NASCAR has always had its fair share of weird stories and interesting occurrences. Here’s a list of 99 odd happenings and fun little bits about the United States’ most popular racing series.
- Lee Petty entered the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock race at Charlotte in 1949 in a Buick he borrowed from a friend. Lee’s ‘pit crew’, if you could call it one, consisted of his sons Richard, 11, and Maurice, 10. Lee upended the car during the event, forcing him to replace the car and hike home.
- NASCAR occasionally allowed foreign marques to compete in select races in the 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, open top cars were permitted at NASCAR’s inaugural road race, held in 1954 at the Linden Airport in New Jersey. At all other ‘international’ races, however, only hardtops were permitted.
- During a race in Columbia, South Carolina in 1952, a fan in a pedestrian car attempted to cross the track and was struck by E.C. Ramsey’s Ford, taking Ramsey out of the race. Ramsey, unhurt, hopped out of his wrecked car and pummeled the drunkard until cops arrived.
- In 1976, two NASCAR cars were invited to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The cars were popular with the French crowd, but neither did very much. One of them, the #4 Dodge Charger of Hershel McGriff and Doug McGriff, blew up after two laps. The other, the #90 Ford Torino of Dick Brooks, Dick Hutcherson, and local Marcel Mignot, made it 104 laps before it, too, broke.
- The only driver to win in his only start is Marvin Burke, who won a race at Oakland in 1951.
- Window nets began appearing around the mid-1960s and were optional until mid-1970.
- A driver by the name of J. Christopher competed in the inaugural NASCAR road race at Linden. Christopher dropped out of the race halfway through. Christopher was part of an amateur sports car group and would have lost his amateur status if he’d not entered under a false name. J. Christopher’s real name is Conrad Janis – yes, the same Conrad Janis as the one who played Mindy’s dad on Mork & Mindy.
- Joey Logano attempted – but did not qualify for – a 250-lap ASA race at the Lanier National Speedway when he was 13. He would qualify for several races that year in the series after he’d turned 14.
- Clint Bowyer almost hung up on Richard Childress’ secretary when Childress was calling him to inquire about Bowyer joining his driver development program. Bowyer believed it to be one of his friends playing a joke on him.
- Carl Edwards used business cards to promote his driving abilities.
- Jimmy Ingram of Jacksonville, Florida ran three Cup races in his career, one in 1951, one in 1952, and one in 1980. This 28-year gap is the largest between starts for a Cup driver.
- The record for most DNQs by a driver who never qualified for a NASCAR Cup race is likely St. James Davis, who attempted 16 Cup races without ever qualifying for one. All of these events were combination events with the NASCAR West Series, where West drivers could attempt to time their way in to Cup races.
- NASCAR actually ran four races in Japan. The fourth race was held at Motegi in 1999, and counted for NASCAR West Series points. It was won by Kevin Richards. Poor attendance led to it being a one-off.
- Lake Speed won the 1978 World Karting Championships over such names as Stefan Bellof and Ayrton Senna. He spent 1979 mulling his options and refining his skills, and made his Winston Cup debut in January 1980 at Riverside, meaning, for all intents and purposes, Speed jumped right from karting to NASCAR Cup.
- Jimmy Florian won a race in Canfield, Ohio in 1950 without a shirt on. It was an extremely hot day, and there were no rules saying he had to wear a shirt.
- Herman Beam received NASCAR’s first black flag during a qualifying race at Daytona in 1960 for not wearing a helmet. He ignored the black flag for about eight laps, but eventually came into the pits and was parked.
- In 1953, at the age of 12, Morgan Shepherd bought his first car. It cost him $12.50, two flying squirrels, a gray squirrel, and a 20 gauge shotgun.
- Race cars have ended up in some weird places over the years. Lee Petty once found himself spinning onto a baseball diamond during a race at Soldier Field in Chicago, Wilbur Rakestraw once plummeted into a cesspool after going off at Lakewood Speedway’s third turn, and Rich Woodland, Jr. flipped his car into the parking area at Sonoma Raceway in 1994.
- The tire bundles on Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR layout are composed of more than 25000 tires.
- John Andretti tested a Lincoln Mark VIII at Charlotte in 1996. Lincoln was planning on possibly re-entering the Cup Series in the near future, but parent company Ford decided they wanted to only enter cars with the Ford name attached.
- Toyota debuted in NASCAR in the International Sedan (later Goody’s Dash) Series in 1982. It used the Corolla model. The driver of that Corolla was Davey Allison.
