Since the start of NASCAR history in 1947, the sport has become one of the most popular competitive disciplines in the US. While it is usually associated with the South and men, NASCAR history and facts tell a story of a more diverse sport than it may seem at first glance.
That’s why we’ve selected 25 NASCAR history facts and statistics that every fan of the sport should know. Read on to learn more about stock car auto racing, NASCAR’s history, the most significant races, famous sports cars, and more.
Top 10 Essential NASCAR Stats and Facts
- The history of NASCAR started in December 1947.
- The first “Strictly Stock” race was held in 1949.
- The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959.
- Richard Petty’s 200 wins make him the winningest driver.
- Martinsville Speedway is the Cup Series’ shortest track.
- Three drivers have won seven championships.
- Danica Patrick holds multiple female driver records.
- Jeff Gordon made 797 consecutive starts, the most of any driver.
- NASCAR attendance trends show that the popularity of the sport is decreasing.
- In the NASCAR Cup Series, the number of tracks is 24.
NASCAR History – Stats You Need to Know
We’ve gathered important statistics about the beginnings of stock car racing that every NASCAR fan should know about. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
1. NASCAR history started in December 1947.
Bill France Sr., a mechanic and auto shop owner, organized a meeting on December 14th, 1947, and the idea of NASCAR was born. It was realized the following year, and France would become the first president and a driving force behind the growth of the sport.
His son, Bill France Jr., would take the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (or NASCAR, for short) to new levels of popularity after taking over as CEO in 1972.
2. NASCAR statistics show that the first “Strictly Stock” race was held in 1949.
Although the first NASCAR race was held a year earlier in Daytona Beach, Florida, it was a modified division race. Officially NASCAR-sanctioned races had to wait a bit longer, and the first “strictly stock division” one was held on June 19th, 1949, in Charlotte, NC, in front of 13,000 fans.
Glenn Dunnaway won the race but was disqualified for illegal rear springs. Jim Roper was announced as the winner and collected the $2,000 prize.
3. NASCAR facts and history show that the first NASCAR-specific track opened in 1950.
While the sport was held on existing tracks during the first few years of stock car races, the first dedicated NASCAR circuit, the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, opened in 1950. Many more followed soon after.
4. The first Daytona 500 race was held in 1959.
The first Daytona 500 was held on February 22nd, 1959. It took 61 hours to declare the winner by a photo finish. Lee Petty, the father of Richard Petty, was declared the first winner of the Daytona 500.
The race now marks the start of the season and is the most famous race on the calendar.
5. The first flag-to-flag live coverage was in 1979, NASCAR history shows.
The Daytona 500 on February 18th, 1979, marks the beginning of live coverage of the races and a monumental moment in NASCAR Premier Series history. CBS aired the race, marked by Richard Petty nearly avoiding an accident and a fight between drivers in the infield grass.
Key NASCAR Driver Stats
Here are some essential stats about the people behind the wheel – the race car drivers who took stock cars to the masses and got their names in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
6. According to official NASCAR stats, Richard Petty is the most successful driver in the history of NASCAR racing.
He has won 200 races, almost double the No.2 David Pearson’s 105 wins. Jeff Gordon is No.3 on the eternal list, with “only” 93 wins.
Regarding the records set by drivers that are still active, Kyle Busch’s NASCAR stats are also impressive, at 59 wins.
7. Three drivers have won seven championships.
Many drivers raced in, but only the greats Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jimmie Johnson have won seven championships each. Johnson’s seven titles include five impressive consecutive titles between 2006 and 2010.
8. In 1963, Wendell Scott became the first African-American to win a race, NASCAR facts show.
On December 1st, 1963, at the Jacksonville Speedway, Wendell Scott beat Buck Baker. He became the first African-American to win a NASCAR’s Premier series race.
9. Danica Patrick holds multiple female driver records, according to NASCAR driver statistics.
Danica is probably the most famous female NASCAR driver around. Headlines like “Danica Patrick makes history” flooded the press in 2013 when she became the first woman to get the Busch Pole Award for winning the pole position at 2013’s Daytona 500. Patrick holds the record for most top-10 finishes by a female driver, with seven.
Unfortunately, she has never won a NASCAR race, despite having very successful showings at various races, including the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the famous Daytona beach track, Charlotte Speedway, and other popular races.
10. One of the darkest moments in NASCAR history, Dale Earnhardt’s death, marked a revolution in terms of safety.
Seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt died in 2001 after a crash at the Daytona 500. That devastated the racing world, and many changes have happened since in order to ensure that a tragedy like that doesn’t happen again.
NASCAR research into safety standards was put into overdrive, and the chief stock car sanctioning body came up with numerous changes to the purpose-built race cars and safety equipment aimed at improving driver safety.
These included the HANS device (which protects the neck), the SAFER barrier, carbon seats, cockpit cocoons, data recorders to analyze every hit, and others. The results? Zero fatalities since.
Essential NASCAR Track Stats
There are some tracks, like the Daytona, that are as famous as NASCAR itself. Read further to find out more about some exciting facts about these tracks.
11. Martinsville Speedway is the Cup Series’ shortest track, according to NASCAR numbers.
At .526 miles, Martinsville takes the crown for the shortest track on the calendar of the Cup Series. The Speedway is also the only one to hold Cup Series races since its inception in 1949.
12. There are 24 tracks in the NASCAR Cup Series.
There are 24 tracks in total for the Cup Series, with Charlotte Roval and International Speedway counted as separate tracks.
There are additional three tracks for the Xfinity series, and for the Gander Trucks series, another three on top of that — for a total of 30 tracks used by NASCAR.
