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Stock Car Racing Guide: FAQs

Research guide for stock car racing topics.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are racetracks measured?

According to Sleepy Gomez in the June 2006 issue of Stock Car Racing (pages 90-91), the answer varies. At the local track level, they may not be measured. Those that are measured usually come up with a distance by driving around the track in a pickup truck and checking the odometer. The truck may be driven against the inside wall, in the middle, on the outside, or a combination, so a track may be referred to as a big 3/8 mile, for instance, because the distance was determined from a measurement around the inside. A track measured around the outside would likely be called a 1/4 mile track, for instance, rather than a small 1/4 mile. At the NASCAR level, the measurement is taken at a predetermined distance from the outside wall.

Why do oval tracks in the U.S. run counter-clockwise, while those in other countries run clockwise?

There are many reasons given for this, such as:

Automobile racetracks developed from horse racing tracks. Horse races in England, Europe, and other places outside the U.S. are typically run clockwise. The switch to counter-clockwise in the U.S. dates from 1780, when the first circular race track was built here by William Whitley in Lincoln County, KY. A supporter of America's independence, he insisted that the horses run counter-clockwise as a sign of rebellion from the mother country. Gradually other tracks followed suit.

In oval track the auto racing the driver is on the left and a crash into the wall is on the opposite side of the car, so it is safer. It's also easier for a driver on the left to make a sharp left turn. In Australia, the cars go right rather than left, mirroring the fact that Australians drive on the left side of the road rather than the right and thus the driver is sitting on the right side of the car. Formula One racing is still run clockwise, as are most other races in Europe, Asia, and Australia. When the U.S. Grand Prix was held on the oval Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2000, the race was run clockwise.

Where can I find a list of drivers for specific car numbers?

Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide has a comprehensive list. lists drivers by car number for their top three series, 1975-date. Also, Go to to see a list of car numbers and their drivers 1975-date in NASCAR’s top series.

The last NASCAR 53 car was driven by Ritchie Petty in 1994. Herbie (The Luv Bug) is a 53.

Who is the oldest driver in NASCAR?

James Hylton, who made 601 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series between 1964 and 1995, became the oldest starter in a NASCAR national touring series race when he took the green flag in June 2006 at the Milwaukee Mile. He was 71 years and 302 days old. (NASCAR Scene 6/29/06)

What is tire stagger?

Stagger is the difference in circumference of two tires on the same end of the car. Measure around each tire near the middle of the tread. Subtract the two measurements to find stagger or “roll out” as it is sometimes called. Always inflate to race pressures before measuring. (Circle Track November 2002, p. 39). The Wood Brothers racing team served as the pit crew for Jim Clark in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. They taught the Indy car teams how to do a fast pit stop, and in turn learned about tire stagger.

Who won the NASCAR-sponsored modified races at Daytona Beach 1948-1952?

In 1948 Red Bryon won the first 200 mile Modified race and Fonty Flock won the second. Marshall Teague won the 200 mile Modified race in 1949. In 1950 Gober Sosebee won the 100 mile Modified race. He repeated in 1951. Jack Smith won the 100 mile Modified-Sportsman race in 1952 after Tim Flock was disqualified for failing to install the proper roll bar. (Speed Age 8/58, p. 52)

What is the source of the Ernest Hemingway quote “There are only three sports. Bull-fighting, mountain climbing, and car racing. All the rest are just games”?

According to Mark Wilson of the Hemingway Resource Center, “That quote has been a source of speculation and frustration around here for quite some time. We get quite a few emails asking for the source of it, but...have been unable to attribute it to Hemingway If he did say it, it was probably from a news article, but we haven’t been able to track it down. It certainly sounds like something Hemingway would have said.” (Wright, Jim. Fixin’ to Git: One Fan’s Love Affair with NASCAR’s Winston Cup. Duke University Press, 2002. P. 284, note 1)

In his column “Editor’s Notebook” in the April 5, 2006 issue of National Speed Sport News, Chris Economaki noted that he had once met Hemingway at Le Chanteclair Restaurant in New York and had asked him whether the quote “there are only three sports, mountain climbing, bull fighting and auto racing, all others being games” was his. Hemingway replied that it was.

Why does Richard Petty wear sunglasses all the time?

