The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the United States’ premier motorsports sanctioning body. Established in 1948 by William France Sr., NASCAR has grown from its humble beginnings to the second most popular professional sport in the United States (based on TV ratings; only the NFL is higher). NASCAR governs numerous levels and series of auto racing, including the NEXTEL Cup (Sprint Cup in 2008), Busch Series (Nationwide Series in 2008), Craftsman Truck Series, Canadian Tire Series, Corona Series, and various regional racing series.
Races at all levels of NASCAR predominately take place on oval tracks with all the turns being to the left; however, there are a small amounts of races held on tracks called “road courses” that involve more turns. The oval tracks are usually split into three categories based upon length: short track (under one mile), speedway (one to two miles), and superspeedway (two and half miles and usually in a tri-oval).
The vehicles used for racing in NASCAR are nearly exclusively what are referred to as “stock cars” (the obvious exception to this is the Craftsman Truck Series). When NASCAR was first formed in 1948, a division existed that was called “strictly stock”. Over the years the cars began to develop and change to better accommodate safety and performance needs and the resulting cars are certainly no longer “stock”. Starting in 2008, the NEXTEL/Sprint Cup will exclusively use the new Car of Tomorrow (CoT).
The NEXTEL/Sprint Cup is the upper series and usually regarded as the “face” of NASCAR; it is generally assumed that when one refers to NASCAR they are referring to the NEXTEL/Sprint Cup Series. A season lasts from February through November and consists of 36 races which take place on weekends (either Saturday or Sunday). Only 43 drivers can participate in each race with qualifying events taking place prior to race-day. Drivers are awarded points based on their finishing position in a race and the top twelve point-earning drivers with ten races left in the season qualify for “The Chase”. The twelve drivers then compete among themselves for the NEXTEL/Sprint Cup championship. The Busch/Nationwide Series is one step lower than the NEXTEL/Sprint Cup and is considered a developmental series. Racing largely mirrors the NEXTEL/Sprint Cup with only a few variations.