Mini Cooper’s to Porsche: Oddest Cars Evers to Grace NASCAR’s Ovals

Published 12/28/2023, 5:17 AM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

NASCAR vehicles today are more like high-tech, fiberglass beasts that just give a nod to their showroom cousins with a model name on the back bumper and some fancy decals up front to mimic headlights and grilles. But let us tell you, it wasn’t always like this. Back in the day, the cars tearing up the track in Grand National and Cup races were the real deal – they were what you’d call true “stock car racing”. These rides looked a lot like what you’d see on the street, and some were just a hop, skip, and jump away from what rolled out of the factory.

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NASCAR’s journey since the late 1940s has been a wild ride, with all sorts of changes and new versions popping up. We’ve seen everything from sedans and coupes to trucks hitting the track, all duking it out in some seriously tough racing action. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and check out some of these cars that have made NASCAR a 75-year spectacle.

NASCAR’s most unusual cars and the stars who drove them

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  1. For over six decades, Edsel has been a poster child for flops, kind of proving Henry Ford II right for not wanting to name a car brand after his dad, Edsel Ford. Launched during a recession with out-there looks, the Edsel was a no-go after just three years, costing Ford a cool $2 billion. But, believe it or not, it did have its brief NASCAR moment. Ford’s car, hyped to the skies with big bucks poured into its development and marketing, ended up being a letdown. Launching it during a recession didn’t help either, as folks were tightening their belts and thinking twice before splashing out on big purchases.
  2. Then there’s the time when European cars like Jaguars joined the fray. In the early ’50s, NASCAR held an annual face-off where American muscle met European sleekness. Al Keller snagged a win in his Jaguar that too, with a gap of one lap, along with the $5,020 in purse money, leading three more Jaguars to top spots. Keller is the only man to win a NASCAR race in a British car. That race at Linden Airport was Jaguar’s last Cup race, but not their last NASCAR dance.
  3. Citroen’s appearance was a surprise, to say the least. In a race Crown America 500 on June 1, 1958, at Riverside that dragged on for six hours, two Citroen ID-19s participated. And thanks to great fuel mileage, the cars merely needed two pit stops to finish the race. They finished first and second in their class, proving their endurance.
  4. The Tucker, with its three headlights, was another oddball. This car was a game-changer in the industry. This car wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill vehicle. It boasted rear fender vents for its engine at the back, doors that sliced into the roof to give passengers an easier time getting in and out, and a sleek fastback rear that turned heads. But the real kicker? Tucker, the brains behind it, seemed to be flying by the seat of his pants without a solid plan or even blueprints for mass production. The 51 Tuckers that did see the light of day were painstakingly handcrafted, costing an arm and a leg. One of these rare gems even raced its way into the Toyota Museum in Japan, now worth $2 million.
  5. And lastly, the Volkswagen Beetle. Flashback to ’75, the eve of Dale Earnhardt’s Cup debut, and the “people’s car” zipped onto the NASCAR scene. In the 1953 International 200 – a race that also welcomed big names like Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Porsche – the tiny car left its mark. It might have only clinched 26th out of 29, but it definitely turned heads. Behind the wheel was Dick Hagy, piloting the underpowered Beetle to a respectable 19th-place finish. To this day, it’s the only Beetle that ever vroomed its way through a NASCAR Grand National event.

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Now that we’ve had a look at some of NASCAR’s most unusual cars, how about we shift gears and talk about some of the weirdest NASCAR tracks? Sounds like an interesting ride, doesn’t it?

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Most unique NASCAR tracks

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Bristol Motor Speedway is a tiny gem in the NASCAR world, consistently delivering some of the best races each season. It’s like watching a race in a football stadium – you won’t find a bad seat in the house, and you can see the entire track from your spot.

Then there’s Pocono Raceway, the oddball of racetracks shaped like a triangle. It’s a true three-sided puzzle with different straightaways and unique turns. They even have “What turn 4?” written on the wall, just in case anyone’s wondering. Setting up cars for Pocono is a real headache for crew chiefs, as what works in one corner usually flops in the others.

Langhorne Speedway, known as The Big Left Turn, was a NASCAR staple from 1949 to 1957. This near-circular, one-mile dirt track, paved in the 1960s, had turns labeled by track quarters. Turn 2, or Puke Hollow was notorious. The bumpy, rutted surface there made for some uneasy stomachs among drivers and even ended up claiming lives.

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And let’s not forget Darlington Raceway, affectionately dubbed The Lady in Black. As NASCAR’s first superspeedway, it broke the mold. Its 1.66-mile, egg-shaped track, designed around a pond, was a sight to behold. Navigating its pancake-flat right side and tricky turns is a challenge for even the best drivers.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

884Articles

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Controversies, gossip, and breakneck speeds? Count me in! While F1 has its charm, NASCAR helps me relive those "Roadrash" gaming days. My favorite among the drivers has to be Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing pilot is not only likable but also a complete beast when he is on track, more specifically, road courses.
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