57+ Exhilarating NASCAR Facts

by Stevan Plavšić
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NASCAR stock car racing has been a popular pastime for decades now and with a good reason. The sport originated in the Southern United States but quickly spread to the rest of the country (and later the world), and is now only second to football in terms of popularity in the US. 

Today we’re going to look at some NASCAR facts and stats about this fascinating sport.

Interesting NASCAR Facts

  • The first NASCAR race was held in 1949.
  • Richard Petty is the most successful NASCAR driver in history.
  • Kyle Busch has the most NASCAR all time wins across all three national series with 210 wins.
  • During a race, a NASCAR driver can lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in body sweat.
  • Wendell Scott became the first, and only, African American racer to win a Championship Cup race in NASCAR history in 1963.
  • NASCAR cars are required to weigh about 3,400 pounds (1,542 kg), 200 pounds (90 kg) is just the tires.
  • Jimmie Johnson is the first driver to ever win five consecutive NASCAR premier titles.
  • Micheal Waltrip started a record 463 NASCAR races between 1985 and 2001 without a single win.
  • Sara Christian was the first woman to ever compete in a NASCAR race.
  • Harry Gant won four consecutive cup races in a single month in 1991.

1. The inaugural NASCAR race took place in 1949

(Source: FOX Sports)

  • It was called the ‘Strictly Stock Race’ and took place at the Charlotte Speedway race track.
  • This was the first race sanctioned by the newly formed National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
  • Jim Roper was declared the inaugural winner after initial winner Glenn Dunaway was disqualified.
  • The race is now known as the Monster Energy Series.

In the long list of lesser-known NASCAR facts, one of the more notable is linked to the history of NASCAR cars. Those were first modified and enhanced for outrunning cops because they were used for running illegal moonshine whiskey on weekdays during the prohibition era in the 1920s and 1930s. Drivers would put on exhibitions on weekends to see which one was the fastest. 

Mechanic William France Sr., who entered one race in 1936 and finished fifth, took over running the event in 1938. In 1947, France had the foresight to create a sanctioned body to run stock car races through, so in 1948 he met with influential drivers and promoters to create the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

The first ‘Strictly Stock Race’ took place at the Charlotte Speedway, which was the first NASCAR track, on June 19, 1949. Jim Roper won driving a 1948 Lincoln after Glenn Dunaway was disqualified for modifying his rear springs. The division was known as the ‘Strictly Stock Division’, it was renamed the ‘Grand National Division’ starting with the 1950 season. 

2. Richard Petty is considered the most successful driver in NASCAR history

(Source: SB Nation)

  • Petty started a record of 1,184 races in his career from 1958 to 1992.
  • He was the first driver to win the NASCAR Cup Championship seven times.
  • He’s also won the Daytona 500 a record seven times.
  • Petty won a record 27 races, 10 consecutively, in the 1967 season alone.
  • He won a total of 200 races during his career.

Looking at Richard Petty’s NASCAR stats, it’s hard to deny that he’s the most accomplished stock car driver of all time. Petty has made Daytona 500 history by winning the event a record seven times, following in the footsteps of his father, Lee Petty, one of the great early NASCAR drivers who also won the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.

Petty is second on the NASCAR all time win list with 200 career race wins, eclipsed only by Kyle Busch. His impressive career stats include 513 consecutive starts between 1971 and 1989, a record number of poles (127) and over 700 top 10 finishes.

Petty has reached more NASCAR milestones than most drivers could dream of, and in 1992, was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George Bush. He was also named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 and inducted into the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. 

3. Kyle Busch has the most all-time wins in all three NASCAR series with 210

(Source: AltDriver)

  • Busch holds the record for most NASCAR wins in a single season across the three top series with 24 wins.
  • He is the only driver to have 50+ race wins in NASCAR’s top three series.
  • He was also NASCAR’s youngest ever pole winner in a series Cup at 19.
  • Busch is the first driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win on every track where he’s competed. 
  • In 2020, Busch became the highest-paid NASCAR driver.

Kyle Busch is NASCAR racing’s current golden boy and holds several ‘most wins’ records in competition including being at the top of the NASCAR all time win list with 210 wins across NASCAR’s top three series. 

Busch further holds the records for most Xfinity Series wins in a single season with 13 and the most overall Xfinity Series wins with 97. He also holds the record for most wins in the Truck Series with 57. 

Busch is currently ranked ninth on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Leaderboard. He was also named NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 2005, won the ESPY Award for Best Driver twice, in 2016 and 2019, and is a former WWE 24/7 Champion. 

