A Case Full of Firsts
by Siera Erazo November 18, 2022
If you want to see the first NASCAR championship trophies, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is the place to go.
At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we’re here to preserve the accomplishments and greatness that champions in our sport have all achieved. As a result, within our hallowed exhibition halls and collections spaces, we have a lot of priceless and historic championship trophies.
At the end of the Whelen Hall of Champions you’ll find an unassuming case filled with five of the coolest championship trophies at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, each awarded to the first winners of NASCAR’s major national divisions.
Next time you visit, make sure you walk up to the fourth floor Heritage Speedway exhibit to check out these pillars of greatness. While you’re there, you’ll also get one of the best views of the museum.
1948, First NASCAR Modified Division Championship Trophy
At 35 inches tall and 10 inches in diameter, this is a big trophy for a big win – NASCAR’s first sanctioned championship, ever. Founded in 1948, the Modified Division is the longest running championship series in NASCAR. Known today at the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour, its first championship was won by one of NASCAR’s earliest powerhouse organizations: Hall of Fame team owner Raymond Parks (2017), driver Red Byron (2018) and master mechanic Red Vogt. Byron earned many of NASCAR’s firsts, including winning NASCAR’s first sanctioned race on Daytona Beach, this first Modified season championship trophy, as well as the first premier series title the next year.
1949, First NASCAR Premier Series Championship Trophy
Division: NASCAR premier series
Team Owner: Raymond Parks
Driver: Red Byron
Mechanic: Red Vogt
Not content with winning NASCAR’s first sanctioned race and championship, the team of Red Byron, Raymond Parks and Red Vogt also captured NASCAR’s first premier series championship, then called the NASCAR Strictly Stock Division. Though only eight races were held in its shortened first season, Byron won over Lee Petty to clench the coveted “first” premier series championship. The coveted first “cup” is 22 inches tall and features a cup with a car on top of a globe.
1950, First NASCAR National Champion Sportsman Division Trophy
Division: Late Model Sportsman, predecessor to the NASCAR Xfinity Series
Owner/Driver/Mechanic: Mike Klapak
Today’s NASCAR Xfinity Series earliest ancestor was the NASCAR Sportsman Division, where Mike Klapak dominated. Winning the early, regional Sportsman Division was a grind. In that first season, there were more than 300 points-awarding races held across the country. In that 1950 season, Klapak won 12 races, but he started in 87 races, placing in the top 10 in each one. The runner-up Roscoe Hugh won 23 of his 57 starts, but Klapak’s determination landed him with more points at the end of the season. Klapak defended his Sportsman Division title in 1951 and 1952.
1982, First NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division Trophy
Division: NASCAR Xfinity Series
Owner/Driver/Crew Chief: Jack Ingram
The NASCAR Xfinity Series as we know it today really started in 1982 with the NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Division. Jack Ingram was already a star in the regionally based NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division, where he won three consecutive championships in 1972, ’73 and ’74. This new division consolidated the schedule to fewer races on a national touring basis with Budweiser as its first sponsor. Even with the lighter schedule, Ingram clenched the inaugural season with 29 starts and seven wins.
1995, First NASCAR Truck Series Division Trophy
Division: NASCAR SuperTruck Series by Craftsman
Team Owner: Richard Childress
Driver: Mike Skinner
Crew Chief: Rich Burgess
NASCAR’s inaugural truck series season opened in 1995 as the NASCAR SuperTruck Series by Craftsman. Veteran driver Mike Skinner won the first truck series championship driving for Hall of Fame team owner Richard Childress (2017). Skinner began his NASCAR career as a crew member for Rusty Wallace (2013) and went on to race in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series (now premier series) and Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) before joining Richard Childress Racing in 1995 for the inaugural truck series. After winning the first race of the series in Phoenix, he captured eight wins and 17 top-five finishes in pursuit of his first and only championship. His consistence and victory total earned him this impressive silver cup. The reaching hands at the top push its height to 35 inches, making this last “first” championship about the same size as the first “first” championship trophy from 1948.