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Every NASCAR Track that Opened the Season (that Is NOT Daytona)

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

The NASCAR season traditionally begins with the sport’s biggest race, the Daytona 500. It’s been that way since 1982, but, plenty of other venues have hosted the season-opening race throughout NASCAR’s history. Here is a look at all of NASCAR’s season-opening venues.

  • For this list, we will focus on the NASCAR Cup Series. We will look at every season-opening venue that has ever been used in the Series according to Racing Reference.
  • Daytona International Speedway. has been near the beginning of the season. However, it has not always been the season opener.
  • Fans love having the season opener being Daytona. However, fans also love to see what NASCAR history has been like.

Charlotte Speedway: 1949

This is not the Charlotte Motor Speedway that we know of today. This track was a 3/4 mile dirt track built off of Little Rock Road in Charlotte. It hosted the first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1949, won by Jim Roper. He won the race despite not crossing the line first. First-place finisher Glenn Dunaway was disqualified for illegal rear springs that were modified to haul moonshine.

Daytona Beach Course: 1950-1951

Even before the Daytona 500 became a thing, the Daytona Beach Course hosted the season opener for the Cup Series in 1950 and 1951. This track also hosted the first NASCAR race ever in 1948, a Modified race won by Red Byron. The two Cup Series season openers were won by Harold Kite and Marshall Teague.

Palm Beach Speedway: 1952-1954

NASCAR stayed in the state of Florida to open the season between 1952 and 1954. The track was dirt for these Cup Series races, won by Tim Flock, Lee Petty, and Herb Thomas. Each driver finished in the top-2 in the standings after winning the season opener, with Flock winning the Championship in 1952.

High Point: 1955

Beginning with the 1955 season, NASCAR started the season in November of the previous calendar year. This meant the 1955 season opener happened in November of 1954 at Tri-City Speedway in High Point, North Carolina. Lee Petty won the race, which was the last Cup Series race held at the venue.

Hickory: 1956

Hickory Motor Speedway still stands today. Tim Flock won the only Cup Series season opener at the venue in November of 1955. The track hosted two more races that season, including the penultimate race nearly a full calendar year later.

Lancaster: 1957

In the fall of 1956, NASCAR moved to the West Coast to open their season at the old Willow Springs Speedway in Lancaster, California. Marvin Panch beat out Fireball Roberts, and it was the last NASCAR Cup Series race held at the venue.

Fayetteville: 1958-1959

For the next two season openers, NASCAR moved the Cup Series to Champion Speedway in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The track hosted four NASCAR Cup Series races between November of 1957 and November of 1958. The 1959 season opener in November of 1958 was the last Cup Series race at the venue.

Southern States Fairgrounds (Charlotte): 1960-1961

NASCAR returned to its’ roots for the 1960 and 1961 season openers at Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte. Also known as the Charlotte Fairgrounds, the track quickly became obsolete when Charlotte Motor Speedway was built in 1960. The 1961 season opener in November of 1960 was the final race at the venue, won by Joe Weatherly.

New Concord Speedway: 1962, 1964

The New Concord Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, opened the Cup Series season in 1962 and 1964. However, Charlotte Motor Speedway, also in Concord meant the track would not stay open for long. Ned Jarrett won the final season opener at the venue in November of 1963.

Birmingham: 1963

Birmingham International Raceway in Birmingham, Alabama hosted 8 Cup Series races throughout the 1960s. Its’ lone season opener came in November of 1962, and Jim Pascal won the race over Richard Petty.

Riverside: 1965, 1970-1981

Riverside is second to Daytona for the most season openers hosted in NASCAR. It hosted its’ first season opener in January of 1965, which broke the tradition of hosting the season opener in the previous calendar year. It kept its January race date, but, it became the season opener again in 1970 until 1981. The track remained in NASCAR until 1988, when it was torn down.

Augusta: 1966-1967

Augusta Speedway hosted 12 Cup Series races throughout the 1960s, including the 1966 and 1967 season opener. Richard Petty won both season openers at the venue. This was the beginning of a four year streak of the season opener being hosted in Georgia.

Middle Georgia Raceway (Macon): 1968-1969

NASCAR moved the season opener to Middle Georgia Raceway in Macon, Georgia. Bobby Allison and Richard Petty won both 500-lap season openers in November of 1967 and 1968. Riverside took over as the season opener following this year.

Plenty of tracks have hosted the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series race. However, NASCAR has settled on a nice tradition at Daytona.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts