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"If the word "NASCAR" is in your wedding vows ... you might be a redneck."

The most popular form of auto racing in the United States. NASCAR is an acronym for the "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing."

The organization (and sport of stock car racing) has its roots in the American Deep South during the Prohibition period, when 'moonshiners', as they were called, would soup up their cars so they could outrun the police. After Prohibition ended, these moonshiners found themselves out of a job and instead of looking for more illegal activity, began racing against each other. It also has roots in Daytona Beach, Florida, where some people would race on the hard-packed sand beaches. Many speed records were in fact broken on those beaches. By the 1940s, these races with the former moonshiners became popular entertainment in the rural areas of the South. After years of having to put up with (some) unscrupulous and (more) unorganized promoters, several drivers and promoters, headed by Bill France Sr, founded the organization in Daytona Beach in 1948. It's that rare American sports organization that has never had its predominance challenged (viz. USFL, World Hockey Association, etc.), which is testimony to France's business clout, vision, and force of personality.

The early years of NASCAR were mostly a period of growth. Most of the early tracks were short dirt tracks in the South. The first race of the "Strictly Stock" series (later to be known as the Sprint Cup, but then accurately named as the cars were stock right down to column-shifted transmissions whose linkages could not be rushed) was held in 1949 at Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. The first series champion was a man by the name of Red Byron. The only track still on the series schedule from the 1949 season is Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The first completely paved track and the first over one mile long was Darlington Speedway, which had its first race in 1950. In 1957, the new "fuelie" Chevrolets cleaned up so thoroughly that NASCAR banned fuel injection (a ban that persisted until the 2012 season, almost 20 years after the last carbureted road cars disappeared from US new-car showrooms); in retaliation GM not only pulled out but maneuvered the Automobile Manufacturers' Association trade group into banning its members from supporting racing in any way (a ban that was worked around within a year and gone within the decade). Then, in 1959, everything changed. For years, the Daytona event had been run on the Beach-Road Course, a half-beach, half-road course that used half of the Florida State Road A1A. Because the event was attracting large crowds -- and because the occasional accident where said crowds became human guard rails -- there needed to be a permanent track to race on, so the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway was built, and the first running of what would be known as the Daytona 500 was run on February 22, 1959. Today, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR's Super Bowl and World Series, unique in that it's the first event on their yearly schedule.

The 1960s and 70s were a time of growth for the organization and the sport of stock car racing. This is the time when the sport and organization really began to gain notice around the country and the world. Despite some races run in the Northern United States (and Canada) in the early years, stock car racing was still considered a Southern sport. However, with TV coverage, the sport began to find some popularity outside the South. In the 1960s, the Daytona 500 was usually taped and presented as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports package. However, in 1974, ABC began to broadcast the race itself live, starting with the halfway point. The first live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race was in 1979 by CBS, which included a memorable last-lap crash between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, which resulted in a fist fight between the two drivers and Donnie's brother Bobby. The 60s and 70s were dominated by Richard Petty, who later became known as "The King", winning 7 Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championships and 200 races total.

The 1980s saw a slow, steady rise in NASCAR's popularity, in part thanks to a driver by the name of Dale Earnhardt, who won four Winston Cup championships in that decade. During that decade, the cars became less and less "stock" and turned into actual, purpose-built race cars; the days of buying a car and driving it to the track to race were over. The sport's slow expansion would turn into a boom in the 1990s, thanks largely to a driver by the name of Jeff Gordon, who was from -- horrors! -- California and -- horrors! -- clean-cut, photogenic, and a good interview. In 2001, NASCAR lost Earnhardt, its biggest star, who had won seven Cup championships by that time. He was killed in a wreck in the final lap of the Daytona 500, which forced the organization to review its safety policies.

Today, NASCAR is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world, with audiences and drivers from around the world.

NASCAR is frequently the victim of Snark Bait and Public Medium Ignorance, ranging from light jabs (such as the worn-to-death "left turn contest" crack that provides the page image for the latter) to vicious attacks on both the sport and its fans. A backronym popularized among NASCAR's vocal Hatedom is "Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks", which perfectly crystallizes the most common complaints about the sport. Because of its roots in the rural South, NASCAR is heavily associated with stereotypes of that region (see Talladega Nights, an Affectionate Parody of the sport, for one of the canonical examples). Even if you are an Ivy League grad from Boston, admitting to being a NASCAR fan is an easy way to get called a redneck, although this is becoming less the case as the sport's popularity spreads beyond the South. In addition, a fair number of motorsport fans (particularly European ones, among them the hosts of Top Gear) like to contend that NASCAR requires less skill than other motorsports like Formula One and rally racing, as nearly all of the races take place on oval circuits instead of the more technical road courses found outside NASCAR. While the courses may be "simpler" from a technical standpoint, they require a completely different set of skills to race successfully on; a fair number of Formula One drivers have floundered when making the jump to NASCAR because they underestimated how big a shift this is.


