NASCAR's Battle of the Brands
by Tom Jensen July 22, 2020
From stock-car racing’s infancy, 16 different automakers have won NASCAR premier series races.
Over the course of more than seven decades, NASCAR racing has proven to be a highly effective showcase for automakers competing for victories on the track and new-car sales off the track.
Since the first race in the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (now premier series) in 1949, a total of 16 different manufacturers have won at least one of the more than 2,600 races run during that time.
In chronological order, here’s where each of those 16 manufacturers found Victory Lane for the first time.
Lincoln | June 9, 1949 | Charlotte Speedway
The first NASCAR Strictly Stock Series race was won by Jim Roper, who drove his Lincoln from his home in Kansas to Charlotte. Lincoln, the luxury division of Ford Motor Co., would win only three more premier series races, all in 1949 and ’50.
Oldsmobile | July 10, 1949 | Daytona Beach & Road Course
The now-defunct General Motors brand earned the first of its 115 premier series victories with the Hall of Fame combination of driver Red Byron (2018) and team owner Raymond Parks (2017), who went on to win the first series championship that year.
Plymouth | October 2, 1949 | Heidelberg Speedway
Hall of Famer Lee Petty (2011), the patriarch of the Petty racing family, scored his first of 55 career victories on the 0.500-mile Heidelberg Raceway dirt track in Pittsburgh. During his career, Petty won three championships and set the record for dirt-track victories.
Mercury | June 18, 1950 | Vernon Fairgrounds
North Carolina native Bill Blair had to travel to New York state to earn his first career victory and the first for Mercury. On the 0.500-mile Vernon Fairgrounds track, Blair bested a 23-car field to take the win.
Ford | June 25, 1950 | Dayton Speedway
Unheralded Cleveland native Jimmy Florian won his first and only premier series race in his fourth career start. Florian took the checkered flag at the 0.500-mile Dayton Speedway, one of the first paved ovals on the NASCAR circuit.
Hudson | February 11, 1951 | Daytona Beach & Road Course
Hudson was the first automaker to use NASCAR racing to sell its cars, and it was the dominant brand in the early 1950s, winning three consecutive manufacturers championships from 1952-54 with its Fabulous Hudson Hornets.
Nash | April 1, 1951 | Charlotte Speedway
Nash was one of many smaller automakers that briefly competed in NASCAR. The lone triumph for the marque came at Charlotte Speedway, a 0.750-mile dirt track. Curtis Turner won the race in a car owned and sponsored by Nash Motor Co.
Studebaker | June 16, 1951 | Columbia Speedway
Indiana-based Studebaker won three premier series races, all in 1951. Frank Mundy gave Studebaker two of those three victories, the first coming at Columbia Speedway, a 0.500-mile dirt track in Cayce, South Carolina. Mundy never won again after 1951.
Chrysler | August 12, 1951 | Michigan State Fairgrounds
Chrysler began its run of excellence in its own backyard, as Tommy Thompson drove his 1951 Chrysler to a 37-second victory in the Motor City 250. Thompson made 22 premier series starts over parts of eight seasons, but this was his only race victory.
Dodge | February 1, 1953 | Palm Beach Speedway
NASCAR began its 1953 season at Palm Beach Speedway in South Florida, where Hall of Famer Lee Petty (2011) finished a full 2 laps ahead of his Petty Enterprises teammate Jimmie Lewallen. Petty drove a 1053 Dodge, Lewallen a ’52 Plymouth.
Jaguar | June 13, 1954 | Linden Airport
NASCAR staged its first road-course race for foreign cars on a makeshift road course at New Jersey’s Linden Airport. Al Keller was the winner and Jaguar joined Nash Motor Co. as the only automakers in history with one and only one premier series victory.
Chevrolet | March 26, 1955 | Columbia Speedway
Chevrolet is the all-time winner in the NASCAR premier series, with more than 785 race victories as of July 1, 2020. The first win for the Bowtie Brigade came at Columbia Speedway in Cayce, South Carolina, where Fonty Flock led the final 66 laps. The only other driver to lead was Fonty’s Hall of Fame brother, Tim Flock (2014), who led the first 134 laps.
Buick | May 1, 1955 | Charlotte Speedway
At Charlotte Speedway, Hall of Famer Buck Baker (2013) passed fellow Hall of Famer Tim Flock (2014) with 21 laps to go to give Buick its first premier series victory. A year later, Baker would win his first championship in a Chrysler, and in 1957, he’d pilot a Chevrolet as he became the first driver to win titles in consecutive years.
Pontiac | February 17, 1957 | Daytona Beach & Road Course
In order to deliver Pontiac’s first premier series race victory, Hall of Famer Cotton Owens (2013) had to out-run 56 other drivers on the fast and treacherous 4.1-mile Daytona Beach & Road course. But Owens was up to the task, finishing 55 seconds ahead of Johnny Beauchamp.
American Motors | January 21, 1973 | Riverside International Raceway
Hall of Famer Roger Penske shocked the racing world when he decided to enter the NASCAR world, bringing American Motors Corp and its brightly colored Matador coupes with him. But star driver Mark Donohue made a winner of Penske and AMC in the 1973 season opener on the old Riverside International Raceway road course.
Toyota | March 9, 2008 | Atlanta Motor Speedway
After a lackluster debut in 2007, Toyota signed the team owned by Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs (2020) to a long-term deal, starting in 2008. With Gibbs’s help, Toyota started winning almost immediately, with Kyle Busch delivering the first Toyota premier series victory in Kobalt Tools 500.
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