NASCAR Celebrates its Past, Present and Future

Many of the 75 Greatest NASCAR Cup Series drivers were at Darlington for this group photo - courtesy Getty Images
Many of the 75 Greatest NASCAR Cup Series drivers were at Darlington for this group photo – courtesy Getty Images

NASCAR had 25 years to contemplate adding 25 drivers to its 50 greatest, listed initially in 1998. The first grouping nodded primarily to those drivers who were essential to building the sport of stock car racing, without whom NASCAR’s popularity might not be engaged at its current level.

Paying homage to those that built NASCAR’s Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series, together with the modified drivers who wrestled the big cars on dirt – something NASCAR has returned to in its eighth decade – and on pavement, the series hasn’t eliminated many drivers that were instrumental in bringing success to the sanctioning organization.

There are families included on this list, from the Allisons (Bobby and Davey), three generations of Earnhardt: Ralph, Dale and Dale Jr., Bill and Chase Elliott, the Busch Brothers – Kurt and Kyle – and the father/son duo of Ned and Dale Jarrett. Brothers Bobby and Terry Labonte are on the initial list, as are Richard and his father Lee Petty, who won the very first Daytona 500.

Jeff Gordon, Chase and Bill Elliott share a laugh – courtesy Getty Images

There are so many accolades to celebrate in 75 years of racing, and NASCAR is using this opportunity to spread the joy across its full-year 2023 calendar. It just feels like this spring is the apogee of the celebration, with the announcement of the 25 added outstanding drivers (https://www.racingjunk.com/news/nascar-announces-75-greatest-drivers-for-75th-anniversary/) and last weekend’s throwback race at Darlington, the track too tough to tame and home of the Darlington Stripe. Many teams and drivers used old-time wraps on their Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota entries to highlight the Cup Series’ past even as they attempt to write its future.

 

William Byron celebrates his third 2023 NASCAR Cup Series win – courtesy Getty Images

The record will show William Byron’s No. 24 Chevy Camaro ZL1 as the winner of last weekend’s race in Darlington, his third of the season, with top 75 drivers Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott scored second and third; as usual, there were disagreements in the pits afterwards… only one driver can win and there’s any number of disappointed racers behind the victor.

This weekend many of those accorded entry into the top 75 of all time will be at North Wilkesboro, another long-time venue in NASCAR Land, for the  All-Star Race the evening of May 21st  after the NASCAR Open earlier in the evening.

That specialty event occurs before NASCAR returns to Charlotte, NC for its Coca-Cola 600 on the night before Memorial Day. Next year, of course, 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champ Kyle Larson is going to attempt the double of racing in both the 108th Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. You know he wants to – and could – win both, something no other driver has done since John Andretti first made his attempt in 1994.

If the objective is to celebrate the past by employing the racing present and its future, NASCAR is doing a great job with its many different  functions this year. What will be next in this celebration? Stay tuned.

By Anne Proffit

About Anne Proffit 1280 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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