Tropes commonly associated with NASCAR include:

  • Alliterative Name: Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Scott Speed, Aric Almirola, and Junior Johnson just to name a few,
  • Anyone Can Die: Fatalities in NASCAR haven't been nearly as frequent as in Formula One, but they have happened,Sadly true in the early years, particularly from about 1959-1964, when the factory horsepower race went into high gear and and new super speedways like Daytona and Charlotte allowed speeds to increase dramatically while safety standards lagged far behind technology. Drivers basically wrestled two ton machines at upwards of 150 mph in vehicles with manual steering, drum brakes that were prone to fading, no fuel cells, no inner liner tires, rudimentary roll cages, no window netting, no flame retardant driver's uniforms (they existed, but were not mandatory), basic seat belts and essentially football helmets. Serious injuries and deaths were not uncommon in this era.
    • With Dale Earnhardt's death in the 2001 Daytona 500 as the most infamous. Ironically, Earnhardt's death would lead to NASCAR essentially inverting this trope, as the safety measures that have been developed in the years since his death, both in improved driver restraints and track crash barriers, have made the possibility of a driver death minuscule. However, these head and neck restraint systems were not mandatory until the end of 2001, when another driver was killed.
    • Some other significant drivers who have also died-
      • Richie Evans who played a similar role in Nascar's modified division had been killed in a crash in 1985 at Martinsville. He had a total of 9 championships and had over 100 wins in the series sometimes racing more then once in a day and winning all the races.
      • Alan Kulwicki the winner of the 1992 championship died after a plane crash in 1993. Ironically, Davey Allison would die a few months later in a similar way, in a helicopter on the way to the track.
      • Incredibly averted at Pocono in 2010 when Elliot Sadler went face-first into the wall (effectively hitting a building) at 160 miles per hour, on a nearly perpendicular angle. The front of the car, including the engine, was ripped completely off and scattered across the track, the estimated G-forces were the highest seen in a car accident, and the vehicle itself went from about 160mph to about 20mph in a braking distance of three feet. And Sadler got out of the car and walked away under his own power, though he needed to lie down to get his breath again afterwards.
  • Ax Crazy: Kyle Busch, intentionally putting Ron Hornaday into the wall at 140 mph in a truck series race at Texas in 2011. Busch had had a long history of similar but less severe incidents that could at best labeled him an overly aggressive driver.
  • Badass Driver: There have been so many, but Dale Earnhardt is probably the first one that comes to mind.
    • Cale Yarborough known as one of the toughest and strongest drivers of all time. Partially, for his ability to win with "slow cars" that were very hard to drive. But what really makes him even more famously Badass was his fight with both the Allison Brothers during the 1979 Daytona 500 which was the first NASCAR 500 mile race to be broadcast on live television in its entirety. Combined with the fact that a blizzard swept through the East Coast, NASCAR acquired lots of fans who first witnessd Cale and Donnie Allison race hard for the lead on the last lap, wreck each other, then get out and fight. It also qualifies as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for both Cale and NASCAR.
      • Not mention losing his father at age 10, sneaking into the second ever Southern 500 at age 12. Being a star High school football player and even played Semi-Pro ball for four seasons. And racing and football were both very dangerous in those days.
      • Cale was also a Golden Gloves Boxer, which may have been a Chekhov's Skill for the above mentioned fight.
      • By the way, his is also the sport's first Three-time Consecutive Champion. He did this against the likes of Richard Petty and David Pearson.
      • In 2012 Cale Yarborough was elected into the NASCAR hall of fame and was said to be the toughest driver in the history of Nascar.
    • Ricky Rudd was a driver who was not afraid of anyone or anything on and off the track.
      • Ricky Rudd holds the record for most consecutive starts of any other driver.
      • Ricky Rudd won a summer race after the cooling system broke in the car. He was given an oxygen bottle and taken to the hospital after the interview.
    • In the recent era, Tony Stewart is the epitome of this. He even owns his own team, and his cars win races and contend for the championship.
    • The Busch Brothers seem to flirt with this trope, but how been known to act like spoiled brats with they don't get their way which overall subverts this trope for them.
    • Ditto for Harvick.
    • Mark Martin might also qualify as a Badass Grandpa due to his excellent physical shape and competitveness.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Carl Edwards is suspected to have another layer below his friendly public apperance, as seen in a shoving incident with teammate Matt Kenseth in 2007.
  • Boring Invincible Hero:
    • Jimmie Johnson, during the period when he won five Sprint Cup championships in a row.
