The National Stock Car Racing Association (NSRA/NSCRA) was a sanctioning body for stock car racing that operated in the Southeastern United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Competing against several other sanctioning bodies, including NASCAR, NSCRA was considered to be the most significant challenge to NASCAR's dominance of the sport; however it proved incapable of competing with the larger sanction, and closed down midway through the 1951 racing season.
Founded in 1946 in Atlanta, Georgia by Sam Nunis and Weyman Milam, the NSCRA was one of many small sanctioning bodies that appeared following the end of World War II to promote the fledgling sport of stock car racing. Participating, along with the U.S. Stock Car Drivers Association and Bill France's National Championship Stock Car Circuit, in a decision to declare a consensus national champion for stock cars in 1946, it remained a largely informal group, operating as a sanction for modified stock car racing, until O. Bruton Smith of Charlotte, North Carolina assumed responsibility for the group in 1948.
The NSCRA was formed by the southern race drivers with an eye towards bettering the racing game from the standpoint of the driver, spectator and promoter, as quoted from a national magazine. It has some 250 members, not all drivers.
The president of the organization was Delmar Jones, who was also the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and a non-driver.
Driver turned promoter Bill France Sr. and others promoted under the NCSCR (National Championship Stock Car Circuit) for the 1947 season. At the end of that season, France incorporated his National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) in the state of Florida on February 21, 1948.
The NSCRA had been incorporated in the state of Georgia on March 27, 1947.
But if you raced of any consequence in 1948, it was with NASCAR or the SCSCA (South Carolina Stock Car Association), which was newly formed by Buddy Davenport and Joe Littlejohn, promoters who did not join up with France, though they attended those famous pre-NASCAR Daytona Beach meetings in December of 1947.
The NSCRA did run a schedule at limited tracks in 1948, mostly in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Buddy Shuman was crowned champion for their first full season. But, in 1949, the NSCRA re-fired with a vengeance under promoters such as Bruton Smith, Sam Nunis, Weyman Milam, Alf Knight, Gene Wilson, Harold Hill and others to form one of the most dominant organizations of its kind.
NASCAR and the NSCRA bumped heads more than once over the next three years as they battled for territorial ground. France would regularly schedule races at the old Charlotte track in the same time slots as Bruton Smith’s NSCRA races in nearby Concord.
A variety of promoters helped stoke the fires that eventually made the white yeoman South the sport’s hottest crucible. For three years, the National Stock Car Racing Association, organized by a group of drivers and promoters, went head-to-head with NASCAR in the Southeast, starting in 1948. Both organizations fought for the best dates, the best drivers and the most popular tracks. The NSCRA’s make-up included promoters such as Bruton Smith of Concord, N.C., Alf Knight in Chattanooga and Sam Nunis in Atlanta. Due to internal squabbles over dates and drivers, who formed the majority of the membership, the NSCRA eventually folded. A driving force behind the group and eventual majority owner of Speedway Motorsports Inc., Smith missed the break-up as a result of being drafted by the U.S. military.
Through newspaper interviews, Smith more than once accused France’s scheduling of races in Charlotte a direct, intentional disregard of his own efforts of NSCRA races at Concord. The NSCRA had been shown as the top drawing card in stock car automobile racing. Included in their ranks were drivers such as Jack Smith, Ed Samples, Gober Sosebee, Bob Flock, Jerry Wimbish, Al Keller, Billy Carden, Buddy Shuman, Red Byron, along with newcomers Curtis Turner and Speedy Thompson. Bill Holland, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, became a regular on the NSCRA circuit in 1950.
So what happened? James Kelly, who helped promote in the North Carolina area, remembered some things.
“I know too many hands were in the barrel,” he said. “We had some great promotions throughout the southeast. We were sanctioning at Concord, North Carolina and Florence, South Carolina, Harold Hill in Columbus, Weyman Milam in Macon and Atlanta as well as Sam Nunis. We had Alf Knight and Gene Wilson in Chattanooga and on and on.
“But somewhere in the middle of the ’51 season, there came much discord in the ranks down in Atlanta, and the next thing we know the whole organization is busted up.”
“Sometimes too many people in charge can only hurt you,” Kelly added. “I know twice we had races scheduled under the NSCRA, once in 1949 on September 10 at the Concord track, only to find out those drivers went to Ashville. Another time, on March 26, 1950, we had a big event at the Florence, South Carolina track but the NSCRA drivers ended up in Atlanta. We just had too many conflicts.”
Palmer Bell from Chattanooga explained it this way:
“NASCAR was no stronger than we were. They also were new. But France had been around and was a businessman extraordinaire and knew how to smother out the competition.”
“If it had been Sam Nunis against just France, that would have been a different story,” Bell added. “But France was able to snuff out the smaller promoters with local competition or through buyouts or drivers, owners, or promoters. He played tough, but all is fair in a capitalistic society, especially in racing.”
