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NASCAR nation : a history of stock car racing in the United States, Scott Beekman
Carbon Offsetting. Economic Stimulus Package. Endangered Species. Executive Pay. Global Warming. Gun Control. Immigration Restrictions. A uniquely American type of auto racing is "stock car" racing. Bill France, of Daytona Beach, Florida, had witnessed the popularity of pre-war "beach racing.
In , France opened a new Daytona Speedway.
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The norm in the s was some 50 or more such races a year. In , Richard Petty won 27 of these out of 48 races, which included winning straight to set an all-time record for the most victories in a season. Cars were - or were supposed to be - unaltered from production cars.
But that idea ran counter to the decades-long "tradition" among auto racers of cheating under the hood and in the chassis, i. Bill France decided to allow certain modifications to both a car's stock engine and its chassis, and to enforce strict discipline against cheating by employing - to look over each car and its engine in detail before each race - a bevy of inspectors answerable to France.
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The race series was renamed the Grand National series in , and occasional cheating was not, of course, entirely eliminated. Over the years, more and more departures from "stock" components were permitted by the frequently evolving rule changes - the objective of the rule changes, nearly every time, was to let the cars average faster speeds which brought in more fans , while at the same time trying to eliminate unfair advantages among the cars close racing, being more exciting, pleased the fans; a race season dominated by just a few drivers that could "run away from the field" in almost every race decreased both fan interest and the interest of other race-car owners to enter their cars.
The Early Laps of Stock Car Racing
By the s, NASCAR race cars were no longer "stock" at all, being entirely purpose-built, with non-stock tubular space-frames eliminating the stock frame, specially designed springing, horsepower engines in which only the stripped, basic block was "stock," and — significantly — added safety and fire-suppression equipment. Only the basic shape of the hand-made body had to follow the lines of the stock model being represented. While events would seem to support his latter point, the former seems to be still either teetering on the brink or is so embedded in the American mythos that it might be only in years to come that it is finally dispelled.
These important aspects of stock car racing get very little attention by Ellison even though these factors would seem to easily fall within the timeframe she explores. With the absence of any discussion similar to that devoted to NASCAR of the many other groups or sanctioning bodies in American stock car racing by Ellison, sharing a fault all too common to this topic, it is difficult to even begin to consider it as being truly a history of stock car racing.
Again, to give credit where credit is due, Ellison does give at least some coverage to some of those groups in competition with NASCAR during its formative years. Various factual or interpretative errors appear in The Early Laps of Stock Car Racing , some of which may not be due simply to the gremlins that have plagued the publication of books since Gutenberg or the lamentable near-absence of editing.
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While it is evident that Ellison conducted what certainly appears to be a great amount of research, this does necessarily mean that it is well researched in many instances. In either case, Vanderbilt was not involved in the promotion of the events as suggested. This would be a bone of contention between the AAA and the ACA after the schism developed between the two organizations during In view of the fact that Ellison seems at her most engaged and decisive when she zeroes in on the business dealings of Bill France and NASCAR, one is inclined to suggest that that is the book she may have really wanted to write.
It should be clearly understood that Ellison is not yet another hagiographer of Bill France. In doing so, she treads where very few have either dared or even thought to go.
This document is very much at odds with what was presented to the press and the racing community at the time. Rather than an organization composed of drivers, car owners, and promoters, all participating in the governing of the new organization, France ensured that NASCAR was his , with only a very select few being allowed to have a voice—and none louder than his. This, as she also suggests, was a serious area of contention and friction between NASCAR and the drivers and car owners. Given the many details that Ellison provides on the finances of NASCAR and the France family along with the consequences and conflict they led to, one wishes that she had made this the focus of her book.