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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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.