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Curator's Corner / Artifacts

Heavy Metal

NASCAR Hall of Fame’s extensive trophy collection shows the evolution, diversity of the prizes racers competed for over the ages.

One of the best parts of working at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is that you can trace the evolution of any number of aspects of the sport from the very beginning to today. You can see how the cars evolved, how driver safety developed, how modern superspeedways replaced the old dusty half-mile dirt tracks and more.

That evolution applies to trophies, too. We have more than 130 trophies in the Hall, including some dating back to the early 1900s. We have trophies for race wins and championships in a whole variety of NASCAR series, some active and others long gone.

In Heritage Speedway on the top floor of the Hall, there are trophies from every decade of NASCAR competition, including many of profound historical significance. And on the third floor, all five Class of 2020 inductees have multiple trophies in their respective artifact cases. Also on the third floor, we have a collection of Jimmie Johnson trophies from track where he holds the victory records. And we recently added a new display in the “Inside NASCAR” section reflecting the eclectic variety of contemporary trophies.

So for this blog post we’ll spotlight an assortment of trophies that you can actually see on display now at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Red Byron’s historic two-year run of championships began with the first points paying race in NASCAR history in early 1948. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

1948, Red Byron

NASCAR’s first official points paying race was a Modified Division tilt that took place Feb. 15, 1948, on the old Daytona Beach & Road Course. Driving a 1939 Ford Coupe owned by fellow Hall of Famer Raymond Parks (2017) and prepared by legendary mechanic Red Vogt, Red Byron (2018) won the race and with it the trophy, known as “Bundles for Britain.” The trio of Byron, Parks and Vogt went on to win the Modified Division championship in 1948 and the first Strictly Stock Division (now premier series) title a year later.

A youthful Junior Johnson won the first NASCAR race he entered. Johnson would go to win 50 premier series races as a driver and six championships as an owner. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

1953, Junior Johnson

One of NASCAR’s true legends, Junior Johnson was a member of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010. Johnson started hauling moonshine at age 14 and translated his prodigious talents to organized racing. The first NASCAR race Johnson entered was a Modified Sportsman Division event at Darlington Raceway on July 4, 1953. Johnson bested a 65-car field that included half a dozen future Hall of Famers to win the race, a truly impressive accomplishment.

For winning the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959, Lee Petty was given the Harley Earl Award 500 Mile International Sweepstakes for Late Model Cars Winner’s Trophy. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

1959, Lee Petty

Although the look of the Daytona 500 trophy has changed substantially over the years, it has always been named in honor of former General Motors styling chief, Harley Earl, a former NASCAR commissioner and close friend of NASCAR founder William H.G. France (2010). Lee Petty (2011) won the first one back in 1959, although it took three days to make it officially after the race ended in a photo finish between Petty and Johnny Beauchamp.

Richard Petty, accompanied by wife Lynda, received his seventh championship trophy at the 1979 post-season NASCAR awards banquet. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

1979, Richard Petty

The superstar known to all simply as “The King,” rewrote the NASCAR record book by piling up race victories and championships. The 1979 season saw Petty win his sixth Daytona 500 in one of the biggest races in NASCAR history and the year ended with Petty winning his record seventh championship at a time when no other driver had won more than three. And although Dale Earnhardt (2010) and Jimmie Johnson would go on to win seven titles each, it was “The King” who made history by doing it first.

The first points race in what today is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was won by Mike Skinner in 1995. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

1995, Mike Skinner

Today’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was originally conceived as a support series for West Coast regional NASCAR races. But the creation of the series drew the attention of premier series team owners, many of whom added Truck Series operations. The first official race for the new series came in February 1995 at Phoenix International Raceway (now Phoenix Raceway), where Mike Skinner was victorious in a truck owned by Hall of Famer Richard Childress (2017). Skinner went on to win the first truck series championship.

After winning the Nextel Cup (now premier series) championship in 2005, Tony Stewart took his trophy when he visited the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy of Rusty Jarret/Getty Images.

2005, Tony Stewart

In addition to being of the most versatile racers in history, Tony Stewart (2020) holds a unique honor that will remain his forever: Stewart is the only driver in history to win a Winston Cup, a Nextel Cup and a Sprint Cup. When we started talking with Stewart about putting his artifact case together for the Hall of Honor, he said he wanted all three of those championship trophies in his case and we heartily agreed. Stewart went on to add an Owner’s Championship in 2014 with Kevin Harvick driving for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Seven-time premier series champion Jimmie Johnson holds the all-time record for most victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he won four times, including this race in 2007. Photo courtesy of Rusty Jarret/Getty Images.

2007, Jimmie Johnson

One of the most unusual trophies handed out at any NASCAR track is the jeweled belt that Las Vegas Motor Speedway gave out in 2007. Crafted to look like a championship belt a fighter or a wrestler would win, this was an appropriate honor for Johnson, who is one of only three seven-time premier series champions. Johnson got this belt after winning his third consecutive UAW-Daimler-Chrysler 400 at the 1.5-mile Nevada track. The victory was the 150th for team owner Rick Hendrick (2017).

Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski was all smiles after winning the 2015 Auto Club 400 at Southern California’s Auto Club Speedway. Photo courtesy of Jerry Markland/Getty Images

2015, Brad Keselowski

Southern California is known for its car culture, for which hot rods, surfing and rock ‘n’ roll play prominent parts. Located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles in an area known as the Inland Empire, Auto Club Speedway paid homage to that car culture with a trophy that features a surfboard and a vintage “Woody” pulling a diecast model of the winner’s car. Like many modern trophies, this one was heavily influenced by what goes on in the local region.

One of the best road racers in NASCAR, Martin Truex Jr. won his second consecutive Toyota/Save Mart 350 and third overall at Sonoma Raceway in 2019. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

2019, Martin Truex Jr.

Wine is the best-known product of Northern California’s lush Napa Valley. With that in mind, the trophy presented to the annual premier series race at the picturesque Sonoma Raceway road course reflects the track’s location by incorporating both a bottle of red wine and several casks into the design of the trophy.

In 2020, Denny Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 and second in a row, all driving for Hall of Fame team owner Joe Gibbs. Photo courtesy of Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

2020, Denny Hamlin

The most coveted race award in NASCAR is the Harley J. Earl trophy, which is given to the Daytona 500 winner each February. The trophy was named for Earl, who was best known as the head of design for General Motors. He also served as NASCAR’s commissioner. Earl penned the original Corvette, as well as the GM Firebird I prototype research vehicle atop the Daytona 500 trophy. Earl sent a scale model of the Firebird I to NASCAR founder and Hall of Famer William H.G. France (2010) who incorporated it into the trophy.

Plan your visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and purchase tickets by visiting nascarhall.com/tickets.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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