The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was founded in 1948, when the import segment of the automobile industry was a small percentage, says NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter.
But just about every brand that sold in significant numbers in the United States took part in NASCAR racing, he says, with Studebakers, Lincolns, Mercurys and even Cadillacs participating in NASCAR's first 500-mile race, held in 1950 on the new paved track at Darlington, S.C.
The race was won by Johnny Mantz in a Plymouth that poked around the bottom of the track while "the hot shoes were running around the high-banked portion of the track," Hunter says.
For example, he recalls, "Junior Johnson's brother, Fred, drove a Cadillac, and he was fast, but he wore out a right rear tire about every 10 laps."
Mantz's strategy saved his tires, and he won the race by nine laps over Fireball Roberts, whose Oldsmobile was a lap ahead of a Cadillac driven by 1949 NASCAR champion Red Byron.
Byron won his championship in an Oldsmobile. Other NASCAR champions have driven Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, Pontiacs, Buicks, Plymouths, Mercurys, Chryslers and even Hudsons, but no driver has won a major NASCAR champion in a car produced by a company based outside the United States.