- Toyota later returned to NASCAR in the Goody’s Dash Series (again) with the Celica Coupe model in 2000. It was introduced back to NASCAR by road racer Eric Van Cleef. Van Cleef soon returned to road racing, but the Celica Coupe proved popular with drivers, and in 2003, Toyota won the manufacturer’s title with Robert Huffman.
- The tallest driver to ever attempt a NASCAR race is Gregory Vandersluis, an SCCA driving instructor who was entered for the 2017 Xfinity race at Road America for the Obaika team. As was typical of Obaika, they withdrew, and Gregory, who stands at a monumental six foot eight, never raced.
- The shortest driver to ever attempt a NASCAR race is likely Rico Abreu, who drove for Thorsport in the Truck Series for two seasons. He stands at four foot four.
- Cup drivers are not required to have a standard driver’s license.
- Driver Dink Widenhouse crashed his #B-29 car during a race at Darlington in 1956, and suffered a cut arm. Dink noticed he was bleeding while he climbed out of his car, passed out from the shock, and became entangled in the safety belts. When safety crews reached Dink, who was otherwise uninjured, he was upside-down angled against the car.
- Datsuns were mainstays in the Dash Series in the mid-80s, as were Nissans when Nissan acquired Datsun later in the decade.
- Mazda ran in the NASCAR Mexico Series for several years using the Mazda6 model.
- Rodrigo Peralta drove the field’s only Ford to the NASCAR Mexico title in 2013.
- Jeff Gordon, by his own admission, ran the 24h of Daytona in 2017, which his team won, for free.
- No one knows what happened to Bob Pronger, a NASCAR competitor in the 50s. He disappeared early in 1971 and his fate remains unknown, though he’s suspected to have been a victim of the mafia.
- NASCAR pioneer Buddy Shuman died in 1955 when he fell asleep in a hotel holding a lit cigarette in his hand, leading to a fire. He died of smoke inhalation.
- Even when their usage was still commonplace in NASCAR, triple digit numbers were not allowed at the Darlington Raceway with very few exceptions.
- Driver Allan Clarke ran a car “numbered” R-D at a race in West Palm Beach in 1954.
- Car number X was also used on several occasions in the 50s, most notably by Rex White. Car number X can still be seen occasionally on short tracks. In fact, in some of the earliest races, cars did not require numbers.
- Other bizarre numbers, all of them used in the “old era” of the NASCAR Modifieds, include #7777, #10-10, #10%, and #L-M.
- No one knows the actual age of Red Farmer, a longtime part-timer in both NASCAR and ARCA who still ran sporadic dirt track events well into the 2000s. Birth certificates were still not mandatory and were sometimes not given out to the dirt-poor, and Farmer himself does not remember. Several sources give his DoB as October 15th, 1932, though Farmer seems to go with sometime in 1928.
- In 1951, Frank Mundy carpooled with Marshall Teague in order to get to a race in Gardena, California. Mundy didn’t have a car available, and rented a ’50 Chevy from a local dealership, which he used in the race to finish 11th. Mundy had to return the car at night so the employees didn’t notice the balded tires. However, they apparently did notice, to which Mundy said the alignment was probably out and left.
- The minnow pond that led to Darlington being so oddly shaped no longer exists.
- Kevin Harvick finished last for the first time, after almost 1100 races in NASCAR’s top 3 series, when he crashed out of the 2018 Coke 600.
- In 1956, Lee Petty took it upon himself to end a crash riddled race at the Tulsa Fairgrounds by snatching the red flag out of the flagman’s hand and waving drivers down. Conditions had been awful that day, and of the 13 starters, only seven were still running on lap 32, when Lee, who himself had just wrecked out, ended the race. The crowd was understandably not pleased, but eventually they left. The race was annulled and was not rescheduled.
- The NASCAR West Series has run the Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca on a few occasions, most recently in 2001.
- Fonty Flock passed the time during several races in 1952 by playing radio music.
- Carl Kiekhaefer reportedly once built a bonfire out of the engines of his business rivals, then danced around the flames.
- Superspeedway ringer Phil Barkdoll, who ran a NASCAR team for about 15 years, apparently started racing on a dare from a friend.
- Tim Flock suffered a concussion and was out for a month when a car ran over his head while he was napping before a race to be held in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1953.
- If his own word is to be believed, Greenville, South Carolina’s Jimmy Vaughn ran both the supporting Bama 400 Grand Touring race and the inaugural Alabama 500 at Talladega in 1969 on the same set of tires. He completed almost 750 miles combined.
