Ever since Bill France founded NASCAR in February of 1948, countless accomplishments by thousands of drivers have been added to the record books.
There are many well-known facts. But there are also plenty of bizarre and interesting tidbits of NASCAR lore that aren’t recorded in the record books.
For instance, Kansas native Jim Roper won NASCAR’s first Grand National race on June 19, 1949 in a Lincoln.
After the car’s headlights were taped, its doors strapped and numbers applied with shoe polish, Roper was declared the winner after Glenn Dunaway’s 1947 Ford was disqualified for running illegal rear springs.
With the winner’s trophy in the back seat and cash in his pocket, Roper cleared the tape from the headlights and drove the car back to Kansas.
Team owner Raymond Parks first used surplus World War II two-way radios in races in 1949 – until other teams protested.
Jack Smith used a bulky Ham radio mounted inside his Bud Moore Engineering Ford in the first World 600 on June 19, 1960.
The reception was bad and the heat and vibration in the car broke the radio’s glass tubes. Smith and Moore also tried delivery truck radios at Daytona but that didn’t too well, either.
In Junior Johnson’s book, “Brave in Life” written by award-winning MotorsportsUnplugged authors Steve Waid and Tom Higgins, it is duly recorded the colorful driver used a two-way radio in April of 1961 at Martinsville Speedway.
He turned it off because his crew chief kept telling him to slow down.
Bobby Allison developed a CB radio set-up for races in 1973 with speakers built into his helmet. But again, poor reception and static brought the idea to an end. A year or two later, technology was better, but not great.
Smith was also the first driver to use a bar of soap to plug a hole in his gas tank. It happened at that same World 600 when the radio failed. The soap worked about as good as the radio.
Darrell Waltrip logged 84 career victories, including 15 wins in the No. 17. He won the 1989 Daytona 500 driving the No. 17 for Hendrick Motorsports, in his 17th try in a race with a purse that was $1.7 million – and he was assigned pit stall No. 17.
Bill Elliott also played a numbers game when he won the Winston Million at Darlington Raceway on September 1, 1985.
Going into the Southern 500, Elliott had already driven the No. 9 Melling Racing Ford to nine of 11 pole positions that year, had nine wins up to that point in the season and the race was held in the ninth month.
It gets better.
In 1968, law enforcement officers found an elaborate moonshine still within a concrete tunnel under the Middle Georgia Raceway at Macon. It was hidden behind a trap door in the floor of a ticket booth. Months later, a jury found the track owner not guilty.
Richard Petty ran a vinyl top in the 1968 Daytona 500. Those he raced against protested, citing it was some kind of advantage.
Truth was, an inexperienced crew member made a mess of the paint job on the top of the car and vinyl was a quick fix to the problem.
The bad news was the top began coming apart during the race and required a lot of duct tape just to finish. Petty even got out of the car and sat on the hood and beat the chrome around the windshield down with a hammer.
Carl Kiekhaefer, an eccentric soul dubbed the “Rick Hendrick of the 1950s,” wouldn’t let his drivers or crew members sleep with their spouses the night before a race, citing they needed…um…their energy and a good night’s sleep before.
He was the most successful owner of that era and abruptly left the sport after logging 52 wins and two championships among 10 drivers.
Fledgling team owner-driver Herman Beam was the first to be black-flagged at Daytona International Speedway when it opened in 1959. He forgot to wear his helmet.
There were just enough cars to make up the field for a Winston Cup race at Talladega in the early 1970s, but NASCAR officials forced James Hylton to run a qualifying lap anyway.
Hylton protested but adhered to their wishes. His average speed was just under 40 mph over two laps around the 2.66-mile oval. Hylton replied, “You said I had to qualify. You didn’t say how fast.”
There was a driver named John Kennedy who had 18 career starts from 1969 to 1979 but never recorded a top-10 finish.
There was also a driver named Bill Clinton. He ran six races between 1961 and 1964 but was never in the top-10.
However, George Bush, of Hamburg, N.Y., raced in five events in 1952 and scored three top-10s.
The last top-level NASCAR race run on dirt was at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on Sept. 20, 1970. Richard Petty won the 100-mile event.
The 1,000th Winston Cup race was held in Ontario, Calif., on Feb. 28, 1971 and was won by A.J. Foyt. The 1,000th race wasn’t ever mentioned in newspapers or on radio because NASCAR historians didn’t realize it until it was over.
On the 90th lap of the 1973 Talladega 500, Bobby Isaac pulled onto pit road and got out, telling car owner Moore that he heard voices to quit or something bad would happen. Isaac drove in 19 more races in 1974-76 with little success.
A year later, 16 cars – including all likely front-runners – were sabotaged with sugar in their gas tanks, broken windshields and cut tires the night before the Aug. 11 Talladega 500. No one was ever caught for the destruction.
Cale Yarborough drove several laps without a windshield in his Wood Brothers Ford at Talladega in 1970. His pit crew took out the glass after a fan’s thrown beer bottle shattered it.
Janet Guthrie was the first woman to lead a lap in a Winston Cup race. She led five laps under caution during the Los Angeles Times 500 at Ontario on Nov. 20, 1977. She finished 24th.
A trackside ESPN reporter, Dr. Jerry Punch, revived driver Rusty Wallace when he stopped breathing after an end-over-end crash at Bristol in 1988. Punch is a respected medical doctor turned broadcaster.
Hot temperatures during the Southern 500 on Sept. 5, 1983 prompted crew chief Gary Nelson to chisel a hole in Bobby Allison’s car roof of to cool down the driver.
Allison won, but NASCAR fined the team $500.
The coldest race in NASCAR history came in March of 1990 at Richmond when the high temperature was only five degrees.
Mark Martin won the race, but the engine in his Roush Racing Ford was found to be illegal.
Finally, a $100 bill was found on the front grille of Kevin Harvick’s Chevrolet last month during the race at Texas. It was discovered when crewman Chad Haney cleaned the grille on a pit stop.
After displaying the bill to cameramen on pit road, Haney donated the money to Motor Racing Outreach, which offers spiritual support to the NASCAR community.
It is fact that truth is stranger than fiction. And, as it is everywhere else, it is so in NASCAR.