"The Good 'Ol Boy Sport?
What Short Memories We Have"
by Dave Faries
April 11, 2006
The Dallas Morning News
ran a piece reiterating the myth that NASCAR was once a
regional–specifically southeastern–sport that has suddenly expanded into
the major urban markets. Strangely, even NASCAR officials adhere to this
and other myths (such as the disregard for non-southern drivers).
Long-time fans are not so much disenchanted with the sport due to
expansion into “new” markets. Rather, they are concerned with the common
template, which turns Fords, Chevys, Dodges and, presumably, the
upcoming Toyota entry into fictions, and with the emphasis on marketable
faces. The loss of traditional circuits, well, consider that the same as
the outcry over destroying classic baseball stadiums.
Now, back to the original point.
In the 1940s and 50s, this “regional” sport raced in: California (places
like Los Angeles, Oakland, San Mateo, San Jose), Arizona (Phoenix and
Tucson), New York (including Rochester, Syracuse, Long Island), New
Jersey, Connecticut, Oregon (Portland), Washington (Bremerton),
Pennsylvania, Ohio (Columbus), Indiana, Michigan (Detroit and Grand
Rapids), South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois (yep, Chicago),
Wisconsin, Oklahoma (OK City), Nevada (Las Vegas). Oh, and
Canada–including once in Toronto.
In 1951, 21 of the 41 points
races took place north of the Mason-Dixon and west of the Mississippi.
In fact, NASCAR’s concentration in the southeast began during the latter
half of the 1960s and was solidified when Winston started sponsoring the
series in the early 1970s and asked the governing body to shorten its
schedule. Even then, southern California tracks remained until L.A.
sprawl forced developers to turn Ontario and Riverside into housing
projects. Last race outside of L.A. before the new track? 1988. What
short memories we have.
Nothing existed before
television, anyway. And the networks refused to carry live NASCAR races
until 1979. As for southern drivers…let’s see: Neil Cole from New
Jersey, Lou Figaro of L.A., Lloyd Moore from New York, Johnny Mantz
out of Long Beach. Hey, the first driver to die in a NASCAR race was
Larry Mann of Yonkers; I do believe that’s in New York. NASCAR
featured three female drivers the first year (1949). There have been
foreign drivers–and, once, foreign cars–as well as a couple of black
I just wish some writer would,
one day, explore the mythology of NASCAR and why officials and the media
continue to perpetuate the myths. Final example: About a decade ago
The Wall Street Journal claimed that Darrell Waltrip’s deal
with Tide in the late ’80s was the first sponsorship outside of auto
parts, gas products and beer. Guess that Holly Farms chicken car almost
three decades earlier or the Coca-Cola and Army cars in the ’70s didn’t
How quick we forget . . . . .
(Ed. Some updates and