NASCAR HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS BY YEAR

1947
- In 1947, NASCAR was first formed into a private corporation. Visionary Bill France saw the potential of a unified, organized racing series and he took a bold, decisive step by announcing the formation of the National Champ­ionship Stock Car Circuit (NCSCC). This new touring series for stock car jockeys was complete with a standard set of rules, points standings and prize money. By the end of the 1947 season, attend­ance at most of the NCSCC races exceeded capacity and France knew it was time for stock car racing to expand beyond its Southern roots. He held a big NCSCC convention in Daytona Beach, appointing technical and competition committees within all factions -- drivers, mechanics, and ­owners. Louis Jerome Vogt, ace-mechanic of the era, coined the name for the new organization: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

1948 - 1948 was the year the first official NASCAR-sanctioned stock car racing event took place. Drivers -- including females Sara Christian, Louise Smith, and Ethel Flock -- hit the tracks in hopped-up prewar coupes known as "Modifieds," competing in a total of 52 races. The 1948 NASCAR championship season was full of wrecks, drama, and flair. At the end of a very close title chase, only 37.75 points separated Fonty Flock and crusty veteran Robert "Red" Byron.

1949 - The 1949 NASCAR Strictly Stock season came about when Bill France toyed with the idea of a circuit for late-model American cars. Prior to the war, nearly every stock car race was entirely comprised of late-model sedans. But after the war, a shortage of new, postwar automobiles had delayed any serious thought of racing late models. That was, until May 1949, when France announced plans to conduct a "Strictly Stock" championship. Held on June 19, 1949, the race was open to the fastest 33 cars in qualifications, à la the Indianapolis 500. Seven other Strictly Stock races were staged during the 1949 season and tremendous attendance figures attested to their booming success. As the decade of the 1940s drew to a close, NASCAR's ­festival of noise and color had achieved a new level of respectability within professional motorsports.

1950 - In 1950, the "NASCAR Grand National Circuit" became the new title for the previous year's "Strictly Stock" racing division. Though only eight Strictly Stock races were staged in 1949, this newfangled late-model racing circuit was already a hot commodity. It became NASCAR's number-one series, replacing the Modifieds as the headlining attraction.  Automobile manufacturers began to take notice, and with accelerated research and mechanical development, were producing more powerful passenger cars with high-compression, lightweight V-8 engines for the public. The first manufacturer to really invest in NASCAR's Grand National Circuit was the Nash Motor Company. The company offered cash prizes as contingency money in a few races and promised to deliver a new Nash to the 1950 NASCAR Grand National champion.

1951 - During the 1951 NASCAR Grand National season, car manufacturers became more actively involved in the sport of racing. Nash recruited and signed dynamic stars Curtis Turner and Johnny Mantz to drive Ambassadors in NASCAR Grand National competition, while Daytona winner Marshall Teague convinced Hudson to support his racing efforts by showing how winning on the NASCAR tracks would sell more Hudson cars to the public. Though Oldsmobile won more races overall, Hudson won 12 of the 41 races in the 1951 NASCAR Grand National campaign, including the two biggest prizes, the Southern 500 and the Grand National championship. Another significant event in this formative year of NASCAR Grand National racing was Bill France's effort to convince the Detroit Junior Chamber of Commerce to book the Grand National Circuit at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The timing was perfect as the Motor City was gearing up to celebrate its 250th anniversary in the summer of 1951.

1952 - By the 1952 NASCAR Grand National season, NASCAR had taken its unique brand of automobile racing to the doorstep of the manufacturers' home base, and virtually every make of American car was represented in the starting grid. With its factory program running smoothly, Hudson ­domi­nated in 1952, capturing 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races. No other make won more than three times. Tim Flock captured the championship in his Ted Chester-owned Hudson Hornet, winning eight races in 33 starts. Thomas ­finished a close runner-up to Flock in the title chase.

1953 - The 1953 NASCAR Grand National season was a history-maker. Herb Thomas rebounded to become the first driver to win two NASCAR Grand National titles. Thomas also established a new NASCAR record by winning 12 races in a single season and finished comfortably ahead of Lee Petty in the final standings. On the automobile front, Hudsons won 22 of the 37 NASCAR Grand National races. Hudson's prowess on NASCAR's speedways made the other manufacturers take notice, and by the mid 1950s, GM, Ford, and Chrysler were developing more powerful vehicles for highway use.

1954 - The 1954 NASCAR Grand National campaign was another one for the record books. Lee Petty produced one of the most consistent seasons in NASCAR history, claiming seven races and finishing in the top 10 in 32 of his 34 starts. Petty was perhaps the steadiest of the NASCAR pioneers, taking care of his equipment while attaining maximum performance. Prior to a coil burning out in the Southern 500, Petty had been running at the finish in 56 consecutive NASCAR Grand National events stretching back into the 1953 season.

1955 - The 1955 NASCAR Grand National season was pivotal for the future of NASCAR. It started when Mercury Outboard magnate Carl Kiekhaefer appeared virtually overnight with a powerful Chrysler 300. He brought the car to Daytona without a driver, but Tim Flock, who quit NASCAR in 1954 after he was disqualified from the Daytona victory, was the logical choice. A deal was struck, and Flock won the 1955 Daytona race in his first start with Kiekhaefer. During the 1955 NASCAR championship season, Flock won 18 races and Kiekhaefer Chryslers won 22 of the 39. By late 1955, GM and Ford were pulling out all the stops to derail the Kiekhaefer/Chrysler express. The big showdown came at Darlington's Southern 500, NASCAR's premier super speedway race and, to date, the only 500-miler. The battle of the Big Three manufacturers so captured the fancy of Southern racing fans that a frenzied peak of anticipation grew each day. All of the Darlington race grandstand seats were sold out more than 24 hours in advance.

1956 - During the 1956 NASCAR Grand National season, the battle between Chevrolet and Ford escalated. The two car giants collectively spent better than $6 million to win NASCAR stock car races and sell their products to the motoring public. Despite their spending sprees, Kiekhaefer's Chryslers and Dodges still cleaned house, compiling an amazing 16-race winning streak during the early summer. Near the end of the 1956 season, Kiekhaefer withdrew from NASCAR. Though his teams had performed splendidly, they were constantly booed by spectators and always under the watchful eyes of NASCAR inspectors. Kiekhaefer could never understand why his efforts weren't appreciated and he got out of NASCAR as suddenly as he had arrived.

