Trailblazing motor sport traces a rugged roadmap of America.
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.”