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Curator's Corner / NASCAR 75th Anniversary

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

Automakers figured out early on that success on NASCAR tracks translated to success in showrooms across the United States.

Over the course of more than 75 years, NASCAR racing has proven to be a highly effective showcase for automakers competing for victories on the track and new-car sales off the track.

It wasn’t long after the first NASCAR Strictly Stock Division (now Cup Series) race in 1949 that automakers began to understand what a valuable tool NASCAR racing was to promote their brands and sell more cars. Born in the 1950s, the phrase “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” was something automakers took very seriously back in the day. Even today, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota invest millions of dollars annually in their respective NASCAR programs because doing so helps them achieve their corporate goals and build their brands.

Rivalries between automobile manufacturers have been a staple of NASCAR competition since the sport’s earliest days. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Since the first race in 1949, 16 different manufacturers have won at least once in the more than 2,700 Cup Series races that have taken place.

In chronological order, here’s where each of those 16 manufacturers found Victory Lane for the first time.

Jim Roper bested a 33-car field in NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock Series race. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center /CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Lincoln, June 9, 1949, Charlotte Speedway

The first NASCAR Strictly Stock Division race was won by Jim Roper, who drove his Lincoln from his home in Kansas to Charlotte. Lincoln, the luxury division of Ford Motor Co., would win only three more premier series races, all in 1949 and ’50.

Red Byron won on the sands of the old Daytona Beach & Road Course in an Oldsmobile. Photo courtesy of Don O’Reilly/Dozier Mobley/Getty Images

Oldsmobile, July 10, 1949, Daytona Beach & Road Course

The now-defunct General Motors brand earned the first of its 115 premier series victories with the Hall of Fame combination of driver Red Byron (Class 2018) and team owner Raymond Parks (Class 2017), who went on to win the first series championship in 1949.

Lee Petty captured the penultimate race of the first Strictly Stock season. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center /CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Plymouth, October 2, 1949, Heidelberg Speedway

Lee Petty (Class of 2011), the patriarch of the Petty racing family, scored his first of 54 career victories, and the first of 191 wins for Plymouth, on the half-mile Heidelberg Raceway dirt track in Pittsburgh. During his career, Petty won three championships and set the record for dirt-track victories.

Driving a 1950 Mercury coupe similar to the one pictured, Bill Blair delivered the automaker’s first victory. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Mercury, June 18, 1950, Vernon Fairgrounds

North Carolina native Bill Blair had to travel to New York state to earn his first career victory and the first for Mercury. On the half-mile Vernon Fairgrounds track, Blair bested a 23-car field to take the win.

Ford drivers have won more than 720 Cup Series races since Jimmy Florian’s lone victory. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Ford, June 25, 1950, Dayton Speedway

Ford's first NASCAR win came when unheralded Cleveland native Jimmy Florian won his first and only Cup Series race in his fourth career start. Florian took the checkered flag at the 0.500-mile Dayton Speedway, one of the first paved ovals on the NASCAR circuit.

Marshall Teague kicked off Hudson’s era of NASCAR dominance with a victory on the Daytona Beach & Road Course. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center /CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Hudson, February 11, 1951, Daytona Beach & Road Course

Hudson was the first automaker to use NASCAR racing to sell its cars. It was the dominant brand in the early 1950s, winning three consecutive manufacturers championships from 1952-54 with its Fabulous Hudson Hornets.

Curtis Turner (car No. 41) was the only driver to win a Cup Series race in a Nash. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Nash, April 1, 1951, Charlotte Speedway

Nash was one of many smaller automakers that briefly competed in NASCAR. The lone triumph for the marque came at Charlotte Speedway, a 0.750-mile dirt track. Curtis Turner won the race in a car owned and sponsored by Nash Motor Co.