1957 - For the 1957 NASCAR Grand National season, Kiekhaefer's departure left Chrysler without a top-ranked team. The MoPar unit quickly patched together a team, but Chrysler was far behind Chevrolet and Ford, both of whom were spending millions on their racing efforts. Each car manufacturer had swarms of press agents to beat the drums of publicity in newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. Fuel-injected engines and superchargers were available to the public, and, therefore, eligible for NASCAR competition. However, the directors of the Automobile Manufacturers Association soon became disturbed about the excessive advertising of brute horsepower -- the nation's highways had become lethal with record numbers of fatalities. On Thursday, June 6, 1957, heads of several car companies, sitting as directors of the Automobile Manufacturers Asso­ciation, unanimously recommended that the industry take no part in, or assist in any way, automobile races or other competitive events that emphasized speed or horsepower. When the resolution came down, the automotive industry retreated from NASCAR stock car racing. The unlimited gravy train of racing goodies from Detroit and Dearborn to the Southern racing teams dramatically slowed down, but most teams had the resources to finish out the 1957 season. Buck Baker won 10 races and captured his second straight NASCAR Grand National championship driving his own Chevrolets.

1958 - At the start of the 1958 NASCAR Grand National season, car manufacturers faced the Automobile Manufacturers Association 1957 ban on active participation in auto racing -- but they were itching to get back into the sport. To abide by the AMA resolution, yet still get the latest equipment into the hands of NASCAR competitors, manufacturers found they just had to be a little more discreet. John Holman said his newly arrived 1958 Fords were the courtesy of 32 Carolina Ford dealerships, not the Ford factory. Jim Rathmann, who owned a Chevrolet dealership in Florida, found himself surrounded with Chevrolet's latest high-speed equipment and some of the first 1958 sheet metal. Pontiac was well-represented too, with the addition of Smokey Yunick to its team. Forty-nine cars showed up for the 1958 Daytona Beach NASCAR Grand National race and the season never broke stride. Fifty-one events comprised the 1958 NASCAR Grand National campaign, and a pair of 500-milers at Trenton, N.J., and Riverside, Calif., were added to the slate.

1959 - The 1959 NASCAR Grand National season was full of excitement as the very first Daytona 500 was held on a massive new, 2.5-mile speedway in Daytona Beach. The Feb. 22 show turned out to be better than a Hollywood production. For 500 miles, devoid of a single caution period, America's finest machinery battled around the new Daytona Inter­national Speedway in dizzying fashion. Speeds were alarming -- certainly faster than any stock car had gone and within a whisker of the top speeds turned at Indy. In the late stages, the race boiled down to a three-car struggle between Lee Petty's Oldsmobile, Johnny Beauchamp's Thunderbird, and Joe Weatherly's Chevy. The finish was so close Bill France stepped in to announce the results were "unofficial" until all available evidence could be studied in the form of photos and film. After 61 hours, Lee Petty was declared the official winner, by about one foot. Petty averaged 135.521 mph, 33 mph faster than any other NASCAR Grand National race. The Daytona 500 was an electric success that generated more publicity than any other stock car race to that point in his­tory. A track-side audience of 41,921 watched as NASCAR stock car racing was about to venture into a whole new chapter of ultra-fast speedways.

1960 - By the 1960 NASCAR Grand National season, work had already begun on new super-tracks in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Hanford, Calif. NASCAR had also found its way into the electronic media with CBS Sports' live telecast of three preliminary races during the Daytona Speedweeks. With NASCAR races beginning to show up on the tube in American homes, the automobile industry realized the Automobile Manufacturers Association 1957 ban on participation was hindering their efforts in promotions, sales, and performance. Factory representation in NASCAR was on a dramatic rise by 1960, although all members of the AMA said publicly that they were still adhering to the original guidelines of the 1957 resolution. Ford and General Motors even hired individuals to spy on each other. In 1960, GM won 20 NASCAR Grand National events, including the Daytona 500, Charlotte's World 600, and the NASCAR Grand National championship. Ford won 15 times, while Chrysler's conservative effort with the Petty Engineering camp scored nine wins.

1961 - In the 1961 NASCAR Grand National season, General Motors continued winning, taking 41 races in all. Pontiac won 30 and Chevrolet won 11, but Ford won only seven times. Chrysler managed to win four short-track events. Also in 1961, ABC's Wide World of Sports began to televise a number of the major super speedway races in a tape-delayed format. On Saturday afternoon, a half-hour or so of edited highlights of the 1961 NASCAR Grand Nationals were beamed into American homes. New Fords, Pontiacs, Chevrolets, and Plymouths were performing on a speedy stage in the living rooms of a car-buying public. Pontiacs were winning most of the races aired on tele­vision. Not surprisingly, Pontiac sales showed a brisk increase. Soon, Pontiac ranked third in automobile sales in the United States, a position that could be directly attributed to lofty results on NASCAR tracks.

1962 - Early in the 1962 NASCAR Grand National season, General Motors was racking up impressive numbers in the victory column. GM won 18 of the first 20 races, 12 by Pontiac. Plymouth scored twice and Ford had a big zero. In June 1962, Ford Motor Co. president Henry Ford II announced his company was stepping out of the 1957 Automobile Manufacturers Association ban on NASCAR participation and would actively -- and publicly -- be involved in NASCAR racing. NASCAR president Bill France greeted the Ford announce­ment with enthusiasm and approval. Veteran driver Buck Baker, who won the 1956 and 1957 NASCAR Grand National championships while a member of factory teams, said a full-scale return to racing by the factory teams would mean "a better sport, better equipment, better pay, and a better show. All the top drivers would be bid for, just like baseball players."

1963 - For the 1963 NASCAR Grand National season, NASCAR established a new set of rules to address the potential of unlimited engineering by the factories. For one, a 428 cubic inch limit on engine displacement was put into effect. By limiting the cid, NASCAR could keep the factories in check and keep the present components from becoming obsolete. Regardless, Ford started the 1963 Grand National campaign with a bang, finishing 1-2-3-4-5 in the celebrated Daytona 500. Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly, who had been the dominant drivers for Pontiac in 1961 and 1962, simply couldn't keep up with the speedier Fords and Chevys. In the meantime, "Golden Boy" Fred Lorenzen, the lead driver for the Holman-Moody Ford team, was racking up big prizes and collecting lots of handsome trophies for his deeds in speed. By mid-season, Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly had abandoned the sinking Pontiac ship and joined Ford -- Roberts as a teammate with Lorenzen, and Weatherly in the Bud Moore Mercury effort.

1964 - As the curtain lifted for the 1964 NASCAR Grand National season, Chrysler was loaded for bear. The Plymouths and Dodges were more streamlined aerodynamically and packed with a bundle of horsepower, but Chrysler dusted off an idea from the early 1950s and came up with a "new" engine -- the 426 Hemi. Cars could now travel up to 175 mph, but with the increased speeds came increased danger, and the unlimited horsepower race exacted a heavy toll.

