All you NASCAR history buffs out there may know that the Daytona 500 was founded back in 1959. But, did you also know that the great race at Daytona International Speedway wasn’t referred to as “The Great American Race” for the first time until 20 years later?
Renowned sports commentator Ken Squier was inspired by an Australian race of all things when he coined the phrase “The Great American Race” at the 1979 Daytona 500. He knew the biggest race of the year needed its own nickname, similar to the Indy 500’s “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” moniker, and decided to open the CBS broadcast (which introduced NASCAR to the public) with the iconic phrase.
Now, Squier says he chose the name because the older vehicles of the time were made up of all American manufacturers and drivers. So, with the sport currently being dominated by Toyota, is the moniker still relevant?
Actually, maybe now more than ever. Fans take issue with the fact that a Japanese company is in NASCAR at all, let alone having such success, but that should have no standing on the validity of the great American race designation.
For one, all of the stock cars are built in the United States, no one is fooled by the stickers saying “Ford,” “Chevrolet,” or “Toyota” on the cars. These are homegrown race cars. Even if they were actual “stock” cars, the Toyota Camry is just as American as any other car in the series since it is made in Kentucky and Indiana. Ford can’t even say that about their own Fusions, since many of them are manufactured in Mexico.
So, if that “Camry” sticker is giving fans second thoughts about Daytona’s “Great American” bona-fides, maybe they should turn their ire Ford’s way.