NASCAR: Counting Down the 10 Greatest Traditions
Just as much as any other sport, NASCAR is built on its traditions—some old, some new, all beloved by fans and vital to the character of the Sprint Cup Series.
Many of the sport's traditions have fallen by the wayside in the past decade. When Winston ended a decades-long run as presenting sponsor of NASCAR's top division and new sponsor NEXTEL ushered in a new championship format, new ones were introduced to take their place. For some events, tradition has simply been shifted to another, but still meaningful, date.
From Darlington to Charlotte, Daytona to Las Vegas, these are the legendary conventions that make the NASCAR schedule so fun to follow for 10 months out of the year:
The Harley J. Earl Trophy
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Presented to the winner of the Daytona 500, the awarding of the Harley J. Earl Trophy has represented the end of Daytona Speedweeks since the inaugural Great American Race in 1959.
Adorned with Earl's Firebird I concept car, the tri-oval shaped trophy has more history than just about any award in the sport.
Las Vegas Hauler Parade
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Las Vegas police began escorting haulers through the Strip in 2008, an event that has taken place every year since.
Before Las Vegas Motor Speedway's lone Sprint Cup race weekend, fans make the Thursday parade a piece of destination viewing before three days of cars on the 1.5-mile oval.
Martinsville Hot Dogs
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The most popular concession item in NASCAR is a bright red hot dog that will only set you back $2. Covered in slaw, chili and fresh onions, what makes the Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog may remain a secret, but that doesn't stop over 50,000 of these iconic hot dogs from being consumed on every race weekend.
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Martinsville features another tradition as well: the awarding of a grandfather clock to every race winner.
Track founder H. Clay Earles initiated the tradition in September 1964, with a local furniture manufacturer producing the new trophy. For top Martinsville drivers like Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin, the tradition is more than enough to outfit every room of their house.
The Lady in Black
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The Labor Day weekend edition of the Southern 500 may be a distant memory now, but Darlington Raceway's lone event remains one of the most prestigious on the NASCAR schedule.
Currently held on Mother's Day weekend, previously an off week throughout NASCAR's history, the Lady in Black's famous Darlington stripe and unique egg-shaped layout produce some of the most exciting racing of the season.
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The Unocal 76 World Pit Crew Competition took place from 1967 to 2003 at Rockingham Speedway, but was moved to All-Star race weekend in 2005. It kicks off two weeks of celebrating the sport in most teams' backyards, including the announcement of next year's Hall of Fame inductees and culminating in the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the season.
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Until 1987, the Firecracker (later Pepsi, now Coke Zero) 400 was always run on July 4, no matter what day of the week it fell on.
That's no longer the case, but the popular event features a new tradition: since 1998, it's been a night race. Jeff Gordon took the checkers that year in an event postponed three months by wildfires.
Kissing the Bricks
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Of all of the iconic traditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the well-known kissing of the bricks at the start-finish line only began in 1996, and in NASCAR no less.
Brickyard 400 winner Dale Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott were the first to do so after winning the third edition of the race, and ever since, winners of both the Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis 500 have indulged as well.
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Homestead-Miami Speedway inherited the Cup season finale from New Hampshire Motor Speedway 2002, and currently awards the championship trophies to drivers in all three of NASCAR's national series.
Last year's Ford Championship Weekend saw a first in the Chase for the Sprint Cup era: a title awarded by tiebreaker, when Tony Stewart's five race victories beat Carl Edwards' one.
The Awards Banquet
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After years of taking its postseason festivities to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, NASCAR moved the Sprint Cup Awards Banquet to Las Vegas in 2009, where it has remained ever since.
The sport takes over the city for a week, with the top 10 drivers making numerous public appearances before suiting up for the ceremony itself.