by Tom Jensen October 25, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.