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Top-10 List

Top 10 List: July 4th Trivia

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.

Tim Flock (No. 91) and Herb Thomas (No. 92) finished 1-2 in NASCAR’s first July 4th race. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

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.

The 1974 season saw David Pearson and Wood Brothers Racing win their third consecutive Firecracker 400. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

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).

In 1956, Raleigh Speedway hosted its first of three consecutive July 4th NASCAR premier series races. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

8. Tracks

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.

A.J. Foyt’s first Firecracker 400 victory came behind the wheel of a Dodge owned by Ray Nichels. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

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.

In 1965, A.J. Foyt became the first of five drivers to win on the Fourth of July for Wood Brothers Racing. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

The next year, Foyt won driving the No. 41 Ford fielded by Glen (2012) and Leonard (2013) Wood. That triumph was worth just $8,500.

Sam McQuagg’s only race victory in 62 career premier series starts occurred in the 1966 Firecracker 400. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

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.

Greg Sacks and the DiGard Racing team shocked the NASCAR garage by winning the 1985 Firecracker 400 in an unsponsored car.

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.

Ernie Irvan was victorious at Daytona on July 4, 1992. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

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.

Fireball Roberts swept all three races at Daytona in 1962, including the July 4th Firecracker 250 at Daytona. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

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.

Cale Yarborough won consecutive Firecracker 400s in 1967 and ’68, both times with Wood Brothers Racing. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

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.

After a tremendous battle, Richard Petty barely edged Cale Yarborough back to the caution flag to win the 1984 Firecracker 400. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

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.

Richard Petty (from left) ate fried chicken with President Ronald Reagan, Bobby Allison and other racers at the 1984 Firecracker 400. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

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.

The most recent driver to win a premier series race on July 4th was Tony Stewart in 2009. Photo courtesy of Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

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.

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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