1965 - On October 19, 1964, NASCAR issued new rules for the 1965 NASCAR Grand National campaign designed to curb speeds and increase the focus on safety. The engine displacement remained unchanged, but special limited edition engines were banned, including the Chrysler Hemi. Chrysler packed up and pulled out of NASCAR in protest. Richard Petty would not defend his championship, and top contenders David Pearson, Paul Goldsmith, Bobby Isaac, Jim Paschal, and LeeRoy Yarbrough were on the sidelines. It was a season marked by protest and controversy.

1966 - The 1966 NASCAR season was marked by the re-introduction of Chrysler's legendary Hemi engine and Ford's departure from the sport. With less competition and more power than ever, Chrysler was a frequent visitor to the winner's circle early in the season, though Ford's boycott took a big bite out of attendance. By the end of the season, Ford had realized that without NASCAR performances, sales were suffering, and so returned to the speedways in force.

1967 - By 1967, the car makers were back in the NASCAR Grand National chase in full force. At Daytona, more than 80 cars filed into the big speedway, and all factory teams were on hand with the exception of General Motors. A record crowd of 94,250 paid to attend the Daytona 500, which was won in 1967 by Mario Andretti. The excitement at Daytona set the tone for the rest of the thrilling season.

1968 - The 1968 NASCAR Grand National season would pit the sleek Ford Torino and Mercury Cyclone models against the brute horsepower of Chrysler's Hemi. General Motors was still on the sidelines, staying out of racing because it feared violating federal safety standards. The Fords and Caleb Yarborough's lone Mercury were the top dogs on the super speedways, while Richard Petty's Ford racked up wins on the short tracks. Ford scored in nine of the 12 major races on big tracks. The excitement of the season gave NASCAR a needed boost in popularity among fans as well.

1969 - BAt the beginning of the 1969 NASCAR Grand National season, Ford and Mercury were virtually unbeatable. On the big tracks hosting races of 300 miles or more, Ford tied together a 13-race winning streak. Fords took the top five spots at Atlanta, the top four at Michigan, and finished first and second in eight of the 13 victories. All of that changed in September with the introduction of the Dodge Charger Daytona at the Talladega 500. Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes frustrations built among the drivers, who held a secret meeting in Ann Arbor in August and formed the Professional Drivers Association. The rough track at Talladega proved to be a catalyst: Drivers wanted to postpone the race to wait for safer tires to be developed that could handle the surface, but officials refused. Most of the drivers loaded up their cars and went home. The first official drivers boycott in NASCAR history had become a reality. In the final months of the 1969 campaign, the PDA drivers returned to the speedway, albeit with considerable tension, to cap off another season of thrills and controversy.

1970 - Auto racing -- particularly the NASCAR Grand National tour -- in the United States was billed as "The Sport of the 1970s" as the new decade approached. With new, ultra-modern facilities popping up all over the country and millions of dollars being poured into NASCAR stock racing by the automotive factories, the sport seemed to be on a roll. Despite the overall rosy appearance, the earth was rumbling a bit within the NASCAR domain. Most of the licensed NASCAR Grand National drivers had formed a union called the Professional Drivers Association. The drivers were serious about gaining awareness from NASCAR about conditions at the speedways, including the alarmingly high speeds, the amount of time teams had to spend at a track to prepare for a race, the perceived lack of posted awards, and amenities for the competitors. Even with behind-the-scenes friction, the 1970 NASCAR tour produced many great moments.

1971 - The loss of the factory-supported team in 1971 was a big blow to the NASCAR Grand Nationals. Every team in NASCAR in 1971, save Petty Enterprises, felt the pinch of the factory withdrawal. Drivers -- and NASCAR itself -- found relief in the form of a sponsorship deal with R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company (the parent company of Winston cigarettes), who in turn gained advertising and naming rights to the newly-christened NASCAR Winston Cup Grand Nationals. It was one of a handful of bright spots in an otherwise troubled season.

1972 - The early part of the 1972 NASCAR Winston Cup season was rather lethargic. Richard Petty lost a cylinder midway through the 250-miler at Martinsville in April, yet still won the race by seven laps. Fan attendance was down, and the forecast for the season was uncertain. But toward the end of the year, a feud exploded between Richard Petty and Bobby Allison, the two front-runners, that would ignite the fierce competition of the rest of the season.

1973 - During the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup season, NASCAR had not given up hope for small engines, though the lack of team sponsors prevented the sanctioning body from putting the heavily restricted big engines out to pasture. Although David Parsons enjoyed a record wrecking year in 1973, winning 10 of 15 starts on super speedways and 11 of 18 for the season, the un-sponsored team of L.G. DeWitt and Benny Parsons won a single race and took the NASCAR Winston Cup championship trophy in a significant upset.

1974 - The 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National season faced the threat of a shut-down when, in late 1973, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced a general boycott on oil exports to Europe, Japan, and the United States. Faced with an oil crisis, NASCAR took immediate steps to conserve fuel. Among other changes, the length of all races was cut by 10 percent, which went a long way toward the goal of reducing fuel use by 25 percent. Meanwhile, NASCAR continued to move toward the use of smaller engines, and made several rule changes. Despite the rule changes, the overwhelming majority of races were won by Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and David Pearson.

1975 - By the 1975 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National season, the transition from big to small engines was complete. All cars were equipped with the same-size engines and the restrictor plates were gone. With a standard set of rules, stability had gained a foothold within the NASCAR kingdom. Despite smaller fields of competition, NASCAR Winston Cup racing was getting more television time as well.y

1976 - The 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup season was filled with heart-stopping moments, from a last-lap crash between Richard Petty and David Pearson in the Daytona 500 to one between Dale Earnhardt and Dick Brooks at Atlanta International Raceway. The season was filled with triumph as well: Not only did veteran Cale Yarborough win his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship, but NASCAR also welcomed female driver Janet Guthrie, who finished 15th at the World 600.

1977 - By 1977, the NASCAR Winston Cup organization was pulling itself out of the shackles of the post-factory days. Corporate sponsors were jumping on the bandwagon, new team owners found the NASCAR scene appealing, and a few of the surviving independent teams had beefed up their operations. The starting fields were full again, the grandstands were close to capacity, competition was closer, and television ratings were climbing steadily.

1978 - The 1978 NASCAR Winston Cup season was filled with hotly contested races and surprise upset victories. In the Talladega 500 alone, there were 67 lead changes before Lennie Pond drove his Oldsmobile around Benny Parsons with five laps to go and scored his lone NASCAR Winston Cup career victory by a narrow margin. Other races captured the season's spirited competition.