13. NASCAR tracks can vary significantly in size and length.
Contrary to popular belief, not all tracks are the same. Tracks shorter than one mile are called short tracks, and everything over one mile is a speedway or an intermediate track. Due to their size and speed regulators, two tracks at Daytona and Talladega are called superspeedways.
14. According to NASCAR’s statistics database, the longest track is Road America in Wisconsin.
The Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is the longest track in the current NASCAR schedule. It’s a road course, and it measures 4.048 miles.
15. NASCAR driver stats by track reveal that Richard Petty has the most wins across multiple tracks.
Apart from the other feats that got him into the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class, he also holds the records for most wins in multiple tracks, including Daytona (10 wins), Martinsville (15), Richmond (13), North Wilkesboro (15), and Rockingham (11).
Attendance and NASCAR Fans Statistics
NASCAR fans are often stereotyped as white males, which is not necessarily true at all.
NASCAR stats paint a different picture, and plenty of people of all ages, genders, and races enjoy the sport these days. Let’s forget land speed records and other feats of driver genius in NASCAR playoffs for a moment, and focus on the fans.
16. The first race at the Daytona International Speedway had 41,000 spectators, according to NASCAR attendance numbers.
The first race at the iconic track was held in 1959. The attendance was an unbelievable crowd of 41,000 fans.
17. NASCAR fan demographics show that around 6% of Hispanic and African-American people are avid fans of the sport.
Among the Hispanic population, 6% state that they are avid fans, while 26% state they are casual fans. For African-Americans, numbers are similar, with 6% being avid fans and 29% casual fans based on the latest NASCAR fan statistics.
18. NASCAR attendance trends show that the popularity of the sport is decreasing.
While the pandemic hit all live sports hard, organizing stock car racing for record crowds was tough even before it happened.
According to NASCAR attendance statistics, the sport has lost about 50% of its live attendance and TV viewership from its peak in 2005, where it trailed only the NFL and the Super Bowl.
No one is quite sure about the exact reasons for this decline in interest, though changes to the cars, the current driver lineup, and the fact that NASCAR became very ad-riddled could all be potential culprits.
19. According to NASCAR fan demographics, women make up 38% of the fanbase.
(The Drive to Connect)
The number of NASCAR fans in the US is estimated at 65 million, 38% of which are women.
Nearly Unbreakable NASCAR Stats
There’s an old saying, “records are meant to be broken,” but we’ve selected a few that might stay in the books for a long time – or even forever. Read below to find out the most unbreakable-seeming records we’ve been able to find.
20. NASCAR history facts show that Richard Petty holds many all-time records.
Richard Petty is arguably the best driver of all time, essentially the Tom Brady of NASCAR if you like. Some of his records include:
- Most wins: 200
- Most poles: 123
- Most consecutive wins: 10
- Most wins in a season: 27
- Most laps completed and led: 307,836 and 51,406
21. J.D. McDuffie went 653 races without a win.
When we think of winless records, we might first recall the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their 26 straight losses, but that’s actually small beans compared to J.D. McDuffie. He started racing in 1963 and never won a single race in a career that spanned nearly 30 years.
22. NASCAR racing stats show that the fastest ever qualifying lap had a record speed of 212.809 mph.
This achievement was attained in Talladega in 1987 by Bill Elliot. Due to changes in regulations and the addition of restrictor plates, the record might never be broken.
23. Jeff Gordon made 797 consecutive starts, the most of any driver.
In his 23-year career, Jeff Gordon made 797 consecutive starts, the most of any driver. If we compare him with footballers, we could call him the Brett Favre of NASCAR.
Gordon holds other records, too, including all-time lead lap finishes with 588, most road course wins with 9, and most restrictor-plate wins with 12.
24. One of the most impressive NASCAR stats includes Ned Jarrett’s 1965 Darlington win by 14 laps.
With so many photo finishes and close wins, we have to go back to 1994 to find the last time someone lapped a race, making Jarrett’s 14 laps margin unthinkable and unbreakable.
25. The largest number of cars that have started a race in NASCAR history is 82.
We have to go back in time for this one, as well. In 1951, at the Southern 500, 82 cars started the race, and pole-sitter Frank Mundy finished last, which means he lost 81 spots, a record that will never be beaten.
With NASCAR’s history spanning over 70 years, many events have shaped the sport. Richard Petty is arguably the best driver ever to step into a car, and one of the most beloved drivers, Dale Earnhardt, lost his life doing what he loves.
We’re still waiting to see which active driver will rewrite the history books and put their name in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Who has the most wins in NASCAR history?
Richard Petty has the most wins in NASCAR, with 200. Far behind him at No.2 is David Pearson, with 105.
Has any NASCAR driver won at all tracks?
Kyle Busch is currently the only driver that has won at all tracks. That might change as tracks are being added and removed from the calendar.
Who was the first female NASCAR driver?
Sara Christian is credited with being the first female NASCAR driver. She raced in the first “Strictly Stock” race in Charlotte, NC, in 1949 and finished 14th.
Has any woman ever won a NASCAR race?
Unfortunately, no woman has ever won a NASCAR race. The best results include a pole position by Danica Patrick in 2013, and a 6th spot achieved by Patrick in 2014, and Janet Guthrie in 1977.
Who is the winningest active NASCAR driver?
Kyle Busch has the most wins of all the active drivers. He currently has 59 wins, but Kevin Harvick’s NASCAR stats show he is right behind him, with 58. Both drivers are far away from Richard Petty’s 200 wins.
Who were the first NASCAR drivers?
While many drivers were racing in the first races of NASCAR, we will mention some of the most important ones. Red Byron won the first race on the beach road course at Daytona and was the first “Strictly Stock” champion in 1949.
Jim Roper won the first “Strictly Stock” race in 1949, and Bob Flock got the first pole position. Sara Christian, the first woman in the competition, also made NASCAR history in that same race.