After he founded NASCAR in December of 1948, Big Bill France held the new organization's inaugural Strictly Stock 200-lap race that next June at the three-quarter mile Charlotte Speedway dirt track. Glenn Dunnaway, driving a Ford, crossed the finish line first, but was later disqualified for illegal modifications. Jim Roper, driving a Lincoln, was awarded the winner's check of $2,000.
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The King Is Born
In 48 starts that season, Richard Petty won an amazing 27 races, a record that surely will never be broken. At one point, Petty, in his Plymouth, won 10 consecutive races; he also won 18 times from the pole. His total winnings: $130,275, the first time a Cup champ had earned six figures.
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Tobacco company R.J. Reynolds, having seen the growth of NASCAR in the late '60s, decided to get involved with a sponsorship deal of select events, thus creating the Winston Cup. A year later, the company sponsored the entire Grand National season (reduced from 48 to 31 races, each at least 250 miles). The Winston Cup lasted through the 2003 season, with Nextel taking over the sponsorship starting the next year.
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Best Finish Ever?
Richard Petty and David Pearson battled for the lead all day at the Daytona 500. As they entered turn 3 on the final lap, Pearson drifted high, and Petty opted to go low. The two cars touched and began to spin. Petty's car stopped less than 100 feet from the finish line, while Pearson managed to limp across for his only Daytona 500 win.
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Fight And Hype
Thanks to a new agreement with CBS, the Daytona 500 was broadcast on national TV for the first time in its entirety. NASCAR did not disappoint in the drama department, with Cale Yarborough (right) and the Allison brothers (Donnie and Bobby) in a heated argument that resulted in post-race fisticuffs. NASCAR fans consider this race to be the turning point for stock-car racing becoming a mainstream sport.
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In a bold step in hopes of expanding its fan base beyond its southern roots, NASCAR moved its awards banquet to the Waldolf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan. The event has now grown into a Champion's Week affair, with the top drivers zooming around Times Square in the Manhattan Mile.
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It wasn't the Daytona 500, but it was at Daytona, as Richard Petty took the 1984 Firecracker 400 to claim his 200th -- and final -- win of his storied career. In attendance was Ronald Reagan, the first U.S. President to attend a NASCAR race.
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NASCAR finally made its debut at the country's most famous race track, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The inaugural Brickyard 400 was won by Indiana native Jeff Gordon.
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Dale Earnhardt's first Daytona 500 start came in 1979, but it took him nearly two decades to cross the finish line first. It was the most important win of Earnhardt's career. Alas, three years later, the track claimed the life of the Intimidator.
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Wanting car owners to use a safer chassis at every track (short, road course, intermediate ovals or superspeedways) on the circuit, NASCAR developed the Car of Tomorrow that debuts at Bristol in March of this year. The mandatory chassis will be phased in during a three-year period.
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