On February 21, 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Racing was officially born. This isn’t the date that celebrates the meetings at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, nor does this date commemorate the first time a stock car hit the track. This is the date when NASCAR was incorporated, meaning it became an official business entity separate from its owners. In a word, it became legitimate.
(Welcome to Today in History, the series where we dive into important historical events that have had a significant impact on the automotive or racing world. If you have something you’d like to see that falls on an upcoming weekend, let me know at eblackstock [at] jalopnik [dot] com.)
NASCAR has its roots in the pre-WWII era, where running moonshine in modified street cars was a quick way to make a lot of money. You might spend your nights outrunning the law and your days hard at work in your more traditional trade, but the process of modifying and driving cars proved to be strong, outlasting even the need to haul liquor. Drivers started taking their cars to rudimentary dirt or board tracks to see how they stacked up against competitors. After all, if you were known as having the fastest car, it might do wonders for your moonshining business.
The sport began to blossom, becoming especially popular among men who had either returned from World War II or who had grown up hearing romantic tales of daring fighter pilots and of risking your life for glory. The problem was, there was little organization. A man named Bill France was trying to run things, but it was starting to get too out-of-hand to organize everything as just a little group of people, and official competitors were starting to pop up.
That’s where incorporation comes in. The crew of people responsible for the birth of NASCAR wanted to see this thing they’d cobbled together grow and succeed. People and drivers were flocking to race tracks around the country—but especially in the American South—but it was still rare for those events to be organized or promoted efficiently. The creation of NASCAR took stock car racing to the next level.
It still took another year for the first official NASCAR race to be held—the June 19, 1949 event at Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina—but the seeds had been planted in February of 1948. Stock car racing as the world knew it was about to change.