4. NASCAR drivers can lose up to 10 pounds of water weight in sweat during a race

(Source: CBS Sports)

  • This is normally due to the sweltering heat and physical exertion of driving for hours.
  • Temperatures in a NASCAR vehicle normally exceed 100 degrees ºF (37 degrees ºC).
  • Drivers wear heavy layers beneath a fire-proof suit and safety equipment.
  • One driver once lost 10% of his total body weight in a 400-mile (643 km) race.

One of the most well-known but still amazing sports facts is that NASCAR drivers can lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) during a race due to high temperatures. In a race, drivers maintain the same heart rate as a serious marathon runner for about the same length of time (120-150 beats per minute for about three hours).

Simply put, NASCAR drivers sweat a lot and the suits they have to wear don’t help at all. In 2015, NASCAR driver Landon Cassill decided to do a little weight-loss experiment during the Brickyard 400. 

He placed a thermometer inside his car and took note of his weight before the race. The temperature inside the car was well above 140 degrees ºF (60 degrees ºC) and by the end of the race, he calculated that he’d lost about 8 pounds (3.6 kg) in water weight. 

5. Wendell Scott is the first, and so far only, African American driver to win a NASCAR Championship Cup race

(Source: USA Today)

  • Scott started 163 races over 13 years between 1961 and 1973. 
  • He was one of the first African American drivers to compete at NASCAR’s highest level.
  • He won a Grand National Series race in 1963.
  • Scott was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. 
  • He finished his NASCAR Cup Series career with 147 top-ten finishes and one pole finish.

At face value, the life, career, and triumph of Wendell Oliver Scott, mired by hardship and oppression, seems like it should be the perfect basis for an Oscar-bait biopic. Born in rural Virginia in 1921, the son of a driver and mechanic to well-off white families and a World War II veteran.

He joined NASCAR’s regional ranks in 1950 and, it’s another of the lesser-known NASCAR facts that he won dozens of races during his nine years stint, including several championships. He finally moved up to the Grand National Series in 1961 and won the 1963 Grand National driving a Chevrolet Bel-Air. 

NASCAR officials refused to grant him the win and even tried to give it to second place driver Buck Baker. He was eventually granted the win two years later in 1965 but would not receive the winner’s trophy until 2010 — 47 years after the race and 20 years after his death. 

6. Each NASCAR stock car is required to weigh no less than 3,400 pounds

(Source: My Drift Fun)

  • The cars are weighed at different stages before a race to ensure they’re compliant.
  • The tires alone account for 200 pounds of that weight.
  • NASCAR cars must also weigh no more than 1,625 pounds on the right side.
  • The weight requirements are put in place as a safety measure.

To ensure parity in each race, current NASCAR race cars are required to weigh a minimum of 3,400 pounds (1,542kg), including oil and water, without the driver. One of the most interesting NASCAR tires facts is that each tire weighs 50 pounds (22kg) so 200 pounds of the total required weight (90kg) is just the tires.

NASCAR also requires all cars to weigh no less than 1,625 pounds (737kg) on the right front and rear sides, because NASCAR races are all left-hand turns this rule prevents any car from being aided in turning. 

The weight rule is also, tacitly, a safety precaution to prevent cars from flailing around during inevitable crashes. 

7. Jimmie Johnson is the first driver to ever win five consecutive NASCAR championships

(Source: Bleacher Report)

  • Johnson is a seven-time champion in the NASCAR Cup Series.
  • He’s also a two-time Daytona 500 winner.
  • Johnson has 83 career wins, 222 top fives, 341 top tens, and 35 pole positions.
  • He has been named Driver of the Year by Martini & Rossi five times. 

Although he hasn’t won a race since 2017, Jimmie Johnson is still considered one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time. He won five consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championships between 2006 and 2010. 

His wins in 2013 and 2016 placed him firmly in NASCAR elite, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most NASCAR championships of all time.

Jimmie Johnson is the winningest active Cup Series driver in NASCAR today and in 2019, he announced that the 2020 Cup season would be his final full-time season of racing. He is currently ranked 15th on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Leaderboard

8. Michael Waltrip started a record 462 NASCAR races without a single win

(Source: LA Times)

  • Waltrip started 462 races between 1985 and 2001.
  • He eventually won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and again in 2003.
  • The 2001 Daytona 500 was also the year Dale Earnhardt had his fatal crash.
  • Waltrip wrote a book in 2011 about the 2001 Daytona 500 called ‘In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona, and the Day that Changed Everything’.

