The NASCAR reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Drivers practice for the 2004 Daytona 500Enlarge

Drivers practice for the 2004 Daytona 500

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was founded by William H.G. France in 1948 in the USA. Officially incorporated on February 21, its purpose was to organize and promote the sport of stock car racing on sanctioned high-speed oval circuits and a few road courses.

The early NASCAR drivers were originally involved in the illegal transportation of alcohol. The drivers would modify their cars in order to create a faster and more maneuverable car. It was a logical step for the owners of these cars to race them. Thus, NASCAR was created as an officiating body. Even though they were in a league, many of the early drivers were still involved in moonshining and bootlegging.

Contrary to common belief, NASCAR races are not all conducted on identical oval tracks. Tracks vary in length from 0.526 (Martinsvile Speedway) to 2.66 miles (Talladega Superspeedway) (0.847 to 4.281 km). While most tracks are ovals, others are tri-ovals, quad-ovals, triangular, or ovals with unequal ends. Courses also differ in degree of banking on the curves, with differences in degree of banking and course length contributing to different top speeds on various courses. Two courses are complex shaped road courses. Nevertheless, fans of other series such as Formula One ridicule NASCAR races as "taxis turning left."

Race speeds vary widely based on the track. The fastest track is Talladega Superspeedway where the record race speed is 188 mph (303 km/h) with the record qualifying lap of 212.809 mph/44.998s (342.483 km/h) set by Bill Elliott. The slowest tracks are Infineon Raceway, a road course, with a record race speed of only 81 mph (130 km/h) and qualifying lap of 99 mph (159 km/h); and Martinsville Speedway, a very short, nearly flat oval, with a record race speed of 82 mph (132 km/h) and a qualifying lap of only 95 mph (153 km/h). As a safety measure to reduce speeds at the two fastest tracks (Daytona International Speedway and Talladega), restrictor plates must be added to carburetors to restrict airflow and, therefore, power. Today, the highest speeds in NASCAR are found at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which is the fastest track where restrictor plates are not mandated. Unrestricted, NASCAR cars run at over 750 horsepower (560 kW).

The closest European equivalent is Touring car racing, although the European circuits are on road courses. The first NASCAR competition held in Japan was the Suzuka NASCAR Thunder 100 at Suzuka Circuitland in Suzuka City on November 24, 1996. It was won by Rusty Wallace.

NASCAR racing has its share of great finishes. The closest finish in NASCAR history was at Darlington Raceway between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch. Craven came in ahead by .002 seconds. See the picture here.

In the United States, television broadcast rights are split between FOX and NBC/TNT, with FOX airing the first half of the season and NBC/TNT airing the second half. The current television contract was signed for six years and is valued at $2.4 billion [1].

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