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NASCAR Evolution: Survival of the Fastest
MARK BEECH
February 19, 2007
In stock car racing, nothing ever stands still. Indeed, the Car of Tomorrow is coming up fast in the rearview mirror. Here's a high-speed look at how the great American race car--and American racing itself--has progressed over the past 60 years
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February 19, 2007

Nascar Evolution: Survival Of The Fastest

In stock car racing, nothing ever stands still. Indeed, the Car of Tomorrow is coming up fast in the rearview mirror. Here's a high-speed look at how the great American race car--and American racing itself--has progressed over the past 60 years

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1954 JUST SEVEN years after Bill France Sr.--that's Big Bill--founded the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing in the smoke-filled Ebony Bar of Daytona Beach's Streamline Hotel, the new sanctioning body has brought together the independent racing tracks and traditions of the Southeast into a burgeoning circuit.

>> LEE PETTY wins seven times in '54 to take the first of his three Grand National championships. Victory number one comes at Daytona in this Chrysler Club Coupe Windsor.

>> WITH A 331-cubic-inch hemi engine, the number 42 car produces more than 235 horsepower. The car is also outfitted with a Dodge truck transmission.

1967 This is the golden age, when the King and a horde of challengers to his throne do battle week after week before passionate crowds on speedways large and small throughout the South. With the auto manufacturers increasing their investment and sponsors taking interest, big money is starting to drive the sport.

>> AT THE WHEEL of this Plymouth Belvedere/GTX, Richard Petty continues the family tradition, winning an astounding 27 of his 48 NASCAR races in 1967--including 10 in a row. He would retire in '92 with a record 200 wins.

>> THE CARS are largely "stock" only in appearance now; in fact, Petty's '67 Plymouth is actually a reskinned version (in Petty Blue of course) of the '66, powered by a 426-cubic-inch hemi that produces 375 horsepower.

2006 No longer a regional pastime, NASCAR is riding high nationwide. With more than 13 million fans filling 22 tracks in 19 states, the circuit is one of America's most profitable pro sports leagues: Multiyear TV contracts exceed $500 million, and licensed products bring in $2.1 billion.

>> JIMMIE JOHNSON finally fulfills his enormous promise. After finishing in the top five of the Cup standings four years in a row, he lays claim to the '06 Nextel Cup with five wins and 24 top 10 finishes in his Chevy Monte Carlo.

>> THOUGH THREE manufacturers--Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford--make six eligible models for NASCAR, all the cars look strikingly similar. Johnson's racer is powered by an 850-horsepower, 358-cubic-inch engine.

2007 It's still stock car racing, but Big Bill might not recognize the landscape--or the machines. Committed to growth in the increasingly competitive sports marketplace, NASCAR looks to cultivate new venues and fans, in the U.S. and abroad, while welcoming foreign manufacturers and drivers.

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