Under the one man, one vote system employed by France, who held 40 percent of the NASCAR ownership along with three partners who each held 20 percent, conflicts within the organization were kept to a minimum. But outside the organization was a different story. France regularly scheduled races opposite Smith’s Concord track at the old Charlotte Speedway facility. He eventually got the Lakewood mile controlled by Nunis in Atlanta, the biggest and most popular on the NSCRA schedule, to switch to a NASCAR sanction. Once the NSCRA broke up in 1951, many of the drivers became better known for their NASCAR exploits, such as Jack Smith, Gober Sosebee, Billy Carden, Ed Samples and Buddy Shuman. The latter two were the NSCRA champions during its three complete seasons.
After the breakup, Weyman Milam, one of the original members of the NSCRA, began promoting races at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and also the new weekly night races being held at the quarter mile made in front of the grandstands at Lakewood Speedway, all under NASCAR. Alf Knight took over promoting in Macon with NASCAR, and Sam Nunis kept running Lakewood with either NASCAR or AAA events.
Billy Carden mentioned about the subject of the NSCRA:
“I don’t remember exactly what did go on with that. I do know there was a problem with a disappearance of the season’s point money, but that was taken care of. I know France had the suggestion of naming NASCAR our name (NSCRA) back at their meeting in late ’47, but knew we already had it incorporated. When we dispersed, NASCAR didn’t hesitate to adopt our drivers, some of the best in the country.”
“Bill France had a year jump on the NSCRA with NASCAR, plus he was only one entity governing from one central location,” former driver Jack Smith said. “The NSCRA had a strong support link in Sam Nunis, but just too many weak factions over the years wore thin. Nunis was packing the house at Lakewood. Maybe we just needed more Lakewoods. But you have to remember France had some good tracks plus the backing of Raymond Parks, and had the Flock brothers he could billboard. Tough combinations to beat.”
Regardless of what happened, for several years the name of the NSCRA made a huge dent in the southern racing circles, and brought attention from all.
When the NSCRA folded, that left an opening for Atlanta-based John Caveness of Southern Racing Enterprises. But as a promoter, he was not a match for France and his partners: New England race organizer Bill Tuthill, Otto and attorney Louis Ossinsky. Former NSCRA promoter Weyman Milam, a founding member of the organization, began to promote weekly races at the quarter-mile Peach Bowl in Atlanta under the NASCAR banner, for example, sustaining a steady supply of cars and drivers for the sanctioning body as well as highly popular events. Before the shift by teams to the Spartanburg, S.C. and Charlotte areas after the Charlotte Motor Speedway was built, Atlanta was the de facto headquarters for NASCAR participants. In 1958, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts would become the first driver to win two 500-mile races in one season aboard a car built down the street from the Peach Bowl and entered by Frank Strickland.
In the 1940’s, the methods used by all promoters to conduct races on ovals were virtually universal and remain essentially unchanged. France’s NASCAR organization was distinguished by two things: his vision for a bona fide national championship in place of a regional organization and his leadership in getting roughhewn, rambunctious and often defiant drivers and team owners to participate in that vision. France’s first try at a sanctioning body in 1947 was essentially a maneuver while sanctioning events under the NSCRA banner. But when his champion, Fonty Flock, was generally ignored, France adopted a different approach by holding the now famous meetings at the Streamline Hotel in December of 1947 which resulted in the formation of NASCAR.
In that meeting, France made the oft-quoted statement about the future, which included a sidelong and negative view of the NSCRA. Stock car racing “can go the same way as Big Car racing,” he said, referring to Indy cars. “I believe stock car racing can become a nationally recognized sport by having a National Point Standing. Stock car racing as we’ve been running it is not, in my opinion, the answer.”
After splitting with the NSCRA, France frequently used a divide and conquer strategy, such as signing West Coast promoter Bill Barkheimer into the NASCAR fold – or making racing impresario Otto a partner and then putting him in charge of events in the Northeast and Midwest. It was Otto who brought NASCAR to Soldier Field in Chicago and to Canada.
Under France’s direct guidance NASCAR became the Southeast’s most effective sanctioning body in part because of its base in Daytona Beach. The popular and dramatic beach races for the Modifieds and the Grand Nationals, the name given to the Strictly Stock category in 1950, always gave France an ace in the hole when it came to finances, attracting drivers to his series and fans to his races. The Southern 500 at Darlington was also an ace for France, who had to hustle to get a co-sanction for the event in its first year of 1950 in an effort to beat a 500-mile race planned by Nunis in Atlanta. While Darlington’s status as the only high-banked paved superspeedway in the Southeast was crucial to NASCAR’s command of the Southeast, most of the financial benefits for that Labor Day race went elsewhere.
Using the popularity of Daytona and Darlington, France scheduled events on the many dirt ovals that dotted the landscape of nearby Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, the four states where almost 65 percent of events were held in the first decade of NASCAR’s existence. People wanted to see the same cars and drivers that raced at Daytona and Darlington.
Real NASCAR - White Lightning, Red Clay and Big Bill France by Daniel S. Pierce