NASCAR 75 Years

by Al Pearce, Mike Hembree, Kelly Crandall, Jimmy Creed

“Except for maybe the very first race or two, there’s never been anything exactly ‘stock’ about ‘stock cars.’ NASCAR meant well when it included the word ‘stock’ in its corporate name, but ‘sorta-stock’ might have been more appropriate.”

Capturing notable moments in NASCAR 75 years-long history along with some of the cars, the people, races, and the tracks on which they were run is this book’s mission. Whether you are a longtime follower of the sport seeking to relive and reminisce or one who is curious to learn about this type of motoring competition, this well organized and presented book admirably suits either need.

Segments covering a decade are organized chronologically and have different authors. Veteran motorsport journalist and broadcaster Mike Hembree covers the beginning of the forties and fifties in one segment, followed by a segment each for the sixties and seventies. Kelly Crandall tackles the other extreme of decades with three segments from the millennium, the twenty-teens, and “The 2020s and Beyond.” Al Peace tells of the 1970s, while the highlights of the 1980s are related by Jimmy Creed. Each segment concludes with up to half-a-dozen mini-profiles of that particular decade’s dominant championship winning drivers.  

Pearce writes some of the pithiest narrative including the introductory quote used above. He then goes on to observe that while the first modifications were essentially safety-related, as time went on, with more and more technology and tweaks being implemented, it resulted in ever more costly purpose-built race cars afforded by better financed teams that even included purpose-building a different car for each different track in a very expensive, indeed, attempt to be successful.

The generously illustrated pages show off the work of numerous photographers as those credits show. The images are printed large on the page to best convey whatever each shooter was trying to capture. Of the page pair below, on the left is Geoff Bodine leading Bobby Allison and “The King” Richard Petty around the NASCAR-owned Martinsville Speedway in Virginia during April 1984. His win was a significant one “for his car owner Rick Hendrick” for at the time Hendrick Motorsports was at risk of having to shut its doors. 

On the facing page, above, the proximity of one car to others is very obvious. Nearest the camera in the Piedmont Airline-sponsored (among others as all the sponsor stickers clearly show) #44 is Terry Labonte. Labonte started in “655 consecutive races, a record that stood until 2002.” 

Crandall takes up the technology and the tragedies that finally led to implementing HANS driver protection devices, the SAFER wall developed by Dr. Dean Sicking, and the succession of car improvements since the millennium including the Car of Tomorrow followed by the Next Gen cars. She also tells a delightful story about the time Richard Petty had been invited, post retirement, to run some nostalgia-filled pre-race laps. He enjoyed his fast laps so much that at last he had to be black flagged to clear the track so the race itself could be run. 

She also has the pleasure of writing about the celebratory NASCAR Hall of Fame that opened in 2010, seen on the right hand page of the page-pair above. Photo on bottom right is of a feature inside the Hall of Fame recreating the 33-degree banked turns of the Talladega Superspeedway on which up to 18 NASCAR cars from its now 75-year history can be displayed at any one time. Image on left hand page shows the surprise winner of 2011 Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne, crossing the finish line—his one and only win, before or since, out of 187 starts.

NASCAR 75th Anniversary offers plenty to look at and read about on its well-produced and nicely-indexed pages.

NASCAR 75 Years
by Al Pearce, Mike Hembree, Kelly Crandall, Jimmy Creed
Motorbooks imprint of Quarto, 2022
224 pages, 133 b/w & 166 color images, hardcover 
List Price: $50
ISBN 13: 978 0 7603 8005 5

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