1979 - The 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup season was one of record speeds and legendary brawls. At the Daytona 500 alone, thanks to a newly-resurfaced track, Buddy Baker reached a record qualifying speed of 196.049 mph to top Cale Yarborough's nine-year-old record of 194.015. The race itself didn't disappoint, either. The 21st annual Daytona 500 was spectacular from start to finish, with thrilling action and many lead changes. During the final lap, leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison (who had been jostling for the lead) slid together into the concrete wall, clearing the way for Richard Petty to take the win. Immediately, Yarborough and Allison began to fight on the field, and the whole fracas was televised live on CBS, which only served to increase ticket sales.

1980 - The 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup season began with a refreshing outlook for a sport that had endured a tumultuous trek through peaks and valleys in the preceding 10 years. Through a complex, shifting panorama, NASCAR overcame innumerable obstacles in the 1970s, and emerged in 1980 with one of the most thrilling championship chases in NASCAR history, between sophomore Dale Earnhardt and veteran Cale Yarborough.

1981 - New NASCAR guidelines for the 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup season resulted in cars that twitched frighteningly at high speeds and had to be stabilized with large spoilers. The Daytona 500 featured 49 lead changes, and set the tone for the rest of the exciting 1981 campaign. Over the course of the 31-race season in 1981, fans witnessed 772 lead changes -- a mark that still stands despite the fact that five races have been added to the annual schedule. A record five races were also determined by a last-lap pass, another standard that still stands.

1982 - By the 1982 NASCAR Winston Cup season, the importance of team sponsorship had become paramount. Costs were rising sharply, and teams had to perform well to secure and keep sponsorship. Winning races was a prerequisite, and crews often challenged the savvy of the NASCAR technical inspectors in their efforts to gain a "competitive edge." The tradition was as old as stock car racing itself, and was considered part of the game.

1983 - In the early part of the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup campaign, NASCAR began cracking down on teams that were stepping beyond the rules. Early in the season, such disallowed items as illegal fuel cans, unapproved fuel cells, and other ingenious "modifications" were confiscated by NASCAR officials. But threats failed to curtail the imagination of the sport's top mechanics. Throughout the season, a number of violations were detected and confiscated. The controversy came to a head in October, when seven-time champ Richard Petty won the Miller High Life 500, but was then found to be using illegal tires and a too-large engine. The scandal destroyed Petty's decades-long relationship with Petty Enterprises, and dogged him long after.

1984 - The 1984 NASCAR Winston Cup season got off to a quick start with Cale Yarborough's win at the Daytona 500. But an even higher point came at the July 4 Firecracker 400. With President Reagan in attendance, Richard Petty won his magical 200th NASCAR Winston Cup race. The finish awed the president. It was the second and final victory of the 1984 season for the King of NASCAR -- and it turned out to be the final win of his career. At season's close, Terry Labonte parlayed consistency to win the championship on the strength of just two wins, but 17 top-five finishes. Petty finished a distant 10th in the final standings.

1985 - Bill Elliott emerged as a bona fide super speedway hero in the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Elliott won 11 super speedway races in 1985, still a single-season record. He gobbled up every laurel and post-season award possible, yet didn't win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. That honor went to Darrell Waltrip, who won three races. The intricacies of the NASCAR points system rewarded consistency in 1985. The 1985 All-Star race was a big bonus to the drivers and fans of NASCAR Winston Cup racing. The inaugural running of the event, which was open to all drivers who won races in 1984, was staged at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event was "on the house" for NASCAR enthusiasts who had paid to see a race the day before.

1986 - Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR's darling youngster in the early 1980s, rebounded during the 1986 NASCAR Winston Cup season from a few sluggish years after his electrifying championship as a sophomore in 1980. Earnhardt's Wrangler Jeans machine ran up front every week. Along the way, Earnhardt ruffled a few feathers, crumpled some sheet metal, shoved rivals out of the way, and acquired the nickname "The Intimidator." Earnhardt's thrilling driving style made the 1986 NASCAR Winston Cup season a joy to watch.

1987 - Like the 1986 season, Dale Earnhardt was at center stage during the 1987 NASCAR Winston Cup campaign. Many of Earnhardt's adversaries claimed his aggressive driving style led to unnecessary incidents -- and there was plenty of damaged sheet metal along the way. The season-long controversy came to a head during The Winston, NASCAR's all-star race, on May 17, 1987. Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, and Geoff Bodine bumped, scraped, and blocked each other to the end in one of the most memorable finishes in stock car racing history.  Earnhardt, Elliott, and Bodine were all fined and placed on probation after the fracas. The Winston of 1987 is still regarded as one of the most energized and spectacular thrill shows in NASCAR Cup Series history, though cooler heads prevailed for the remainder of the year.

1988 - By the end of the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup season, a number of time-honored icons were hanging up their helmets. NASCAR Winston Cup champions Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Benny Parsons, and Bobby Allison retired -- Allison due to debilitating injuries suffered at Pocono in the 1988 Miller High Life 500. The retirement of these legends made way for a new generation of leaders.

1989 - The 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup season was in the midst of an upsurge. As the 1980s drew to a close, the popularity of NASCAR stock car racing was spiraling upward dramatically. Sponsorship from corporate America was strong, the dynamic heroes behind the wheel were becoming household names, and all of the NASCAR Winston Cup events were being televised live. Track side attendance was running at record levels and promoters were adding new grandstands to accommodate the demand for tickets. On a sad note, Tim Richmond, an energized and immensely popular driver, had electrified the audience with his brazen displays of courage only to die prematurely of the AIDS virus in 1989. Richmond was Winston Cup racing's top winner in 1986, but had to sit out most of the 1987 campaign as he concealed the identity of his illness.

1990 - The 1990 NASCAR Winston Cup season arrived with NASCAR's wheels churning progressively forward. Several motivated, energetic, youthful drivers were pressing the seasoned veterans for membership in the elite status of NASCAR Winston Cup racing. A number of the old warriors were conceding to Father Time as they fell further and further behind the newcomers, and the heated race for the championship would be decided by only 26 points.

1991 - By the end of the 1991 NASCAR Winston Cup season, driver Dale Earnhardt was far enough ahead in the points race to capture the championship simply by starting his engine in Atlanta for the last race. But there was plenty of other action throughout the season to keep fans on the edges of their seats. Harry Gant, a 51-year-old driver, captured quite a lot of attention and more than a few headlines with his dramatic comebacks and wins, and NASCAR Winston Cup racing also attracted a new television venue in 1991 when The Nashville Network (TNN) scooped up five events, taking them away from ESPN.

