room napkin. The original plans for NASCAR included three distinct divisions: Modified, Roadster, and Strictly Stock. The Modified and Roadster classes were seen as more attractive to fans.

It turned out that NASCAR fans wanted nothing to do with the roadsters, which fans perceived as a Northeast or Midwest series. The roadster division was quickly abandoned, while the modified division now operates as the Whelen Modified Tour.

The Strictly Stock division was put on hold as American automobile manufacturers were unable to produce family sedans quickly enough to keep up with post-World War II demand. The 1948 schedule featured 52 Modified dirt track races.

The sanctioning body hosted its first event at Daytona Beach on February 15, 1948. Red Byron beat Marshall Teague in the Modified division race. Byron won the 1948 national championship. Things had changed dramatically by 1949, and the Strictly Stock division was able to debut with a 20-mile (32 km) exhibition in February near Miami.

The first NASCAR "Strictly Stock" race ever was held at Charlotte Speedway, although this is not the same track as the Charlotte Motor Speedway that is a fixture on current NASCAR schedule. The race was held on June 19, 1949 and won by driver Jim Roper when Glenn Dunnaway was disqualified after the discovery of his altered rear springs.

In 1949 NASCAR changed the rules governing the cars: whereas in 1948 “modifieds”—cars varying in age and in the mechanical modifications made to them for the purpose of racing—were allowed to compete, from June 1949 only late-model (recently manufactured) stock cars were permitted. Races that year were called Strictly Stock races, and Red Byron became the series champion.

France changed the name of the series to Grand National in 1950, a name used until 1971, when the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds bought sponsorship rights to the series and renamed it the NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National Series, and in 1986 the Grand National was dropped and the series became NASCAR Winston Cup.

NASCAR’s rules required cars to resemble their stock counterparts in their dimensions and appearance, but car owners, drivers, and mechanics increasingly exploited those rules in their attempts to gain a competitive advantage. NASCAR was also responsible for mandating safety equipment in cars that, by 1970, had reached over 200 miles (320 km) per hour in nonrace conditions.

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