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Curator's Corner / NASCAR 75th Anniversary

The First NASCAR Race Trophy

NASCAR made it official on February 15, 1948, when it ran its first sanctioned points race on Daytona Beach.

Seventy-five years ago, shortly after the end of World War II, NASCAR was in its infancy, one of many fledgling auto racing sanctioning bodies trying to establish itself.

Organized by mechanic, driver and race promoter William H.G. France a/k/a “Big Bill” (NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010) in a series of meetings at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach in December 1947, NASCAR staged its first official race on the then 2.2-mile Daytona Beach-Road Course on February 15, 1948.

The Daytona Beach-Road Course was a place where Red Byron (No. 22) enjoyed considerable success. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

The trophy from that race, known as the Bundles for Britain, was created by Big Bill in 1941, with the intention of eventually awarding it to the first driver to win three consecutive season-opening Daytona races.

World War II delayed the possibility of a driver winning the trophy, as there were no races on Daytona Beach between August 1941, and April 1946.

Prior to the formation of NASCAR, Red Byron (Class of 2018) won the 1946 and ’47 beach races in a Ford coupe owned by fellow Hall of Famer Raymond Parks (Class of 2017). Byron then scored the three-peat by winning the first NASCAR race in 1948.

Red Byron’s trophy for winning the first NASCAR race in 1948 is on display in Heritage Speedway at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

The inaugural 1948 NASCAR race on Daytona Beach was a huge hit, drawing an estimated crowd of about 14,000 people who paid $2.50 each to see cars race south down Atlantic Avenue and then back north up the beach, the parallel racing surfaces connected by hairpin turns at each end.

An important piece of NASCAR’s history and heritage, the Bundles for Britain trophy is on display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Heritage Speedway. The large silver trophy both a testament to the success of Byron and Parks on the hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach, the bold vision of Big Bill France and a reminder of how far NASCAR has come in 75 years.

Driver Red Byron (left) was the first race-winner and first champion for NASCAR and Bill France in 1948. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

When NASCAR started racing in 1948, there were no guarantees it would survive, let along thrive and grow to become the pre-eminent form of motorsports in the United States.

Fueled by the success of the Daytona Beach race, France spent much of 1948 searching for – and finding – promoters and track operators he could work with to get the fledgling sanctioning body up and running. To say it was a work in progress would be an understatement.

But France’s tireless work ethic and salesmanship gave him advantages that other groups trying to organize stock-car racing lacked. In recruiting allies, France delivered an important message that resonated with stock-car racing’s key stakeholders: We can all be more successful working together than any of us can working alone.

In the March 17, 1948 issue of National Speed Sport News, France took out a large advertisement looking for places to stage races. “All legitimate track owners and promoters interested in running the highest type of stock car auto races under the rules, regulations and sanctioning of the only nationally recognized association are invited to contact the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.”

The ad continued, “Dates are now being scheduled. Track owners and promoters who operate under NASCAR sanction will be fully protected on race date in their areas.”

Interested parties were encouraged to contact National Headquarters at 29 Goodall Avenue in Daytona Beach, a modest ranch house about 4 miles away from where Daytona International Speedway sits today. That address served as both home to “Big Bill” France and his wife Anne B. France, and NASCAR’s first headquarters.

France’s outreach worked. Eventually, NASCAR’s 1948 Modified Division schedule swelled to 52 races, mostly in North Carolina or Georgia. In fact, 17 of the final 18 NASCAR races during 1948 were in one of those two Southeastern states.

NASCAR and France were able to survive the first year and set the stage for growth by establishing a system to determine a national champion and create a points fund that paid top drivers at the end of the year. NASCAR paid out its advertised purse money for every race – something that didn’t always happen in the early days of stock-car racing – and track owners and operators made money in NASCAR-sanctioned races.

Located in Heritage Speedway, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Raymond Parks Collection

The credibility France and NASCAR established with the racing community set the stage for big things to come over the next 75 years. And it all began with a race and a trophy on Daytona Beach in 1948.

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 of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a veteran of more than 20 years in the NASCAR media industry.

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