1992 - The 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup season was touched by sadness, as 82-year-old NASCAR founder Bill France passed away in June, but this loss was counterbalanced by the excitement of one of the closest races for the Winston Cup in years. 1992 was also distinctive in that Dale Earnhardt was not a contender -- plagued with a car that couldn't quite keep up and just some plain bad luck.

1993 - The 1993 NASCAR Winston Cup season offered its usual share of exciting races, but it was also touched with tragedy as two of NASCAR's up-and-coming stars -- 1992 champion Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison -- were both killed during the season. Although driver Rusty Wallace offered a late-season streak -- winning five of the last eight races -- he was no match for Dale Earnhardt, who won his 6th Winston Cup championship in 1993.

1994 - 1994 was the young driver Jeff Gordon's first year on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, and Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace held their usual season-long battle for the 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Earnhardt ended the season far, far ahead in the points battle -- even though Wallace won twice as many races.

1995 - NASCAR as a sport was experiencing a burst of growth in 1995, both at its corporate headquarters and because of a successful new race -- the Brickyard 400 held for the first time in 1994 in Indianapolis. Both Forbes and Sports Illustrated magazines featured cover stories about NASCAR in 1995, and the sport launched its website this year as well. This excitement also spilled onto the track as driver Jeff Gordon began giving dominant champion Dale Earnhardt a run for his money.

1996 - In 1996, NASCAR became a big enough operation to command a New York City office, and Jeff Gordon had his best season ever on the tracks, winning 10 races. However, he was outmaneuvered for the Winston Cup, which went to fellow Chevrolet driver Terry Labonte instead.

1997 - Driver Jeff Gordon began the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup season with a victory at the Daytona 500 and went on to 10 more victories and a Winston Cup championship. And his winning ways were just beginning -- Gordon had plenty left for the 1998 NASCAR season as well.

1998 - The 1998 season marked NASCAR's 50th anniversary, and the 40th running of the Daytona 500. Adding another layer of significance to the occasion, popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt registered a dominating win -- after 20 attempts -- in this crown jewel race of the NASCAR Winston Cup season. Jeff Gordon, however, would take the season's ultimate title for the second year in a row.

1999 - NASCAR prepared for the new millennium with a whole fleet of new young drivers, and Dale Jarrett won the Winston Cup championship in 1999 after a long points battle with Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin. There were also more eyes on the NASCAR Winston Cup series racetracks than ever before as television ratings soared and extra seats were added in many locations to meet the demand for tickets. In 1999, only National Football League events ranked higher in popularity among Americans than NASCAR events.

2000 - As the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season began with the Daytona 500, it became clear that action on the track had changed. Far from the 50 to 60 lead changes in a race that had been common in NASCAR's history, "aero-push" -- turbulence caused by the new aerodynamic cars that made passing difficult -- now kept a firmer grasp on the lead.  In an attempt to spice things up, NASCAR introduced some new rules in time for the October 15, 2000, race at Talladega. A small blade attached to the top of each car made the vehicles less stable, which added to the challenge for their drivers. With a new millennium, some new rules, and a new champion, the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season was packed with excitement.

2001 - In 2001, the Dodge division of Chrysler Corporation announced it would return to NASCAR Cup Series racing for the first time since the late 1970s, and they assembled a formidable team. Ray Evernham, who left the Hendrick Motor­sports Chevrolet operation in 1999, was hired by MoPar to direct Dodge's effort. Evernham was in charge of Dodge's two-car flagship team with drivers Casey Atwood and Bill Elliott. Other Dodge teams included Bill Davis Racing, Felix Sabates, Melling Racing, and Petty Enterprises, which returned to the Chrysler fold for the first time since 1978.  But the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season was also marked with sadness, as a terrible crash in the final laps of the Daytona 500 took the life of skilled driver and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt.

2002 - The 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season dawned with promise as NBC television broadcast the Daytona 500 for the first time, and a new crop of rookie drivers -- including Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman -- captured headlines. Excitement continued throughout the season as the points race remained the tightest seen in several years.

2003 - In many ways the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup season was a season of change. Before the racing season even began, an announcement by R.J. Reynolds began a series of shifting sponsors that would continue throughout the year and take full effect in 2004. Planned changes in rules and race scheduling also promised that 2003 would be the last NASCAR season of its kind. NASCAR Chairman Bill France, Jr. also stepped down during 2003 and passed the position to his son Brian. On the track, a surprising points victory by Matt Kenseth kept fans captivated all season long.

2004 - One note of interest for the 2004 NASCAR season -- in addition to its now being known as the NASCAR NEXTEL season -- was new chairman Brian Z. France's decision to move the sport west. Texas and Phoenix, Arizona, tracks gained a second event, while Rockingham's North Carolina Speedway hosted its last. The most noticeable change for 2004 was revamp of the points race into the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," which narrowed the field of contenders for the final races of the season. In response, the points race in 2004 was the closest in NASCAR history and television ratings surged 30 percent over their 2003 levels.

2005 - Although neither Jeff Gordon nor Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified for the Chase portion of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, fans remained captivated as the decision on the title came down to the very last race. Veteran driver Rusty Wallace also retired at the end of the 2005 season and began a new career as a commentator for ESPN. Continuing their efforts to make NASCAR a sport with truly nationwide appeal, the International Speedway Corporation purchased land near Seattle, Washington, and on Staten Island in New York City for potential future tracks.