Frank Mundy was the only driver to win more than once in a Studebaker. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Studebaker, June 16, 1951, Columbia Speedway

Indiana-based Studebaker won three Cup Series races, all in 1951. Frank Mundy gave Studebaker two of those three victories, the first coming at Columbia Speedway, a 0.500-mile dirt track in Cayce, South Carolina. Mundy never won again after 1951.

Tommy Thompson waved to the crowd as he took the checkered flag in the Motor City 250. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Chrysler, August 12, 1951, Michigan State Fairgrounds

Chrysler began its run of excellence in its own backyard, as Tommy Thompson drove his 1951 Chrysler to a 37-second victory in Detroit at the Motor City 250. Thompson made 22 Cup Series starts over parts of eight seasons, but this was his only race victory.

Lee Petty opened the 1953 NASCAR season with a victory in Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center /CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Dodge, February 1, 1953, Palm Beach Speedway

NASCAR began its 1953 season at Palm Beach Speedway in South Florida, where Lee Petty (Class of 2011) claimed the first win for Dodge and finished a full 2 laps ahead of his Petty Enterprises teammate Jimmie Lewallen. Petty drove a 1953 Dodge, Lewallen a ’52 Plymouth. It was the first of 217 race victories for Dodge, third-best on the all-time list behind only Chevrolet and Ford.

Al Keller (car No. 4) gave Jaguar its only NASCAR Cup Series victory. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Jaguar, June 13, 1954, Linden Airport

NASCAR staged its first road-course race for foreign cars on a makeshift road course at New Jersey’s Linden Airport. Al Keller was the winner and Jaguar joined Nash Motor Co. as the only automakers in history with only one Cup Series victory.

Fonty Flock was a winner in a 1955 Chevrolet owned by Frank Christian. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Chevrolet, March 26, 1955, Columbia Speedway

Chevrolet is the all-time victory leader in the NASCAR Cup Series, with more than 840 race wins as of June 10th, 2020. The first win for the Bowtie Brigade came at Columbia Speedway in Cayce, South Carolina, where Fonty Flock led the final 66 laps. The only other driver to lead was Fonty’s brother, Tim Flock (Class of 2014), who led the first 134 laps.

Buck Baker’s 1955 Buick, shown in the middle of the front row for the Southern 500, won earlier in the season at Charlotte Speedway. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Buick, May 1, 1955, Charlotte Speedway

At Charlotte Speedway, Buck Baker (Class of 2013) passed Tim Flock (Class of 2014) with 21 laps to go to give Buick its first Cup Series victory. A year later, Baker would win his first championship in a Chrysler, and in 1957, he’d pilot a Chevrolet as he became the first driver to win titles in consecutive years.

Driver Cotton Owens and car owner Jim Stephens made quite a haul for Pontiac at Daytona Beach in 1957. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Pontiac, February 17, 1957, Daytona Beach & Road Course

To deliver Pontiac’s first Cup Series race victory, Cotton Owens (Class of 2013) had to out-run 56 other drivers on the fast and treacherous 4.1-mile Daytona Beach & Road course. But Owens was up to the task, finishing 55 seconds ahead of Johnny Beauchamp.

Roger Penske brought the red, white and blue of American Motors into NASCAR. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

American Motors, January 21, 1973, Riverside International Raceway

Roger Penske (Class of 2019) shocked the racing world when he decided to compete in NASCAR, bringing American Motors Corp and its brightly colored Matador coupes with him. But star driver Mark Donohue made a winner of Penske and AMC in the 1973 season opener on the old Riverside International Raceway road course.

Kyle Busch won a career-high eight races in 2008 as Toyota quickly became a force in NASCAR. Photo courtesy of Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Toyota, March 9, 2008, Atlanta Motor Speedway

After a lackluster debut in 2007, Toyota signed the team owned by Joe Gibbs (Class of 2020) to a long-term deal, starting in 2008. With Gibbs’s help, Toyota started winning almost immediately, with Kyle Busch delivering the first Toyota Cup Series victory in Kobalt Tools 500.

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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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