- J.D. McDuffie used McCreary tires when he stunningly won the pole for a race at Dover in 1978. McCreary tires are, or at least were, notable for providing excellent speed but not lasting very long, and indeed, the tires wore out after eight laps. He lost the lead two laps later, and lost the engine on lap 80. It was still enough to qualify for the inaugural Busch Clash race for pole winners in 1979.
- McDuffie won $10,000 in the inaugural Clash despite finishing ninth (last). This was about double what McDuffie won in all of 1978.
- The inaugural Southern 500 in 1950 was interesting, to say the least. For example, Hershel McGriff of Oregon drove his car to the race and spent a few days sleeping on the county courthouse lawn.
- At the inaugural Southern 500, many drivers, not used to such a long race, brought an assortment of drinks, with one driver reportedly bringing some beer to drink during it. According to Buck Baker, the beer quickly foamed up, and the back of the car began to look like a washing machine as the booze sloshed out the window.
- Baker himself wrecked out on lap 176, and was shaken but all right. Baker had brought a jug of tomato juice, which went flying everywhere. When a first responder reached Baker, covered in red liquid and slumped, he thought Baker’d been beheaded.
- The #98jr of race winner Johnny Mantz’s infamous truck tires, on which he lapped the track at low speed but without a tire change – a several minute process at the time – were Firestones. They were the only Firestones on the grid.
- The inaugural Southern 500 only paid out money to the top 18 finishers and to a couple drivers who did well in qualifying. 19th place Joe Eubanks, despite finishing ahead of 56 other drivers, received nothing.
- According to some heavy cross-referencing, seven drivers flipped in the infamous pileup on the first lap of the NASCAR Modified-Sportsman race in 1960: #25 Bill Wark, #30 Larry Frank, #38 Ralph Earnhardt, #40 Stan Kross, #74 Dick Freeman, #84 Acey Taylor, and #89 Wendell Scott. Scott actually returned to the race.
- During a Busch North (now East) race at Lime Rock in 2005, Dale Quarterley flipped his car on the first lap after being stuffed into the tire wall, drove the wrecked car back to the pits, and eventually returned to the race. The car itself was reportedly very fast despite the flip, even capable of unlapping itself.
- In 1955, Tiny Lund flipped his car at the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway in Arkansas. The safety belts broke and Lund was thrown from the car, but thankfully he escaped with little more than a broken arm and bruises. Lund’s sponsor that day was Rupert Safety Belts.
- Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Michael Waltrip are tied for most confirmed flips by a NASCAR driver, with five, though Junior Johnson may have flipped as many as six times.
- Within a span of two races, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds and Daytona Beach and Road Course, in 1956, ten drivers flipped their cars. Sherman Clark, Jim Stapley, Bill Stammer, Bob Ruppert, and Howard Phillipi flipped at the Fairgrounds, and Buddy Krebs, Jim Wilson, Russ Truelove, Junior Johnson, and Ralph Moody flipped at Daytona Beach.
- Fireball Roberts’ real name was Glenn. He was nicknamed Fireball because he pitched a mean fastball in high school baseball.
- Tiny Lund’s real name was DeWayne. He was nicknamed Tiny due to his massive stature.
- NASCAR, like most sports, has its fair share of very embarrassing nicknames, such as Paul “Wimpy” Ervin and Thomas “Cotton” Priddy.
- Current Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman apparently does not like being called “Bowman the Showman”.
- ARCA/NASCAR Trucks driver Bo LeMastus’ real name is James. His nickname was coined by his grandfather when a young LeMastus took a photo with him while wearing a bow tie.
- At least four former NASCAR drivers are known to currently work in real estate, Boston Reid, Buckshot Jones, James Buescher, and Dylan Kwasniewski.
- Brandon Whitt reportedly works as a plumber, Ryan Hemphill’s got a factory job, and Todd Kleuver’s a roofer.
- Retired drivers with other racing-related jobs include Josh Wise, who works as a driver coach and fitness trainer, and Kyle Krisiloff, who organizes entertainment and music at Indianapolis.
- Former drivers who are now crew chiefs include Matt McCall (Jamie McMurray), Paul Wolfe (Brad Keselowski), Mario Gosselin (Alex Labbe), and Brian Keselowski (Jordan Anderson), though McCall does run very sporadic late model events.
- Former drivers who are now spotters include Tim Fedewa (Kevin Harvick), T.J. Majors (Joey Logano), and Kevin Hamlin (Alex Bowman), among many others.
