NASCAR marks 65th anniversary of first race that laid foundation for today’s Sprint Cup Series

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It’s time to raise a few glasses of champagne and toast NASCAR.

Thursday marks the 65th anniversary of NASCAR’s first sanctioned Strictly Stock race – the foundation upon which today’s Sprint Cup Series was built.

It was on June 19, 1949 that the new sanctioning body held its first organized race on a dirt or paved racetrack (NASCAR held some races in 1948 in Daytona Beach, but those were on a beach road course).

The first Strictly Stock race was held at Charlotte Speedway, a .75-mile dirt track located on the east side of the Queen City, and was the precursor to what is today Charlotte Motor Speedway in suburban Concord.

Driving a 1949 Lincoln, Jim Roper, of Halstead, Kansas, won the inaugural 197-lap race, defeating 32 other drivers who entered, according to Racing-Reference.Info. Roper led 47 laps and earned $2,000 for taking the checkered flag.

The race also featured future NASCAR Hall of Famers Lee Petty, Buck Baker, Tim Flock and Herb Thomas. Others in the field included Curtis Turner, Red Byron, and the first woman to ever race in NASCAR, Sara Christian, who finished 14th.

Interestingly enough, Roper would make only one other career start in NASCAR, nearly two months later at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina, where he finished 15th.

For more information on NASCAR’s first race, check out the great story by StockCar-World.com (you may have to translate the page from French to English, which can be easily accomplished using Google Translator).

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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”