    • Jeff Gordon may have been this in the 90's. Jimmie doing so well might have rescued him from the scrappy heap. That is, if you consider Jeff Gordon The Scrappy.
    • Not likely, He hit the wall rather hard at Charlotte, and was demoted 5 places in the Cup standings
    • Matt Kenseth in 2003. He won the championship, led the points standings for 33 consecutive weeks, and did it all while winning only one race. As a result, the Chase for the Sprint Cup (which went into effect the following season) was often mockingly referred to as "the Matt Kenseth Rule", implying that his championship season was so boring that a playoff format had to be implemented to prevent something like it from ever happening again.
  • Breather Episode: The All-Star race.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Gentlemen! START! YOUR! ENGINES!" ("Drivers" if Danica Patrick or one of the other female drivers is in the race)
    • Darrell Waltrip's "Boogity boogity boogity! Let's go racin', boys!" (and variants thereof) at the drop of the green flag at the start of Sprint Cup races.
    • "The Big One", an enormous chain-reaction wreck that takes out many cars at once. They can happen at any track, but Daytona and Talladega are especially known for them (see Power Limiter below).
  • Crew of One: During a Truck series race in 2002, driver Morgan Shepherd changed his own tires.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome The Daytona 500 in 1979. After the last lap Cale Yarborough and then Bobby and Donnie Allison collided and got into a fight. It was the first NASCAR race to be broadcast live with flag to flag coverage.
  • Deep South / Flyover Country: The associated stereotypes are commonly associated with the sport and especially its fans, to the point of serious Flanderization. Unfortunately, when you see some of the fans, it's easy to see why they get the labels.
    • Especially when Fox started to lampshade this through the use of country music in their broadcasts. Now they're just using the NFL on FOX music.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Jimmie Johnson has hands-down the best car in NASCAR, especially since it's financed by Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon. So why crew chief Chad Knaus was caught illegally altering the car prior to the 2006 Daytona 500 is anyone's guess. Knaus was suspended, the car was impounded, Johnson had to start the race from the rear of the field in a backup car -- and he won the race anyway. Similar circumstances happened after the 2012 Daytona 500, where Johnson crashed on lap 2, and the car was found to have illegal modifications afterwards.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: For minor sheet metal damage anyway, which occurs fairly often.
    • Bear-bond is this turned Up to Eleven, as it can be used to basically rebuild lost sections of sheet metal that would cause aerodynamic issues at larger tracks. (at short tracks, the effects of aerodynamic forces are minimal enough to allow the cars to maintain minimum speed without sheet metal covering the front end.)
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The Camping World Truck Series started in 1995 with almost all races on short tracks that did not have fully functional pit roads. As a replacement for pit stops there was a "halftime break" during which the race was stopped and pit stops were made with no position changes. The format was abandoned with the advent of superspeedways in the late 90s.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • The numerous and seemingly yearly changes to the Chase and points systems.
    • Anytime there is a crew chief change, driver swap or crew swap due to lack of chemistry or performance.
    • Any changes made to the cars to make the races more exciting.
      • This has become extremely evident at the 2012 Daytona 500, where the cars have vast restrictions, keeping them from doing the controversial two-car tandem that was prevalent at the previous year's race (for proof compare the DRIVE 4 COPD 300 (Nationwide race at Speedweeks) to the Daytona 500, both events of which are held at the same racetrack, at the request of the fans (Fan meddling anyone?).
    • The officials are accused of using the caution flags to keep the field together and make racing more exciting. Most of the drivers feel they are there to entertain people anyway so outside of a select few they don't seem to care too much.
  • Fail O'Suckyname: Dick Trickle.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • Russell Phillips was killed in a crash during a 1995 race at Charlotte, NC; the wreck basically pulverized him against the catch fence.[1] It led to the invention of the Earnhardt bar to prevent the roof from coming apart as easily.
    • Don McTavish's horrific fatal crash at Daytona in 1969. Tape-delayed race broadcasts warned viewers that accident footage would be shown.
    • Fireball Roberts' crash at the 1964 World 600 at Charlotte.
    • Before the window net was mandatory the driver's head could be seen hanging out of the car. Indeed, the window net was made mandatory because of an incident where Richard Petty slid halfway out of the car IN THE MIDDLE OF A BARREL-ROLL. (which he somehow survived)