2006 - In 2006, the International Speedway Corporation announced that the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be built in Charlotte, North Carolina. They also began introducing their "Car of Tomorrow" project to the public, which was designed to gradually move NASCAR races toward better safety and cost reduction. The new cars will be fully phased in to all NASCAR events in 2009. On the track for 2006, Jimmie Johnson, who had driven well since his first season in 2002, finally put it all together and came away the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion. "Silly Season" was the name of the game for 2006.  Silly season is when drivers shuffle around from team to team. Several new drivers were in their first stint as regulars on the NEXTEL Cup circuit in 2006. Martin Truex Jr. raced the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) after winning back-to-back Busch Series championships in 2004 and 2005. The No. 15 car, which was vacated by Michael Waltrip, is being driven by another rookie, Paul Menard, and is being sponsored by his father's Menards Home Improvement stores. The vacancy left following Rusty Wallace's retirement from the Penske No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, was filled by former 2004 NEXTEL Cup champion Kurt Busch. Jamie McMurray took over for Busch in the No. 26 Sharpie / Crown Royal / Irwin Tools ride for Roush Racing which had previously been the #97. In addition, Mark Martin continued his "Salute to You" tour for an encore with new sponsorship from AAA and 3M, who replaced Viagra on the hood of the No. 6 Ford. Reed Sorenson took the wheel of the No. 41 Target ride and David Stremme became the pilot of the No. 40 car sponsored by Lone Star Steakhouse and Coors Light. in the Chip Ganassi Racing stables. Scott Riggs took the No. 10 Valvoline-sponsored car and number to Evernham Motorsports, where they switched from Chevy to Dodge. The No. 66 (formerly #0) car, now with full-time sponsorship from Best Buy Electronics stores and vacated by Mike Bliss, was driven by Jeff Green, leaving Petty Enterprises' fabled No. 43 Cheerios car open for former Joe Gibbs Racing driver Bobby Labonte. Waltrip and his sponsor, NAPA, left DEI for Bill Davis Racing and the new No. 55 car, but ownership was transferred to the newly merged (with the old No. 77 team) Waltrip-Jasper Racing in order to ensure that Waltrip made the first five races. Despite the change, the No. 55 still receives most of its equipment and crew from Bill Davis Racing. On January 23 in Charlotte, North Carolina as part of the annual Media Tour, NASCAR announced that the Toyota Camry will be added to the series in 2007, and become the first non-American brand to run in the premier series since Jaguar raced in the mid-1950s. Brent Sherman took over the No. 49 Dodge for BAM Racing with new sponsor Serta Mattresses and State Water Heaters, but was replaced by Kevin Lepage, who had started the season in the Peak Fitness Racing No. 61, which was the No. 66 in 2005. Ken Schrader moved to the famous Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford for Ricky Rudd which not only has the U.S. Air Force and Ford Motorcraft sponsorship, but also Little Debbie on board as a new sponsor. Clint Bowyer took over the wheel of the number 07 Jack Daniels sponsored car for Richard Childress Racing. Other moves saw Scott Wimmer moved to the Morgan-McClure Motorsports Aero Exhaust Chevrolet replacing Mike Wallace, Travis Kvapil moved from the Jasper team to the PPI Motorsports Tide Chevrolet team.  Furniture Row Racing announced it would run full-time with Kenny Wallace in the No. 78 Chevrolet.

2007 - The 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup title was the second in a row for Jimmie Johnson, who had 10 wins in the season along with 20 top-five finishes. This was also Rick Hendrick's seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner's title, which put him in second place behind Petty Enterprises in the team owner championship standings. Here are some changes that occurred during the 2007 season. It was officially announced on January 22 at the annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina that two changes were made for the 2007 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. The first is that wins became more important. The driver who finishes first now received 185 points instead of 180. Including the five-point bonus for leading a lap, and the possible five bonus points for leading the most laps, a driver could now get a maximum of 195 points for winning a race. The other changes involved the actual Chase. The top twelve drivers after the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 automatically qualified for the 2007 Chase. Additionally, each driver had their points reset to 5,000, plus ten points for each win during the first 26 races. However, when the season ended, only the top ten drivers would be honored at the annual banquet in New York City at the Waldorf-Astoria, NASCAR introduced a new car style known as the "Car of Tomorrow" for use in sixteen races in 2007. This car was the result of a design program which started after the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. It was intended to offer improvements in safety, performance, competition and cost efficiency. Plans for a partial schedule in 2008 were expanded to full usage after race results and owner feedback led to acceptance of the new car. Some drivers however, offered criticism over the decision, feeling the new design led to boring, uncompetitive races. (which it did). On May 10, 2007, it was announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would be leaving the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet following the conclusion of the season as he could not get a contract extension with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the driving team his father founded and run by his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt. at a press conference on June 13, 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced a five-year deal to join Hendrick Motorsports. He replaced Kyle Busch, who at the time drove the #5 Kellogg's/Carquest Chevrolet; he subsequently joined Joe Gibbs Racing to replace J.J. Yeley in the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota. Before the season opening Daytona 500, NASCAR team owner Jack Roush announced the sell-off of 50% of his team, Roush Racing to the Fenway Sports Group, who own the Major League Baseball team the Boston Red Sox. The newly formed alliance between two differing sports markets involved the team name to change to Roush Fenway Racing. However, this was only the beginning of what was referred to as "Merger mania". The week before the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard became the week NASCAR was all shaken up in the ownership boxes. On July 24, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. merged with Ginn Racing, inheriting the #01 US Army ride of Mark Martin and Aric Almirola. Another merger was announced on August 6 when former crew chief Ray Evernham announced the merger of his team, Evernham Motorsports, with George Gillett, owner of the National Hockey League team the Montreal Canadiens. Michael Waltrip Racing Holdings LLC, a company created as a 50–50 partnership between Robert Kauffman and Michael Waltrip, was announced the weekend of the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.  Also during the race weekend for the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway  it was revealed to the racing world that 1999 Cup champion and three time Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett would retire from full-time driving following the end of the 2007 season. In 2008, Jarrett drove in the first five points races, then handed the #44 UPS Toyota to David Reutimann for the Goody's Cool Orange 500. As Jarrett was the 1999 champion, entering the first five races, regardless of his previous standings, guaranteed his #44 in the field, as well as driving in the Budweiser Shootout and the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

2008 - Jimmie Johnson etched his name in the NASCAR record books in 2008. The 2006/2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion added his third consecutive title, a feat matched only by the legendary Cale Yarborough, who won three in a row in 1976-78. Johnson also garnered another win at Indianapolis with his second Allstate 400 at the Brickyard victory in July. All this came after a disappointing start, as the #48 Lowe's team didn't score a win until the eighth race at Phoenix, and remained in the shadows while Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards dominated for most of the season. 2008 saw the introduction of the CoT (Car of Tomorrow) NASCAR announced on May 22, 2007 that the original timetable, which would have the full-time use of the single car template in 2009, was being abandoned as 80% of all owners were in favor of moving the full-time use of the CoT one year ahead so they would not race with two sets of rules for all but ten races. The Economic crisis of 2008, with high gas prices over US $4 a gallon caused NASCAR's largely blue-collar fan base to feel the pinch. While Bristol was one of a few tracks that still sold out, others saw crowds shrink. Daytona International Speedway sold out the Daytona 500, but not the Coke Zero 400. The economy also affected the teams themselves with high diesel fuel prices, with that fuel needed to power the semi-trailer trucks which transport the race cars to and from racetracks. Sponsorships also grew increasingly harder to come by, further increasing the gap between teams. Before the season began, Morgan-McClure Motorsports ceased operations for their single-car team, while Yates Racing had no major sponsor on the #28 and #38 cars that they run in the series. Even better sponsored teams struggled. On July 1, Chip Ganassi Racing shut down its #40 team with 2007 IndyCar Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti driving because of a lack of sponsorship funding, becoming the first major victim. Some other changed during 2008 included: Over-the-wall pit crews in NASCAR's three national series were able to hand push their car no more than three pit boxes away from their assigned pit box—limiting the crews to the same three-box length for pushing as the vehicles could drive through getting onto pit road; Outside tires that had been removed from a vehicle during a pit stop could no longer be free-rolled from the outside of the pit box to the wall. The tires were required to be hand-directed to the inner half of the pit box before being released; All three national series ran the same upgraded 17¾ gallon fuel cell which was used in the 2007 Nextel Cup Series. The fuel cell was a safety feature that was added that year, replacing the old 22-gallon cell; Money collected from fines issued to drivers and others was remitted to the NASCAR Foundation, which supported a variety of charitable initiatives. Previously, fine money had been added to the season-ending point funds paid to drivers based on their finish in the point standings.

