NASCAR In The '60s & '70s: Fighters, Cheaters And Richard Petty

By Kellar Ellsworth
Right: Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp (No. 73) sail over the turn four railing of Daytona International Speedway in the second qualifier for the 1961 Daytona 500. Right: Richard Petty with his 1973 Dodge Charger. Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty I

NASCAR drivers in the '60s and '70s were some of the most colorful pro athletes in sports. Racers like Richard Petty, Wendell Scott, David “Silver Fox” Pearson, Dick Trickle (yes, that’s a real name), and many more all made the early days of NASCAR their personal playground. Stock car racing was a young sport, and had only been going in an organized fashion since 1948, the year NASCAR was founded. 

Though its official name is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR wasn't "national" as we know it today back in the early '60s. All the tracks were in a handful of states in the southeast, and races were not broadcast nationally. Back then you could get away with a lot more, especially when it came to sports. 

Incredibly, NASCAR’s earliest beginnings can be traced to competitions between moonshiners. Those early prohibition runners were either bored by outrunning the comparably slow officers of the law or so competitive they needed to prove who was top dog. Eventually, those mostly impromptu moonshine races became organized. Within a decade a racer named Big Bill France got everyone headed in the same direction.