Today, Nascar made history twice. It’s an early Christmas for enthusiasts.
While most have to wait until December 24 for the holidays, Nascar fans are celebrating their holiday today. December 14 marks the founding of the series and the laying of the last brick in the construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is an integral part of the series. Although both events fall on the same day, they are separated by 38 years. At the beginning of the century, Indiana experienced a dynamic development of the automobile industry. After all, in 1908 the local auto industry was the fourth largest in the USA. For example, Marmon, Overland, and later the better-known Stutz and Duesenberg had a base here. The increasingly perfect cars soon ran into the limits of the local dirt roads, which were a pain to travel on due to frequent breakdowns.
The car companies did not have quality facilities for testing and developing vehicles, which was seized by the courageous entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher of Greensburg. Yes, the very one who in later years turned swampy Miami Beach into a famous resort area and built the Lincoln Expressway, the first transcontinental freeway.
But back to Indiana. Fisher described his vision and potential for a test track in Motor Age magazine in 1906. A three to five mile long track with long straights and sweeping corners, car companies would be able to get their cars up to speed, test new solutions and of course there was the potential for racing.
In 1908, Fisher went to Indiana with a friend, Lem Trotter, from Dayton. He spotted four 80-acre lots near today’s Georgetown Road that happened to be for sale. But Fisher was not enough for such a big project, so he convinced three other investors – James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler. They bought the land together in December 1908, and on March 20, 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was formed, and the circuit was completed on December 14 of the same year.
Today, you probably wouldn’t recognize the circuit from the original one. The fact that the original track was built of bricks is reminded by its exposed strip, and the race also received the name Brickyard 400 (brickyard). It was first included in the calendar in 1994 and attracted a record number of spectators. Since then, it has been an integral part of the Nascar series, the creation of which is also associated with December 14. Although the race briefly moved to an inner circuit with a number of corners, it will return to the full-length oval the following season.
To find the connection between the Nascar series and today, we have to move to Daytona Beach, where cars have been chasing speed since 1902. It was a simple oval formed by the straight of the A1A highway and the adjacent beach, along which the cars returned. The first official race in this form was held here in 1936 and was organized by Sig Haugdah with general support. At that time, William France, originally from Washington DC, who escaped here before the economic crisis, crossed the finish line in fifth place.
But the first race was accompanied by controversy. At the end of the race, the sandy turns were practically impassable, so the organizers decided to end the race three laps earlier. Milt Marion won, but Ben Shaw and Tommy Elmore didn’t like it, as they finished second and third. Their protest was rejected, but the stench of wrongdoing partially affected the Daytona races.
While Haugdah retired from organizing other races, France remained active and initiated other events in the following years. But he soon realized that the racing community needed better organization with clearly defined rules even for the often unserious promoters.
Therefore, on December 14, 1947, William France invited nearly forty racers, car owners, promoters and other interested people to the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel for a big meeting, which was also watched by the media. France introduced rules valid at all circuits and a points classification to clearly determine the winner of the championship, who would be properly paid out of the common fund after the race. He convinced the audience that the creation of a unified body would strengthen the ability to promote and finance the racing series. This laid the foundation stone of the Nascar association (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), under whose wings the first race at Daytona took place the following year.