Since Prohibition, stock car racing was what they did down South when they weren't using their hopped-up Fords, Chryslers, Hudsons and Oldsmobiles in other pursuits.
Bill France founded NASCAR in 1948, bringing coherence and a certain respectability to the sport.
In 1955, Chevrolet, now V-8 powered, was the new kid on the block. The basic engine would never change. But neither the car nor the sport would ever be the same.
Chevys have raced on many fronts since the '50s, but none has had a greater influence on its owner base.
If the division wins the manufacturers' championship in 2011, it would be its 35th.
Despite the recent drop in NASCAR attendance and TV ratings, the bloom isn't gone from the rose. General Motors racing boss Jim Campbell says Chevy's motorsports promotions account for more than half of all of the buyer leads the division gets from sales promotions generally. Such focus is a marketer's dream.
How it all started depends on whom you believe. The late, great Smokey Yunick always insisted that France had a plan to "hook Ed Cole" into NASCAR. He said he was there during a secret meeting in early 1955 with the Chevy chief engineer at North Wilkesboro, N.C., when France dangled the bait. And Cole bit.
Zora Arkus-Duntov, godfather of the Corvette and a Cole lieutenant, declared a more pivotal moment occurred in 1956, when he lured reigning Winston Cup champ Buck Baker away from Chrysler during another secret meeting, this one at a deserted Trenton, N.J., racetrack. Baker also won the 1957 crown, this time driving a Chevy. It was a first for the marque.
Regardless of the genesis, upstart Chevy suddenly had legitimacy on a stage surrounded by passionate fans and car buyers.