2009 - The economy proved to be a crisis for NASCAR in 2009.  Fuel prices came down from record highs, but corporate american was hesitant to shell out big bucks to sponsor race teams. As  a result, Chip Ganassi Racing merged with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. They fielded the No. 1 and No. 8 from DEI and No. 42 from Ganassi, and shut down the DEI No. 01 and No. 15 teams as well as Ganassi's No. 40 and No. 41 teams. The No. 42 team will run under the Chevrolet banner under the merger as it changes from Dodge. In addition, Front Row Motorsports has EGR support for their No. 34 car, to be driven by John Andretti. On January 19, Petty Enterprises merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for the merger with Petty's famous No. 43 joining the newly renamed Richard Petty Motorsports. On December 22, 2008, Bill Davis Racing was sold to California businessman Mike Held and BDR vice president Marty Gaunt, and was renamed Triad Racing Development. Hall of Fame Racing announced an alliance with Yates Racing on January 13, 2009 and named Bobby Labonte as the new driver of the No. 96 team as they move from Toyota to Ford.  The season saw several other in-season problems as the 328 team of Travis Kvapil shut down, and later Aric Almirola's team shut down also.  NASCAR also announced the total elimination of testing for all three divisions.  The ban included any tracks the CUP series raced on, as well as any track the Nationwide or Truck series raced on. Due to the economy General Motors had filed for bankruptcy and then cut all financial support to the Nationwide and Truck teams, and seriously curtailed support to the CUP series.  Chrysler also filed for bankruptcy and the Dodge teams lost their factory support.  Before the years end Rickard Petty Motorsports would have to merge with Yates Racing and switch to racing Fords.  Race proceedures also saw more changes. Before the start of the season, NASCAR changed restart rules regarding the final moments of all races in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Previously, when the race was inside the final ten laps, all cars/trucks on the lead lap were in a single-file restart in that window. As of the 2009 season, the window changed to the final 20 laps. The "lucky dog"/"free pass" rule will still be eliminated in the last ten laps of a race. However, before the June Pocono race, the entire restart procedure changed entirely in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. After being run successfully at the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race and in the Budweiser Shootout, NASCAR implemented a double-file restart system starting at Pocono for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This change came at the request of fans, drivers, owners, and the media and as a result in a decrease in TV ratings during the NASCAR on Fox portion of the season. The entire field will line up double-file, much like the start of the race at every restart. The leaders and other lead lap cars are now in front always when taking the green flag. Cars who choose to stay out and not pit during a caution flag who are in front of the leaders are now waved-around to restart (double file) at the back of the field. The lucky dog/free pass rule is now in effect the entire distance of the race, and the double-file restarts are for every restart, including green-white-checkered finishes.  As far as the race season played out.  It saw Kyle Busch who posted 3 wins in the first eight races, and  and posted four wins by the first of May; ended up MISSING the Chase.  Another disappointed driver was Matt Kenseth.  He won two of the first three races, and also missed making the Chase  Jimmie Johnson seemed to have picked right up where he had left off in 2008; and posted three wins and a lot of consistent finished up to the time the Chase started.  Johnson then won three of the first five events in the Chase; grabbed the points lead and never looked back.  He added one more win at Phoenix and beat Mark Martin by over 100 points when the final curtain fell.  It was another disappointment for Martin who once again finished as the runner-up for the Championship.

2010 - NASCAR announced in January they "boys have at it" rule (or 'no' rule).  NASCAR truned the racers loose to be more physical on the race track to produce more excitement and try to increase fan viewership. After race run-in were also allowed 'to an extent'.  The general rule was we don't have a line in the sand; but when someone steps over it - we'll know it and react"  This was the first year that the green-white-checkered finish was limited to just three attempts.  Also due to so many start-n-park teams the previous season, NASCAR added the first car out of the race to it's post-race inspection list.  On May 11th the new NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in Charlotte NC.  Jimmie Johnson, the 2009 Champion started the season strong winning three of the first five events.  Then went into a funk, and was mediocre at best up until he managed to put together two good week in June and win at Sonoma, and New Hampshire. Denny Hamlin had a great year putting together six wins before the Chase started.  Harvick and Kyle Busch posted three wins.  When the Chase kicked off Johnson still wasn't strong, but he was consistent. Clint Bowyer posted the first win in the Chase, while Johnson did manage to grab a win week #2. Six different drivers claimed wins the first six weeks with Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray and Hamlin also posting wins.  Bowyer posted a second win to stay in contention week 7 and Hamlin got a second win in week 8.  With two weeks to go Hamlin led Johnson by 33 points.  Johnson finish a little better in week number nine and cut into Hamlins lead whittling it down to just 15 markers with Kevin Harvick a long-shot in third.  The final race would determine the Champ.  Johnson ran a good race and kept the pressure on Hamlin.  Hamlin got into a dust-up on lap #25 with Greg Biffle when it seemed he was just racing too hard too soon in the race.  Hamlin got some damage to his front splitter, and he struggled the rest of the day.  Johnson played it conservative since he saw Hamlin had his early issues, and didn't push the car until late in the race.  In the end Johnson captured CUP Championship number five; a truly amazing feat and one that has little chance of ever being broken.

