Unlike other major sports in the United States, NASCAR is made up of many influential families. NASCAR has always been a family business since it was founded in 1947 by Bill France, Sr. Although the drivers may fight on the race track, they come together to make NASCAR a great sport for its fans.
Most sports in the United States have a commissioner who oversees the sport. Because of the family influence on NASCAR, the people who oversee NASCAR come from the same family who oversaw the sport 60 years ago— the France family.
Through the years, many families have had a great influence on the sport. Many of these family members battled it out against each other on the race track. Others made their mark in the organizational side of NASCAR.
Here is a list of the most influential families in NASCAR today…
The list of most influential families in NASCAR must begin with the France family. For over 50 years, the France family has been in charge of the sport of NASCAR.
It started with Bill France Sr.—turning a bunch of guys running moonshine into a competition to see who the fastest driver was. Bill France Jr. took over from his father in 1972. He led the sport until 2000, when he passed the position of NASCAR CEO onto his son, Brian France.
Brian and his sister, Lesa France Kennedy, are the two most influential people in NASCAR today. Brian is the CEO of NASCAR and Lesa is CEO of International Speedway Corporation. Nothing happens in NASCAR without the approval of the France family.
There has never been a time in NASCAR when the Petty family did not have an influence on the sport.
Lee Petty was one of the original drivers in NASCAR in the 1940s, and his son, Richard Petty, became the “King” of NASCAR. Two more generations of Pettys raced in NASCAR, including Richard’s son, Kyle, and his grandson, Adam.
Adam was set to lead the Petty name into the future but lost his life in his race car at Hew Hampshire International Speedway in 2000.
The Pettys influence NASCAR today though the Victory Junction Gang Camp and through Richard Petty Motorsports. Victory Junction was set up as a memorial to Adam—to help chronically ill children’s dreams come true. Richard Petty Motorsports is a team on the rise in NASCAR with Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola.
Although the Pettys no longer drive in the sport, their name still has a lot of strength in the garage.
If the Pettys are the name with the most influence in the garage area, the Earnhardt name has the most influence in the stands.
Like the Pettys, the Earnhardts have been members of NASCAR since the sport began. Ralph Earnhardt began racing in NASCAR in 1949 and his son, Dale Earnhardt Sr., later began his career in 1975.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. was a fan favorite because of his intimidating style of driving. He won seven NASCAR Winston Cup Championships before losing his life at Daytona International Speedway in 2001.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the flag bearer for the Earnhardt family after his father’s death. Earnhardt Jr. has been voted the most popular driver in NASCAR 11 times, and is a major influence over NASCAR through the power he has with his popularity with the fans.
Teresa Earnhardt, the wife or Earnhardt Sr. and the stepmother of Earnhardt Jr., is the co-owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The team has a bright future with Jamie McMurray and Rookie of the Year candidate, Kyle Larson.
The Pembertons are not as popular as the France, Petty or the Earnhardt families, but they are very influential in NASCAR.
Robin Pemberton and his brother, Ryan, work behind the scenes at NASCAR to make the sport what it is today.
Robin is the Vice President of Competition for NASCAR. All rule decisions most go through Robin for approval. He works with the many NASCAR teams to make sure NASCAR is a good competitive sport for the fans to watch.
Ryan Pemberton has been a crew chief for most of his life, and will now serve as the completion director for Junior Motorsports.
The Pemberton brothers will continue to have an influence on NASCAR as the sport adapts to changes in the future.
The Waltrips once had a major influence on NASCAR as dominant drivers in the sport. Now, Darrell and his brother Michael influence NASCAR behind the microphone.
Darrell is a Hall of Fame driver who won three NASCAR Winston Cup Championships and two Most Popular Driver awards. Michael is a two-time Daytona 500 winner. Both brothers have had success on the race track, but they may even have more influence on television.
Darrell is an analyst and race commentator for Fox Sports, and Michael is an analyst for Fox Sports and commentator on Speed Channel’s NASCAR RaceDay. The Waltrips are opinionated and have an influence on the sport by what they have to say.
The Wallace family has been influential in NASCAR for many decades now.
Rusty Wallace is the 1989 Winston Cup Champion and a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His brothers, Mike and Kenny, are both journeyman drivers in the sport, but still have an influence in NASCAR.
Rusty’s influence in NASCAR is through his work at ESPN. He is an analyst for ESPN and appears on NASCAR Now for the station.
Kenny is a commentator on Speed Channel’s NASCAR RaceDay. His opinions are often discussed and raise a strong fan reaction.
Although they made their name behind the wheel, the Wallace family uses the microphone to influence NASCAR today.
The Busch brothers do not have as much influence as some of the other names on this list, but they do have power through their ability to start controversy in the sport.
Kurt and his younger brother, Kyle, are both talented drivers. The two have combined to win 52 races and Kurt won the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. The brothers have often let their tempers take over and are considered two of the most aggressive drivers in the sport.
Some fans want the Busch brothers to be more giving to other drivers on the race track, but their ability to race on the edge makes the sport more interesting for fans to watch.
The Wood Brothers have been in NASCAR a long time. Although they do not have the influence that they once did, the brothers still have an influence with their alliance with Ford Racing.
Glen and Leonard Wood competed in NASCAR, but made their fame through their expertise in the garage. Wood Brothers Racing has won 97 races through the years, and with that kind of history behind them, they will always be an influential part of the NASCAR family.
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