Trail­blaz­ing mo­tor sport traces a rugged roadmap of America.

Los Angeles Times - - PARADE - —Kath­leen McCleary

With roots in moon­shine, boot­leg­ging, cow pas­ture tracks and fast cars, NASCAR is as Amer­i­can as it gets. The sport be­gan in the 1930s on makeshift tracks in the South and Mid­west, and some of its ear­li­est driv­ers honed their skills be­hind the wheels of cars souped up to haul il­le­gal whiskey. The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Stock Car Auto Rac­ing held its first of­fi­cial race on Day­tona Beach’s road course in 1948.

Now NASCAR sanc­tions hun­dreds of races ev­ery year at tracks across the U.S., draw­ing an av­er­age 5.3 mil­lion TV view­ers per ma­jor event. “One of the things America stands for is be­ing able to be who you want to be and blaz­ing your own trail,” says Dan­ica Pa­trick, whose 8th place fin­ish in the Day­tona 500 in 2013 is the high­est Day­tona fin­ish ever for a fe­male driver. Pa­trick raced in Eng­land and on the Indy cir­cuit be­fore turn­ing to NASCAR. “When I came to Indy Car, I felt, ‘I’m home. This is re­ally Amer­i­can,’” she says. “But when I came to NASCAR, it made Indy seem Euro­pean. It’s to­tally Amer­i­can—NASCAR’s roots are true.”

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