Top 10 List: Past NASCAR Series
by Tom Jensen January 18, 2021
In its more than 70-year history, NASCAR has promoted a veritable plethora of different series for racers and fans alike.
When you think about NASCAR, chances are that the first thing that comes to mind is the premier series. That makes sense given that it’s the top division in the sport, with the best known drivers and teams.
Serious fans also follow the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series and the Whelen Modified Tour as well. Additionally, local and regional feeder series are enjoyed by dedicated race lovers.
What’s less well-known, however, is that since its founding in 1948, NASCAR experimented with a number of series, some of which proved wildly popular, others of which lasted a year or even less.
One of the most admirable traits of NASCAR founder and Hall of Famer William H.G. France (2010) was his willingness to experiment with almost any type of racing.
In honor of Big Bill’s boldness, this week’s Top-10 list is all about past NASCAR series. And if you visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, you can learn more about the champions of these series in the Whelen Hall of Champions in Heritage Speedway.
The only NASCAR national touring series run on dirt tracks, this division featured dirt late-model racers. When first introduced, it was known as the NASCAR Busch/Winston All-Star Tour.
Roadster racing was big in the Midwest and West Coast and Big Bill France’s plan was to have Modified, Strictly Stock and Roadster divisions in 1948. But the Strictly Stock class was pushed back to 1949, and the open-topped roadsters simply flopped with NASCAR fans, so that series was dumped after one season.
Another series geared towards compact cars, the Goody’s Dash Series began racing under the banner of NASCAR Baby Grand Division, with fleets of four-cylinder economy cars.
A one-year wonder, the NASCAR Futurity Division was open to NASCAR drivers not registered in any other series or division. This was basically a catch-all series for racers not committed elsewhere.
With the West Coast being the primary racing ground for the National Hot Rod Association, NASCAR dabbled in bringing drag racing to the East Coast with this production car-based division.
Eager to capitalize on the popularity of muscle cars made by Detroit’s Big Three automakers, as well as American Motors, NASCAR created a division for hot cars like the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda and AMC Javelin.
Competing on dirt tracks east of the Mississippi River, the long-running NASCAR Midget Division featured small, open-wheel race cars powered by pre-World War II engines from either Ford or Offenhauser.
In 1955, NASCAR absorbed the Sports Car Owners and Drivers Association (SCODA), which raced European sports cars on dirt and asphalt short tracks, as well as on road courses. NASCAR sanctioned the races and provided insurance, while SCODA officials conducted the events.
Convertibles were popular in the 1950s, so, of course, NASCAR had its own Convertible Division. Bob Welborn won championships in the first three years of the series, despite Hall of Famer Curtis Turner (2016) winning 37 of the 76 races he entered during that period.
In order to compete with the “big cars” that raced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other top tracks, NASCAR launched the Speedway Division, which featured open-wheel race cars with American stock car engines, instead of the purpose-built racing powerplants used at Indy and elsewhere.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to nascarhall.com/tickets.