2011 - The biggest surprise happened righta t the start of the season.  Wheeling the Wood Brothers Ford painted in a throw-back paint scheme David Pearson drove to many victories; Trevor Bayne captured lightning in a bottle and won the 2011 Daytona 500.  For this unheralded upstart it was only his second ever CUP start. Bayne became the first driver to win the Daytona 500 in his first attempt since Lee Petty won the inaugural event in 1959. By winning in his second start in the Sprint Cup Series, Bayne tied Jamie McMurray for quickest victory at the start of a career. 2011 saw a few changes to the schedule.  Atlanta lost it's Spring event, while that slot ended up at Fontana CA.   The Chase schedule also saw a tweek as ChicagoLand became the first race in the Chase; while New Hampshire was moved to the second.  The number of men allowed over the wall on a pit stop was reduced by one; NASCAR went to a new 'vented' fuel can which did away with the need for a catch-can man.  NASCAR also announced that drivers can only be able to compete for the championship in one of NASCAR's three national racing series, which means the drivers who race in multiple series, most notably in the Cup and Nationwide Series, are able to compete in the races, but not for the championship. The way points were awarded were also adjusted. An announcement came on January 26, 2011, when Brian France announced that the winner of the race, excluding bonus points would receive 43 points, and each position lost one point from the position before, so that the first position would receive 43 points, while second would receive 42 and so on.  Any driver leading a lap would get one bonus point and the driver leading the most laps got an additional point. 2011 also saw a modification to the race cars front nose. The change removed the splitter braces, and made it a single molded piece.  Turns out this was a much sturdier piece, and sustained less damage. Finally the fuel for all major series in NASCAR changed from Sunoco unleaded to an ethanol blend called 'Sunoco Green E15. The season saw Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch nab six checkered flags. Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon all visited the winner circle on three occasions.  While this was going on Tony Stewart was win-less and actually apologized for making it into the Chase field.  Stewart stated at one point "We are just terrible right now; and I feel bad for even being in the Chase because we are taking up a spot from a team who actually HAS a shot to win the title".  Carl Edwards had been the class of the field all season, and held the points lead for 21 races.  However when the final 10 race Chase started somehow Stewart managed to get up off the mat and make a strong showing.  SO strong in fact he grabbed the win in the first race of the Chase.  From there the fight was on.  Edwards and Stewart waged war each week and heading into the final race of the year Edwards held the lead by just three  points as the final race started.  To this point Stewart had won four of the nine Chase races.  Stewart ran into adversity and had ro rally from the back of the field - TWICE_.  For the record he passed 118 cars in this race. Stewart got a hole in his grille.  He had to pit for repairs and started at the rear when the green flew again. Shortly there after the yellow waved again, and it was back into the pits for more work on the grille.  Then the rains came and the red flag was out for over an hour. When racing resumed, Stewart continued to slice through the field and used several spectacular three- and four-wide passes to close in on Edwards. Rains came once again, and more waiting, But Stewart was fourth on the final restart, Edwards was sixth, and Stewart used a three-wide pass over Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger to reclaim the lead. Although Edwards quickly moved into second, he couldn't catch Stewart as he sailed to his fifth Chase victory.  The points battle ended up in a flat-footed tie.  The first tie-breaker was 'most wins' and stewart have grabbed five wins in the final ten events, and held the advantage there so Stewart was the Champ.  The championship completes a total turnaround for co-owner Gene Haas, who sold half his slumping organization to Stewart in 2008 in a hope the driver could bring a spark to a team that struggled to stay inside the top-35 in points.

2012 - The 2012 season saw the Sprint Cup Series change to electronic fuel injection from carburetors, which had been used since 1949. Also NASCAR banned  communication between the driver and spotter to other drivers. The change was initially made to break up two-car racing at restrictor plate tracks, which had received criticism from spectators, but was later announced that it would be banned at all the races. Red Bull racing was missing from this list of owners as they shut the doors and closed down in December of 2011.  In what was probably his last CUP start, Bill Elliott wheeled the car #50 in the Daytona race in July.  The car was sponsored by Wal-Mart and the number in honor of it's 50th anniversary.  Three drivers showed strength all season Jimmie Johnson wheeled his Chevy to five wins, as did Brad Keselowski in his Ford and Denny Hamlin in his Toyota.  Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowler all garnered three wins, and all six made the Chase. Brad Keselowski won the first race of the Chase while Johnson seemed to never get in step the entire 10 race set.  He did manage to finish third in the points; while a surprising Clint Bowyer finished; but when the curtain came down on the 2012 season it was Brad Keselowski holding the hardware for the Drivers' Championship at the final race of the season.  It was also car owner Roger Penske's first Owners Championship Chevrolet won the Manufacturers' Championship with 249 points. Despite starting his season late, Stephen Leicht was the 2012 NASCAR Rookie of the Year after beating Josh Wise.

2013 - The new "Generation 6" car was the car used for the 2013 season. NASCAR changed the car inspection process as well. The new process involves a laser mechanism which scans different parts of the car. Tolerances sudden got much tighter for race teams. The testing ban NASCAR had implimented in 2008 was relaxed so that each organization would be allowed to test up to four times, and all must be at different tracks.  NASCAR also made a step back and reverted to a process used for many years prior to 2005.  The top 36 qualifiers were locked in based on qualifying speed, with owners points making up the remainder of the 43 car field.  NASCAR also developed a new track drying system. Instead of using jet dryers as had been done in the past; NASCAR developed a system that was basically large vaccumes that sucked water off the track surface and pumped it into containers  driving alongside on the track apron.  It quickened drying time by at least 60%. NASCAR used group "European Style" qualifying at the road courses or Sonoma and Watkins Glen - with rumors it may be used full time in 2014; In the Championship battle, Jimmie Johnson led going into the final race and second place Matt Kenseth won the pole, and led a race high 144 laps.  Team-mate Denny Hamlin won the race while Kenseth finished second.  Johnson drove to a ninth place finish netted him his record sixth NASCAR Championship Title.

2014 - 2014 seemed to have 'change' as it's main theme.  This was the first year for another new Chase format; qualifying procedures were also changed to be done in a Formula One-style knockout qualifying; We also saw the Chase field expanded for 12 to 16 teams. any driver that won a race qould automatically qualify for the Chase, with the remainder of the 16 driver Chase field determined by the highest drivers in poinst without a win; We saw  the final year of broadcasting for both the ESPN family of networks and Turner Sports. ESPN had covered the second half of the Sprint Cup season since 2007 while Turner Sports ended a thirty-one year relationship with NASCAR on TBS and later TNT. For 2015, their portions of the season were divided up between Fox Sports and NBC.  When the dust had settled the record books will show that Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing claimed the drivers' championship and owners' championship, while Chevrolet won the manufacturer's championship.  The new 'elimination style" Chase format saw four drivers advance to the final race - has all their points reset to 'zero', no points rewarded for laps led or most laps led; and it was a basic "whoever crosses the finishline first is the Champion" format Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick went mano-a-mano is the heads up shootout with Harvick claiming the race win with Newman second.  Just a few laps from the end Newman was leading, but a very late race yellow flew and gave Harvick the opportunity he needed. In one of the largest rookie classes in recent history, Kyle Larson was named Rookie of the Year.  2015 could be a break-out year for Larson as the rookie showed talent beyond his years.

2015 -