- T.J. Majors met Dale Earnhardt, Jr. while racing online, and soon became Jr.’s protégé as he rose through the late model ranks.
- The winner of the equivalent to the All Star Open (the Atlanta Invitational) in 1986, Benny Parsons, did not transfer to the All Star Race (then called The Winston).
- Curley Barker ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of a NASCAR Grand National/Pacific Coast combination event at Portland Speedway in 1956, giving the win to Lloyd Dane. Barker, while far from the first or last NASCAR driver to lose the win on the last lap, is the only loser in a last lap pass to never actually score a win, either before the event or after.
- About an hour before the start of a Grand National race at the Wilson Speedway in North Carolina in 1959, the grandstands caught fire and burned down. No one was injured, but the crowd of 8800 had to stand to watch the event.
- Carl Kiekhaefer’s departure from NASCAR before the 1957 season was apparently so abrupt and done with so little fanfare that most pre-season entry lists still had him listed, even in the days leading up to the season’s first major event at Daytona Beach.
- The Riverside Raceway held 3 races in 1981, its traditional January race, its also-preexistent June race, and a new race in November, bookending the season. This would be the last year where the January race was held.
- A NASCAR Convertible race at the Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in North Carolina in 1956 ended with 181/200 laps complete because there was only one car still running. A jarring 14-car pileup had broken out on the backstretch, and only one driver, Curtis Turner, had survived the mayhem.
- Only one spectator has been killed during a Cup race: W.R. Thomasson, who died when he was struck by debris during a race at North Wilkesboro in 1957.
- The Goody’s Dash Series ran a dirt race in 2003 at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park in Georgia. Danny Bagwell won the 150-lap jaunt, which saw 15 caution flags.
- Curtis Turner piloted a Nash Ambassador to victory at the Charlotte Speedway in 1951. This would be the Nash manufacturer’s only win. The Nash Ambassador was usually seen as a joke by most drivers, making it almost fitting that the Ambassador, nicknamed the ‘upside-down bathtub’ by many, won its only NASCAR race on April 1st.
- Despite hosting the first NASCAR Strictly Stock race in 1949, the Charlotte Speedway only lasted a few more years. The 0.750 mile dirt oval closed after the 1956 season when Interstate 85, then still under construction, took its parking lot.
- New Hampshire International Speedway was supposed to be banked at 12 degrees, but the blueprints didn’t specify whether the 12 near the corners was 12 degrees or 12% grade. The construction crew assumed it was the latter, hence why it was only built to 8 degrees in the turns.
- Tom Cherry competed at the Daytona Beach and Road Course in 1953 with two numbers adorning his car. #38, the number placed on the sides, was the one he used for the event, and #120, the number placed on the roof, had been used when Cherry ran the Carrera Panamericana road race with the same vehicle.
- NASCAR had a Midget Division that operated until 1962.
- For a couple races in 1953, Tim Flock had a rhesus monkey by the name of Jocko Flocko in his car as a passenger. The fans loved Jocko, with whom Tim even scored a win, but after a freakout by Jocko cost Tim a race at Raleigh Speedway, Flock decided that Jocko had to go.
- The morning before the 1974 Winston 500, drivers and crews arrived at the Talladega Superspeedway to find that someone had filled their fuel tanks with sand and had cut brake lines. Despite the best efforts of investigators, the saboteur was never caught.
- The youngest driver to compete in NASCAR’s top series was Tommie Elliott, who competed at the Altamont-Schenectady Fairgrounds in 1951 at the age of 15 and a half. Elliott completed over 80% of the event, but whether or not he finished is unknown. He placed 15th out of 20 cars.
- The racing bug never left R.C. Zimmerman, who competed in five Cup races during the 1940s and 1950s. Zimmerman was still racing as of 2013, at the age of 94, though the series he competed in appears to not have been NASCAR-sanctioned. The oldest to compete in a NASCAR sanctioned series is Hershel McGriff, who ran a NASCAR K&N West race in 2018 at Tucson, aged 90.
- The 13th Southern 500, held in 1962 was listed as the 12th Renewal Southern 500 at the request of Joe Weatherly, who was famous for his belief in superstition and was considering not entering the race before the name change.
- Caesar’s Palace, the street circuit once used for Formula One which saw a Winston West in 1984 on a modified layout, was well-known for its smooth as glass surface. Organizers achieved this surface by having taxi drivers repeatedly lap the circuit.
