Today,Nascar Racing: The Growing Phenom Articles the most watched sport in America is football. But the next sport on that list is no longer baseball, not is it basketball – auto racing…specifically, NASCAR racing…has skyrocketed in growth and popularity. What was once a small operation in the South has turned into a global phenomenon raking in billions annually – an amazing feat for a sport where disaster can be the main attraction.
NASCAR racing has a long, storied past. Beginning with its roots in the Prohibition Era, the sport began in earnest when Bill France created the sanctioning body known as NASCAR in 1948. The sport that used to be a bootleggers’ paradise had turned into a real sport – and the big rush would come three decades later, culminating at the Daytona 500 in 1979. That year, the contest came down to the final laps, between drivers Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. The bad blood shared between the two in this close finish brewed over into a post-race fight that actually endeared a generation of new fans to the sport. Millions of TV viewers had become a captive audience due to a huge snowstorm in the East – now, the race itself made them captive in a whole new manner.
NASCAR racing is made up of a host of series, including the well-known truck series, and the Nationwide Series. However, most mentions of the sport of NASCAR racing are referring to the Sprint Cup Series, the top series on the circuit. The Sprint series was once called the Winston Cup Series; in 2004, the sport decided to get an image-friendly sponsor in NEXTEL. When they merged with Sprint, the new name was born.
Drivers set out on a 26-race schedule that paves the way for a 10-race championship push known as the Sprint for the Cup. Whoever has emerged with the best point total once those 10 races are over is the champion. Only the top 12 regular season finishers are eligible for championship contention.
For many, NASCAR racing is linked to the faces and characters involved in the sport – legendary drivers like the late Dale Earnhardt, as well as Richard Petty and others. In addition, the current set of drivers – like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – help power the sport now.
In 2001, at the season-opening Daytona 500, the sport lost a legend when Dale Earnhardt died on the final lap, while holding off other competitors to keep his son’s car and another teammate’s vehicle out in front on the final lap of the race. His loss touched racing fans around the country and the world, and few losses have ever been reflected on in the way The Intimidator’s loss still is to this day. If there was any good to come from the passing of a NASCAR racing legend, it was that the sport began a push to improve the safety of the drivers and the tracks.
Now, NASCAR racing is pushing forward to this generation of drivers – and new innovations that will continue to grow and diversify this sport now enjoyed by countless numbers of people.