Top 10 List: July 4th Trivia
by Tom Jensen June 28, 2021
NASCAR began racing on Independence Day in 1952. They’re still doing it now, nearly 70 years later.
July 4th is the Great American Holiday, a time for family, fireworks, grilling out and for many people, enjoying a day off work.
But for decades in NASCAR, July 4th was a workday, a time when premier series drivers and teams did battle on the track.
NASCAR used to race every Independence Day, but this year, the premier series will race on July 4th for the first time since 2009. This year’s Fourth of July battle will be the Jockey Made in America 250 at Road America, a place where the premier series has raced only once before, and that was way back in 1956.
So with that in mind, this week’s Top 10 list is all about NASCAR Fourth of July trivia.
10. First July 4 race
After not racing on Independence Day during its first three premier series seasons, NASCAR raced on
July 4, 1952, at Shangri-La Motor Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in Oswego, N.Y. There, Hall of Famers Tim Flock (2014) and Herb Thomas (2013) lapped the field in their Hudson Hornets to finish 1-2. Flock won $1,000 and Thomas $700.
9. Hall of Famers
Since that first race, the premier series has competed 37 times on July 4th proper. Twenty six of those 37 races have been won by a total of nine NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees: Richard Petty (Class of 2010), Bobby Allison (2011), Lee Petty (2011), David Pearson (2011), Cale Yarborough (2012), Herb Thomas (2013), Fireball Roberts (2014), Buddy Baker (2020) and Tony Stewart (2020).
Road America will be the sixth track to host a premier series race. The other five are Shangri-La Motor Speedway in Oswego, N.Y.; Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg. S.C.; Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in Weaverville, N.C.; Raleigh Speedway in North Carolina; and Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
7. Twice as Nice
In 1964 and ’65, open-wheel star A.J. Foyt won consecutive Firecracker 400 races at Daytona International Speedway. Foyt’s first victory came in Ray Nichels’ No. 47 Dodge and paid $13,000 to win.
6. One and Done
Two drivers won their only premier series race on July 4th: In 1966, Sam McQuagg earned $15,500 when he won the Firecracker 400 in the No. 98 Nichels Engineering Dodge owned by Ray Nichels.
In one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history, Greg Sacks drove an unsponsored DiGard Racing Chevrolet to victory in the Pepsi Firecracker 400. Sacks’ car was unsponsored and was a “research and development” car for the team, which pocketed $45,350.
5. Daytona Days
From 1959 to 1987, NASCAR raced at Daytona International Speedway every July 4th, no matter what. In 1988, the schedule switched to the Saturday of Fourth of July weekend, first during the day and then, starting in 1998, at night. After 1987, the next time NASCAR raced on July 4th was 1992, when Ernie Irvan won at Daytona.
4. Fireball’s Hot Streak
In NASCAR’s first decade, no one had more success on July 4th than Fireball Roberts, who won five premier series races on Independence Day, a mark that so far has only been equaled by David Pearson (2011). Roberts won July 4th races at North Carolina’s Raleigh Speedway in 1956 and ’58, then won three more at Daytona International Speedway: The Firecracker 250 in 1959 and ’62, and the Firecracker 400 in 1963. A native of Daytona Beach, Roberts enjoyed considerable success at his home track.
3. Family Affair
When it comes to winning races run on July 4th, no one enjoyed as much success as Stuart, Virginia-based Wood Brothers Racing. The team founded by Glen Wood (2012) won nine times on Independence Day with five different drivers: A.J. Foyt in 1965; Cale Yarborough (2011) in 1967 and ’68; David Pearson (2011) in 1972, ’73, ’74 and ’78; Neil Bonnett in 1979; and Buddy Baker (2020) in 1983. Baker’s victory was the 19th and final one of his career.
2. A President and The King
Far and away the most famous July 4th NASCAR race was the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Richard Petty (2010) outdrafted Cale Yarborough (2012) back to the caution flag on the race’s penultimate lap to score his record 200th and final career premier series race victory.
But the most newsworthy aspect of the race was that it was attended by President Ronald Reagan, the first sitting president to appear at a live NASCAR race.
1. The Last Winner
Here’s a trivia tidbit that would make a good bar bet: The last NASCAR premier series driver to win a race on July 4th was Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (2020), who led 86 of 160 laps to win the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The big victory was worth $349,873 for Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing team.