- In 1963, the organizer of the Rebel 300 at Darlington changed the race’s format from a 219 lap race to two 110 lap races, with a 30 minute intermission. Drivers were scored using a confusing points system. Joe Weatherly was ruled the winner with 197.8 points, having finished first in segment one and second in segment two, Fireball Roberts, third place in both segments, was scored second with 191.7 points, and Richard Petty, the segment two winner, was third with 187.9 points. The format was never used again.
- NASCAR would occasionally run two races on the same day in its early seasons at different circuits. In fact, there were two instances in 1948, the inaugural NASCAR Modified season, where three races were held on the same day, all at different tracks, plus another instance that year where one track held a doubleheader and the other a single race on the same day, and yet another instance where two tracks held doubleheaders, both on the same day.
- In its early seasons, NASCAR also used to run a few races at the tail end of one year which would count for the next year’s points chase. In fact, on November 11th, 1956, two races were held, one at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina, and one at Willow Springs Raceway in California. The Hickory race counted for the 1956 points table, but the Willow Springs race counted for 1957 points.
- Six of the top seven finishers in a race held at the Augusta Raceway in November 1963 (counting for 1964 points) would die in car accidents before the end of January 1965. Winner Fireball Roberts, second place Dave MacDonald, third place Billy Wade, fourth place Joe Weatherly, and sixth place Jimmy Pardue were killed in racing accidents, while seventh place Larry Thomas was killed in a highway crash in January 1965. Fifth place Ned Jarrett was the only exception.
- Three NASCAR starter flags were taken into space in 2008 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. One of the flags was presented to Ryan Newman, the Daytona 500 winner that year, a second was put on display, and NASA kept the third.
- The NASCAR Whelen Euro Division does not use Goodyear tires. It used Michelin tires from 2009, its first season, through its acquisition by NASCAR in 2012, until 2017. The Division switched to BF Goodrich tires in 2018. NASCAR Euro isn’t the only NASCAR series to not use Goodyears, as NASCAR Mexico has used Continentals for some time.
- The NASCAR Whelen Euro Division’s two series, Elite 1 and Elite 2, run the same race lengths: 30 minutes. The difference is in the FIA driver rankings, with Elite 1 being more for the professional racers and young talents, and Elite 2 being more for the journeymen and hobbyist racers.
- NASCAR Euro also has a Club Division. In this division, drivers run one at a time, and the best time wins. This division is stated to be for the journeymen who more enjoy simply driving race cars than competing, and for the rookies who aren’t sure if the Division’s for them.
- NASCAR Euro ran a rain race on an oval in 2014 at the Tours Speedway. The Speedway is built out of a parking lot and its berms, and its low banks and drainage systems permitted a rain race. It was won by Mathias Lauda.
- Canadian Tire, the former sponsor of the current NASCAR Pinty’s Series, is not a garage, nor a brand of tire – it’s a hobby shop, though most have tools and equipment for car enthusiasts.
Well, that’s the end of that, I’ll see you all later.
“Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France”, book by Daniel S. Pierce
“Bowyer gets surprise call, and ride, from Childress”, May 16th, 2004 edition of The Morning Call (Allentown)
“SIX DIVISIONS – TWO CHAMPIONS AT IRWINDALE”, October 5th, 2013 article on Irwindale Speedway’s website
“Karting Passion Comes Full Circle for Karting Legend Lake Speed”, August 10th, 2015 article on ekartingnews
Tiny Lund’s profile on Decades of Racing
Sonoma Raceway’s website
“NASCAR Chronicle”, book by Greg Fielden
“Red Farmer: The Stock Car Interview”, October 18th, 2007 article to stockcarracing
Legends of NASCAR
“BNS: Dale Quarterley: Race Notes”, October 3rd, 2005 article on motorsport.com
“Helen Rae is really something special”, August 20th, 1986 article in The Anniston Star
“Hall of Fame memories for 2013”, February 8th, 2013 article on ESPN
“1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities”, book by John Close
“First Southern 500 Featured 75 Cars, Many Driven To Track Then Home Again”, May 9th, 2012 article on SB Nation
“Baker Leads Chryslers To 150-Mile Race Sweep”, January 23rd, 1956 article in Arizona Republic
“The Early Laps of Stock Car Racing: A History of the Sport and Business”, book by Betty Boles Ellison
“Glen Wood still getting it done”, February 14th, 2010 article on ESPN
“Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner”, book by Robert Edelstein
“The 9 weirdest things ever flown on the Space Shuttle”, July 8th, 2011 article on csmonitor