For a long time, Micheal Waltrip was known as NASCAR’s proverbial bridesmaid. He had a career spanning 16 years and 462 races but no championships to show for it and at the turn of the new millennium Waltrip was hired by Earnhardt to drive for his team. His first race? The 2001 Daytona 500. 

Waltrip broke his streak of 462 consecutive Cup races without a win and won his first career points-paying Cup race. His teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in second but the whole win was overshadowed by Dale Earnhardt Sr. fatal crash on the last lap.

He later won a rain-shortened Daytona 500 in 2003 but went winless for another 14 years until retiring in 2017. 

9. Sara Christian was the first woman to ever compete in a NASCAR race

(Source: Jalopnik)

  • Sara Christian competed in seven races between 1949 and 1951.
  • She competed in the inaugural NASCAR race at Charlotte Speedway in 1949.
  • Christian participated in six of the eight races in the 1949 season and finished 13th in the final ranking.
  • She finished sixth at Langhorne Speedway’s fourth race and became the first woman to earn a Top 10 finish.

Unfortunately, apart from the popular NASCAR facts about her, very little is known about the story of Sara Christian but she was a trailblazer in NASCAR for women to come like Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick. 

For Christian, racing was a family affair — she was married to Frank Christian, a racer and NASCAR car owner considered one of the pioneers of the sport. She also had ties to the Flock clan, a family with a strong NASCAR background.

Christian competed in the first-ever NASCAR race in 1949 and competed in seven more races over a two-year career. She had two top 10 finishes and became the first woman, and only, woman to earn a top-five finish in NASCAR series history when she finished fifth in the ninth race of 1949.

10. Harry Gant won four consecutive cup races in a single month in 1991

(Source: SCNow)

  • Gant became known as “Mr. September” in 1991 after winning all four September Cup races.
  • His four consecutive cup victories tied the record set in 1972.
  • He holds the record as the oldest driver ever to win a Cup Series race at 52 years old.
  • He was declared one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. 

In 1991, Harry Gant started one of the most famed winning streaks in NASCAR history that would earn him the nickname Mr. September — all at the age of 51. Gant won all four Cup races in September at Darlington, Dover, Richmond, and Martinsville. 

He became the oldest driver to ever win a Cup Series race at 52 years old and the second oldest driver to win in NASCAR’s second-level circuit, known as the Xfinity Series. 

Gant would get five victories in 1991 and earn 15 top-five finishes, 17 top 10 finishes, and would finish fourth in the final overall NASCAR standings.

FAQs

Q: When was NASCAR invented?
A: The history of NASCAR can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s during the prohibition era. Stock car racing was first used as a way to smuggle alcohol across the Southeast region of America but was soon formalized by a mechanic named William H.G France who organized the first race in 1938. France later founded the organization that would later be known as the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) in 1948.

Q: How fast can a NASCAR go 0 to 60?
A: NASCAR race cars at a very fast speed, so quickly that they can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3 to 3.5 seconds.

Q: How fast do NASCAR cars go?
A: NASCAR race cars can go as fast as 200 mph (322 km/h) on speedway tracks.

Q: What cars are used in NASCAR?
A: NASCAR 2019 cars either Chevrolets, Fords or Toyotas but in the past other original NASCAR cars of choice have included Buick, Dodge, Pontiac, Hudson, Nash, AMC, Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, DeSoto, Oldsmobile, Alfa Romeo, Mercury, Lincoln, Edsel, Cadillac, Jaguar, Porsche, Volkswagen and Plymouth among others.

Q: How long does a NASCAR engine last?
A: Most NASCAR race car engines are only designed to last one race but they are rebuilt and remodeled after each race.

Q: How many gears does a NASCAR have?
A: NASCAR race cars normally have a four-speed manual transmission but the gearbox is non-synchronous, which means the drivers have to change gears without the clutch.

Q: How many cars are in the Daytona 500?
A: The 2020 Daytona 500, held on February 16 and 17, had 43 cars on the entry list. The highest number of entries in four years.

Q: Can you drive your car on a Daytona speedway?
A: Yes, you can drive your own exotic car or a NASCAR race car at the Daytona Speedway.

Q: Do NASCAR drivers pee in their pants?
A: This is one of the NASCAR facts people are most curious about. NASCAR race car drivers go to the bathroom before the race but even then, like Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr once said, “when you gotta go, you gotta go”.

Sources

1. FOX Sports
2. SB Nation
3. AltDriver
4. CBS Sports
5. USA Today
6. Mydriftfun
7. Bleacher Report
8. LA Times
9. Jalopnik
10. SCNow

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