Questions about the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).
The National Association for Stock Car Racing, known by its acronym NASCAR, is the organizing and governing body for several classes of closed-wheel, oval track automobile racing. It is a family owned business, founded by Bill France, Sr. in 1947 and currently owned and operated by his grandson, Brian France.
Stock car racing as a sport began in the Prohibition era of the 20s and 30s, when bootleggers (black-market liquor distillers) began tinkering with production automobiles for greater speed to outrun authorities. Soon, local informal competitions began to be held, which led to two modern forms of racing; drag racing, where cars race from a standing stop in a straight line along a quarter mile track, and oval or circuit racing, originally on dirt tracks but soon progressing to paved tracks for greater speed. Local groups of "'shiners" began to organize, especially in South Carolina, with a race on the sand of Daytona Beach in 1936 being one of the first formalized races, attracting talent for hundreds of miles. Those racers included a young Bill France, who saw the potential for these races as a spectator sport, but the young sport had its problems, including corrupt organizers disappearing with the prize money.
In 1947, Bill France announced a series of nearly 40 races on local courses between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida, under the heading of the "National Championship Stock Car Series". This series of events was successful, and in the next year France, along with fellow organizers Bart "Barky" Barkheimer and Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, met with over 30 other organizers of the NCSSC in December 1947, and proposed a perennial racing series. The name eventually chosen was the "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing". It originally had three categories; Modified, Roadster and "Strictly Stock". The Roadster series was unpopular with the Southern-based fans and was abandoned, but the Modified and "Strictly Stock" divisions were popular. The Modified series continues today as NASCAR's Whelen Modified Series, which operates a number of local and regional race series using cars based on production U.S. automobiles, but modified with roll cages, souped-up engines and suspensions suitable for dirt-track racing. The "Strictly Stock" division, which was exactly that for the first few years, was changed to the "Grand National" division as specific modifications for safety and performance became allowed. By 1960, the cars were being purpose-built, with only the external appearance of a "stock car".
Today, NASCAR is most famous for hosting the premiere racing series in U.S. closed-wheel oval-track, the NASCAR Sprint Cup (formerly the Nextel Cup and before that the Winston Cup), which attracts some of the top driving talent in the United States. Behind National League Football, it is the second most-watched televised sport in the United States. The cars today have only token resemblance to production automobiles, largely in the front grille; the cars are built from the ground up with tubular metal frames, large custom V8 engines placed just behind the driver, and a host of electronic controls and telemetry.
In addition to the top-level Sprint Cup Series, a second tier, the Nationwide Series, caters to those looking to advance into the Sprint Cup. Cars at this level have less powerful engines and fewer bells and whistles, so buying and maintaining them costs less. NASCAR also sponsors a truck-based racing series, NASTRUCK, and several regional and national dirt-track series including the aforementioned Whelen Modified Series.