  • Fox: The first network to promote this sport in primetime.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Alan Kulwicki, NASCAR's last owner-driver champion with a single car team.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • Hall of Famer Richard Petty once drove a then-Winston Cup race with a broken back.
    • His fellow Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip ran two laps (It Makes Sense in Context) in a race with a shattered left femur.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In an unintentional example, while the 2012 Daytona 500 was under a caution flag, on lap 160, Juan Pablo Montoya's car broke and he crashed into a jet blower[2]. Since it was not under green where drivers are allowed to pass, only a stationary camera caught the incident and the impact itself was out of the picture. Both the truck and his car burst into flames in a way rarely seen in racing.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Kurt Busch will get mad at something in a race, every race.
  • I Call Her "Vera": Not too common, but sometimes race teams do name their cars.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Most detractors become at least casual fans after attending their first race in person.
  • Karma Houdini: Dale Earnhardt spinning out leader Terry Labonte to win at Bristol in 1999, among many other examples.
  • Last-Name Basis: Sometimes when announcers mention a list of drivers by their first and last names for current race standings, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is referred to as "Earnhardt, Jr." Similar cases exist with drivers who have common first names, like Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon.
  • Loophole Abuse: Lots of this in the earlier years, with Smokey Yunick becoming especially notorious for this.
    • In the 2002 All-Star race, drivers had to make a pit stop during the first segment. Jeff Burton made his on the 40th of 40 laps, which was possible only because he was assigned the pit stall that was before the start/finish line, and so he had to drive a much shorter distance at pit road speed limit.
  • Mock Millionaire: Convicted con artist/team owner Angela Harkness.
  • Must Have Nicotine David Pearson and Dick Trickle were famous for smoking in the cars. Both drivers had a cigarette lighter and ashtray in the car and had custom fit their helmets so they were big enough to get a cigarette in.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg:
    • Before a race in the mid-90s, the person giving the command at the start of the race did it as "Gentlemen, and Jimmy Spencer, start your engines!"
    • Matt Martin before the 2nd race of the 2005 Gatorade Duel: "Gentlemen, and Dad (Mark Martin), start your engines!"
    • At the 2012 Daytona 500, Darrell Waltrip said his signature catchphrase as, "Boogity boogity boogity! Let's go racin', boys and Danica [Patrick]!"
  • New Rules as the Plot Demands: NASCAR is guilty of this, especially as Jimmie Johnson kept winning championship after championship, and the Chase keeps getting tweaked to make it more "exciting". So far, the chase has been through three iterations. That's about four points systems in less than a decade if you're keeping count.
    • Less noticably, NASCAR has made other moves, whether regarding technical details (spoiler height, weight, et cetera) or track procedures (no racing back to the caution, and pit road speed limits), and can adjust these as it sees fit.
      • To be fair to NASCAR many of those rules are for safety.
  • No One Could Survive That:
    • Michael Mcdowell at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008
    • Dale Earnhardt in the 1996 Die Hard 500
      • Inverted with his fatal crash which was said to have looked relatively less serious and hard compared to other NASCAR crashes, like the wreck on lap 173 that led to the race being red-flagged for a lengthy cleanup. Such as his above mentioned wreck and...
    • Tony Stewart from the the lap 173 wreck was not seriously injured despite his car flipping over twice in midair after being pushed over Robby Gordon's car.
    • Kyle Busch in a Nationwide Series Race at Talladega in 2007
    • Ricky Rudd's horrible flip at Daytona in 1984.
      • In 2007 he got into what appeared to be a minor wreck but had broken his ribs and shoulder causing him to have to sit out.
    • Jerry Nadeau was almost killed in 2003 at Richmond, after his throttle hung going into a turn. The head trauma he sustained ultimately ended his career and led to the installation of SAFER Barrier in the outside walls of every turn at the oval tracks.
  • Only Known by Initials: Subverted with J.J. Yeley, whose full name is Christopher Beltram Hernandez Yeley.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome:
    • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is this big time. However his father is considered by many as the greatest of all time.
    • Anyone related by Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace or Darrell Waltrip.
    • Subverted with the Busch brothers. Although Kurt won the Sprint Cup Championship fairly early in his career, he only has one more Cup victory and seven more poles than younger brother Kyle. Not mention how often Kyle wins in the Nationwide and Truck Series.
    • The finish to the 2007 Daytona 500 is a few ways depending who you talk to about it. The ultra-close finish (0.020 sec.) of Kevin Harvick over Mark Martin could be overshadowed by the huge wreck behind them, or vice versa. The same can be said about Clint Bowyer crossing the finish line on his roof while on fire.
