Late Model Sportsman

Dennis Andrews
@dennis-andrews
10 years ago
835 posts

The "Cup" series or as we here at RR like to remember it as the "Grand National" division is considered the TOP division of NASCAR and I would have to agree that it is. But there is a lot more to the history of stock car racing than just Cup. A lot of RR members have ties to the top series but I'll bet a lot more have ties to what started as the Sportsman Division.

NASCAR was founded in Dec. of 1947asa sanctioning body in the sport of stock car racing and it'sonly division in 1948 was called "Modified". These were pre-war coupes and coaches with highly modified engines. 1949 saw the introduction of two more divisions. About mid year the "Strictly Stock" division was created which would later become the "Sprint Cup" series. The other newgroup was called the "Sportsman Division". Bill France saw the Strictly Stock class as the future of NASCAR and set out to make it the premier series for stock car racing in the USA but it was built on the foundation of Modified and Sportsman division racing.

The Sportsman division was the result of owner's concerns over the rising cost of building a winning Modified car. In 1950 the first Sportsman cars looked a lot like a Modified car. The difference was the engines had to have stock heads, intake manifolds and could not run magnetos. They also had to run stock rear ends.

The Sportsman division proved to be very popular with car builders as they quickly became competetive with the Modifieds and held there own in combination events. From 1950 to 1983 Sportsman races were held at short tracksall over the country and by the early 60's the were the main event at most tracks. This speaks to the vast number of people involved in this division. The best drivers in the country competed in this division and while a few went on to fame and fortune in other series most were local heros to the fans who filled the grandstands every weekend. Todays NASCAR has its 50 Greatest Drivers, and they deserve the credit they get, but 50 would not come close to the list required to hold the Greatest Sportsman Drivers.

The division crownedstate Champions by holding local events that counted toward regional and state widepoints. The regional points were compiled to determine the National Champion until it became a touring division in 1982.

The Sportsman division is far from where it started and has had several name changes. Dirt tracks are gone and almost all of the short tracks. Most of the events are now held on super speedways.

1950-1967 Sportsman Division

1968-1981 Late Model Sportsman Division

1982-1983 Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Division

1984-1994 Busch Grand National Series

1995-2003 Busch Series, Grand National Division

2004-2007 Busch Series

2008-(2011) Nationwide Series

That's just an overview of a lot of history. Lets hear your part of it.


updated by @dennis-andrews: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Jeff Gilder
@jeff-gilder
10 years ago
1,781 posts
Can I get an Amen for the brother! I think there is a good argument for this being the series having made the largest impact on the sport... in history... especially when one considers the local and regional impact and the connection the fans had with the drivers. This is where loyalty began and rose into the upper division. The competition at this level was incredible.


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Founder/Creator - RacersReunion®
Dennis Andrews
@dennis-andrews
10 years ago
835 posts

Sportsman Division National Champions

1950 Mike Klapak, Ohio

1951 Mike Klapak, Ohio

1952 Mike Klapak, Ohio

1953 Johnny Roberts, Maryland

1954 Danny Graves, California

1955 Billy Myers, North Carolina

1956 Ralph Earnhardt, North Carolina

1957 Ned Jarret, North Carolina

1958 Ned Jarret, North Carolina

1959 Rick Henderson, California

1960 Bill Wimble, New York

1961 Dick Nephew, New York

& Bill Wimble, New York

1962 Rene Charland, Mass.

1963 Rene Charland, Mass.

1964 Rene Charland, Mass.

1965 Rene Charland, Mass.

1966 Don MacTavish, Mass.

1967 Pete Hamilton, Mass.

Late Model Sportsman Division Champions

1968 Joe Thurman, Virginia

1969 Red Farmer, Alabama

1970 Red Farmer, Alabama

1971 Red Farmer, Alabama

1972 Jack Ingram, North Carolina

1973 Jack Ingram, North Carolina

1974 Jack Ingram, North Carolina

1975 L.D. Ottinger,

1976 L.D. Ottinger,

1977 Butch Lindley, South Carolina

1978 Butch Lindley, South Carolina

1979 Gene Glover,

1980 Morgan Shepherd, North Carolina

1981 Tommy Ellis,

Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series

1982 Jack Ingram, North Caroilna

1983 Sam Ard, North Carolina

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
10 years ago
4,049 posts
I'd like to get Rick Houston to contribute here. Rick covered the Busch Series for Winston Cup/NASCAR Scene. In recent years, he tried to make a go of it with his own website Stock Car History Online. He also wrote a book titled Second To None: The History of the Busch Series. With his own site now closed, I'll reach out to Rick to see if he might be interested in joining here.


--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
10 years ago
9,128 posts
I was a little confused the first time I attended Richmond's Southside Speedway in 1964. The NASCAR sanctioned events were advertised as Modified-Sportsman races. It took me a little while to understand that there were two separate divisions of coupes running in the same race, with different points being awarded. At Southside, for instance, Ray Hendrick, Runt Harris, Ted Hairfield and Sonny Hutchins were competing in NASCAR Modified coupes in the same race as Lennie Pond and Joe Henry Thurman in NASCAR Sportsman coupes. It was a lot easier to understand in later years when the modified division was dropped (how we hated that) and the cars all became Late Model Sportsman like they'd run for years in North Carolina, rather than the Coupe Sportsman cars. I agree with Jeff - A lot of argument to be made supporting your premise Dennis.


--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dennis Andrews
@dennis-andrews
10 years ago
835 posts

L.D. and Gene from Tenn. and Tommy from Virginia.

Dennis Andrews
@dennis-andrews
10 years ago
835 posts
Jack Walker tells me that they ran the divisions together in order to have large fields.
N.B. Arnold
@nb-arnold
10 years ago
121 posts

Yes, they did run modified and sportsman cars together in a number of races, especially the bigger ones, ie: Daytona, Darlington, Langhorne,and each division was awarded points much the same as they now do in a North-South combination race. Let's not forgettoo, the amatuerdivision, which later became the hobby division. A lot of drivers started out there in order to gain experience before moving up to the then faster and heavier mods and late models. Back in the 50's a bunch of drivers competed in a combination of all of these divisions in order to race and eat. I think the late model sportsman cars really took over as the modifieds began to lose car types as the coupes and coaches started becoming harder to find.

I amthankful I was fortunate enough to grow up seeing all of these types of cars race, and cut my racing teeth with these older models and great drivers that have been fogotten. This is really where our history lies, and with the journey to get to the Grand National elite.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
10 years ago
9,128 posts

I don't know if these scans will reproduce very well - they are froma pretty tattered1988 NASCAR Press Guide. Lists Year by Year Points Standings for Sportsman and Modified through 1987. I'm also tring to post my favorite lists- the most popular drivers in each series. What's special is the " Most Popular" was voted back then by the driver's competitors, not the fans. The reason 1976 Sportsman standings are circled is that I was doing PR work for LD Ottinger in 1988 & 1989 and researching his championship years. Please note - even though he only ran a couple of Modified races, Handsome Harry Gant was voted by his peers as the Most Popular Driver in both divisions in 1977 - a first! That speaks volumes about the respect other drivers had for Harry. I was fortunate to also get to work with him in 1988 and 1989 when Detroit Gasket was an associate sponsor of his Leo Jackson cars.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
10 years ago
9,128 posts

1950s NASCAR Modified-Sportsman action on the dirt in Richmond at the half-mle dirt Virginia State Fairgrounds.

Car #89 is Wendell Scott.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"