When he began racing, he wore goggles, but the sweat and heat inside the car caused the goggles to fog up. He tried some wrap-around sunglasses and they worked better because they protected his eyes but didn’t fog up. (“A Salute to the King,” Richard Petty’s 35th Anniversary Open House Commemorative Edition, July 11-12, 1992, p. 11)

He says that he just began wearing sunglasses as a trademark. He added the cowboy hat with the feather in the late 70s or early 80s. (NASCAR Winston Cup Scene 27(1):29, May 1, 2003). Petty also said about his sunglasses, “that’s my security blanket. I feel like if I’ve got the hat and glasses on, I can do and say what I want to. I can go hide a little bit.” (National Speed Sports News 76(27): $P-4, July 9, 2008.

According to cousin and longtime Petty Enterprises employee Dale Inman, he began wearing thm partly to rebel against his father Lee, who hated sunglasses. Said Inman, “Lee would say that if God intended for you to wear sunglasses, you would have come out wearing them.” (NASCAR Scene August 13, 2009, p. 6)

When and where was the famous article on Junior Johnson by Tom Wolfe published?

“The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” originally appeared in the March 1965 issue of Esquire. It was reprinted in that magazine in October 1973, pages 211-23+.

When was the last time NASCAR started a Cup race with drivers three wide?

According to racing afficionado Thomas Luce on the Racing History listserv, it was March 4, 1972 in the Miller High Life 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway in California. Fifty-one cars started; A. J. Foyt sat on the pole and also won the race.

Who was the first driver to receive a black flag at Daytona International Speedway?

Richard Petty, in the first Daytona 500 in 1959. During the first practice session on the superspeedway, flagman Johnny Bruner told the drivers to make several laps on the flat before running up on the banking; the track was new and drivers were supposed to get a feel for the faster speeds. Petty was black flagged by Bruner because he ran his Oldsmobile convertible up on the bank after the first lap.

What was the first race Richard Petty competed in?

Petty’s first race was at Canadian Exposition Stadium in Toronto on July 18, 1958. It was a convertible race. His father Lee knocked him into the wall and went on to win the race.   

When did the term “roadster” come into use?

The term roadster was first applied to Bill Vukovich’s Kurtis-Offenhauser car at the 1952 Indianapolis 500. The roadster had at least one of three concepts that were used in various combinations–an offset drive shaft that let the driver sit beside it rather than on top of it, a canted engine further lowering the center of gravity, and a more streamlined bodywork than the cars that had come before. The vehicle’s streamlined look led to comments like, “I know a Roadster when I see one,” regardless of the technical specifications. (The Alternate, 21(4): 6, April 15, 2009)

How tall was Bill France Sr.?

France, known as Big Bill, was 6'5" tall.

Who was the first woman to drive in a USAC Indy-car race?

Arlene Hiss, a 35-year-old school teacher and Showroom Stock racer from Tustin, CA, was the first woman to compete in an Indy-car race. She started 21st in a 22 car field and drove the Copper State Racing Eagle to a 14th place finish in the Jimmy Bryan 150 USAC National Championship race on March 14, 1976 at FasTrack International Raceway in Phoenix, AZ. She drove smoothly but slowly and finished 22 laps behind winner Bobby Unser. This was Hiss’ only Indy-car start.

Who won the first race at North Wilkesboro Speedway?

The May 18,1947 race was won by Fonty Flock in a purple car called the Easter Egg.   

What was the last top division NASCAR race run on a dirt track?

The last NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) race on dirt was September 30, 1970 at the Raleigh, NC, Fairgrounds track. Richard Petty won easily, lapping the 23 car field twice. (“The Last Days of Dirt” by Dan Pierce, NASCAR Illustrated, December 2010, p. 29)

Who was the first NASCAR drivier to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

That honor goes to Curtis Turner, who graced the cover of SI on February 26, 1968. The issue included an article by Kim Chapin called "Curtis Lives!" on pages 48-60.

How did Slugger Labe get his nickname?

The day he was born, Richard "Slugger" Labbe's grandmother gave him a pair of pajamas that said "little slugger" on them. Source: NASCAR Illustrated November 2011, p. 34.

What is the purpose of a sway bar?

The sway bar controls the roll of the front of a race car. According to crew chief Jefferson Hodges in the March 23, 2011 issue of National Speed Sport News, "A bigger sway bar pulls the left front down, seals the left front to the ground, and will turn better aero-wise." (p. 22)


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Suzanne Wise
Belk Library and Information Commons
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608-2026
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Curator of the Stock Car Racing Collection