    • Michael Waltrip's first win at the Daytona 500 in 2001, overshadowed by Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash on turn 4.
  • Power Limiter: Restrictor plates function as these, limiting the car's maximum speed. They're only used at Daytona and Talledaga because of those tracks' size and steeply banked turns, which keeps cars from going off the tracks but causes cars to bunch up and almost inevitably leads to a Big One.
  • Product Placement:
    • A good 50% of a race car's paint job is gonna be covered by advertisements. The drivers' and pit crews' fire suits are likewise smothered in brand logos.
    • Almost every major race has a big-time sponsor whose name is mentioned right along with the track.
    • Most of the time, when a car comes in for fuel, it's going to be called "Sunoco racing fuel", with the company logo prominently displayed on the gas cans.
      • And the checkered flag. (Formerly, it was 'Unocal racing fuel' with the 76 logo on the flag.)
    • "ServiceMaster Clean Caution" ...seriously. Someone sponsors the friggin CAUTION LAPS!
    • Often sponsors and/or owners will advise the drivers to, during interviews, mention the sponsor or manufacturer at the first given opportunity ("Our U.S. Army Chevrolet was performing well today...", for instance)!
    • Whenever a driver takes a drink of ANYTHING on camera, 99 times out of 100 you can expect the logo on the bottle/can to be carefully pointed toward the camera. Rumor has it every time they do that they get paid a bonus by that sponsor.
  • Public Medium Ignorance / Snark Bait: "Go Fast. Turn Left".
  • Rainmaking: A popular joke among fans and broadcasters is that "if your area is experiencing an extended drought, just build a racetrack and invite the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to town." This is due to the unusually high number of rainouts NASCAR has had in recent years, with the most notable being the 2012 Daytona 500, which had to be postponed to the next day due to rain. In 2010, the Aaron's 312 race in the Nationwide Series at Talladega was rained out, and pushed back to the next day, which happened to be the scheduled race day for the Sprint Cup Series race, the Aaron's 499, creating a unique doubleheader. Many drivers and pit crews participated in both races.
  • Super Ringer: Subverted on road courses. Road course specialists from other forms of racing rarely beat the regulars, whose experience from entry-level low-banked short ovals translates well to road courses.
  • Stop Helping Me!: Sometimes drivers will complain over the radio during the race about when their crew chief tries to motivate them with a few positive words or lap times. In a 2011 race, Clint Bowyer didn't want to hear motivational chatter, he just wanted to hear lap times.
    • Jimmie Johnson recently told his crew chief Chad Knaus to stop with the cheerleading as it's not helping was just somewhat Narm-filled. Knaus also told him lap times during a race after each lap, and Jimmie responded along the lines of, "if you don't stop that, I'll come down pit road and choke you."
    • Also happens if a spotter does a bad job helping his driver navigate through wreckage.
  • Technology Marches On: Originally, the sorts of cars in these kinds of races were like the cars on the roads. But some bans on unfair cutting-edge tech were not lifted even when the tech became common. NASCAR cars were required to have carburetors long after most cars on American streets used fuel injection. Recently, they just announced that fuel injection (banned since the late 1950s!) will come in 2012, so finally they got the message.
  • The Empire: Hendrick Motorsports. Ten championships... and each one made rednecks cry. Not to mention their expansive R&D program[3], which supplied the engines and chassis that Tony Stewart used to win the 2011 Sprint Cup.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Field-fillers, aka start-and-park teams. Teams that start races with the intention to retire within a few laps, as not to risk damage to their cars, or not to pay for extra sets of tires.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: It is always the legendary Junior Johnson.
  • Younger and Hipper: The long list of drivers in their early 20s ascending to NASCAR's top series during the late 90s and early 00s.
    • Inverted in the mid 90's due to teams not wanting a young driver wrecking their cars, opting for older, more experienced drivers. It kinda becomes Fridge Logic when you realize some of those drivers deemed too young to get a Full-time Winston/Sprint Cup ride are now too old. And as stated directly above, the long list of young guys force the older drivers into lower racing series or part-time rides in the top-level, mostly racing in the back and/or barely qualifying for races.

Notes

  1. See his article at Wikipedia if you want the details; YouTube has a video of the crash.
  2. a truck with a jet engine-powered air dryer used to dry the track after rain or spill cleanups
  3. which has become very common among all Cup teams lately, to the point where most of the sport is dominated by four or five of these massive R&D collectives
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