No Prius, No Problem: Vintage Photos from the Glory Days of Racing
For better or for worse, auto racing has steadily evolved over the years. Changes have been made to the cars, the courses, and the concessions. Some improvements have benefited the sport while others have undeniably made it less exciting and dramatic. Let’s reminisce about better times as we take a look at 30 vintage photos from racing’s glory days.
“The First Lady of Motorsports” or “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.” However you choose to call her, Linda Vaughn was an unmistakable, unforgettable icon in racing from the 1960s through the 1980s. She was a model, a personality, a trophy queen, a saleswoman. Linda Vaughn did it all and helped popularize stockcar racing.
Vaughn got her start as a Hurst girl, modeling and promoting for Hurst Performance, a company that manufactured high-performance shifters for muscle cars. As Vaughn became a staple at seemingly every big race around the country, her popularity burgeoned to new heights. Eventually, Vaughn’s role in NASCAR became as important as the cars in the races.
Cale Yarborough Vs. The Allisons
Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison are two of the most iconic names in racing, but the single most iconic moment in each of their respective careers happened outside of the racecar. At the 1979 Daytona 500, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison got their wheels tangled up as the two drivers vied for first place, causing their cars to spin out and crash in the infield.
Yarborough, on the right, took exception to Donnie’s driving and wanted a word with him. Donnie’s brother, Bobby, also joined the fray to give his two cents (and two hands). The scuffle incidentally and ironically helped popularize NASCAR across America.
Vintage F1 Grid Girls
F1 racing is one part racing and one part grid girls. Neither can function without the other. For the casual fan, grid girls are those attractive women strutting around the race track holding signs. Their job may seem relatively simple and mundane, but on a deeper level, their roles are actually much more important.
Decked out semi-scandalous outfits full of corporate sponsorships, grid girls are the life of brands at the race track. Before the social media age, grid girls were simple eye candy wearing whatever they pleased, but today they are a brand’s best friend, fueling a multi-million dollar industry.
Dale 1994 Winston Cup Win
Dale Earnhardt may not be the king of racing, but he may be the most popular driver among fans. Earning the nicknames “The Intimidator,” “The Man in Black,” and “The Count of Monte Carlo,” Earnhardt won 76 races and seven NASCAR Winston Cup championships, which is tied for most all-time with the venerable Richard Petty.
The 1994 season would be his last Winston Cup victory. At the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt slammed into the retaining wall on the race’s final lap. The force of the collision killed Earnhardt instantly. Following the tragedy, NASCAR improved safety regulations for its drivers, its cars, and its race tracks.
Tim Richmond Wins the 1986 Winn Dixie 300
A larger-than-life personality, Tim Richmond was a rare breed in a sport that is more about performance and less about personality. He was an eccentric, outlandish character better suited for the silver screen than the race track. But racing was Richmond’s passion and he excelled at it.
Richmond’s started F1 racing before transitioning to stock car racing, and the man who had an unquenchable need for speed eventually burned out in a tragic way. Known for his excessive partying, Richmond’s wild ways eventually caught up with him. In 1989, roughly two years after his final NASCAR race, Richmond passed away due to complications from AIDS.
Richard Petty Wins Dover
A young king wears his crown upside down. Flanked by two elated promotion girls, Richard Petty celebrates his win at the 1974 Gander Outdoors 400 in Dover, Deleware. Petty, who was racing in just his third Winston Cup Series, dominated the entire sprint and won the 400-mile race with ease.
When he crossed the checkered finish line, the party was on. The champagne was about to get popped, the Winston cigarettes about to get lit, and the trophies about to get turned (upside down). That win at Dover would be Petty’s 10th of the year, an impressive feat in its own right.
Tim Richmond Folgers
The aforementioned Tim Richmond loved to party. And what’s a staple found at nearly every party? If you answered champagne, the drink Richmond is spitting out, you’d be wrong. If you guessed beer, like the one the man on his left is clutching, you’d also be incorrect.
No, the drink of choice for party-goers nationwide, the drink that fuels Richmond lap after lap, is coffee. Folgers coffee to be precise. Richmond is arguably the most recognizable driver to ever don the iconic red Folgers Coffee firesuit. Richmond had 13 victories in eight NASCAR seasons before passing away at the age of 34.
Known in the motorsports community as “The First Lady of Drag Racing,” Shirly Muldowney had an illustrious career fueled by a relentless pursuit of breaking barriers and winning. Muldowney, who entered the sport at a time when women were unwelcome and virtual nonfactors, slowly climbed the drag racing rankings with an unwavering and unbreakable spirit.
Eventually, her undeniable success on the track allowed for Muldowney to become the first woman to receive a license from the NHRA to drive a Top Fuel drag racer, the sport’s most elite (and dangerous) class of cars. Muldowney won three NHRA Top Fuel championships in her career.
Ronnie Peterson Autograph
Known as the “Super Swede,” Swedish F1 racer Ronnie Peterson was a fan favorite during his abbreviated career. Here, multiple Super Swede superfans, decked out in Ronnie red, surround the beloved driver as he prepares for a race. Tragically, Ronnie Peterson, like many racers before him, passed away after a fatal crash.
At the 1978 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Peterson was caught up in a multi-car collision that left him and his car on fire. Peterson was saved from the wreckage and immediately transported to a local hospital where he passed away the next day from complications associated with the devastating accident.
Richard Petty Final Win
The King of racing, Richard Petty is statistically the most accomplished driver in NASCAR history. Petty won 200 races, seven Daytona 500s, and is tied with two other drivers for most NASCAR Cup Series championships with seven. Although Petty retired from the sport in 1992, his last victory, his historic 200th, came on July 4, 1984, at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
In 1992, months after his final race, Petty was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W. Bush for his vast contributions to the sport of stock car racing. After racing, Petty tried his hand at broadcasting, among other ventures.
Pikes Peak Race to the Clouds
The road to the top of Pikes Peak mountain, located near Colorado Springs, Colorado, may be America’s most famous road, and it definitely becomes America’s most dangerous during the annual Race to the Clouds spectacle. The perilous course, which ends at 14,115 feet above sea level, lasts a daunting 12.42 miles.
Since the race’s inception in 1916, multiple classes of vehicles, including motorcycles, compete in a variety of races with one goal in mind: reaching the top safely. Prior to 2011, the course was a mixture of gravel, pavement, and dirt. Today, the course is strictly asphalt, resulting in faster times and slightly less dangerous turns.
Big (Banned) Wings
Speed is the name of the game, and NASCAR teams will do whatever they can to get that extra mile of gas out of the tank, to hit that previously unattainable top speed. And that is exactly what Dodge did back in the 1970s. Dodge built the Dodge Charger Daytona with custom modifications designed to rule the race track.
The muscle car was fitted with a nose cone that made the otherwise square front more aerodynamic and a massive wing on the tail that could provide an undeniably unfair advantage to drivers. This car was the first to eclipse 200 mph in NASCAR and lasted only two seasons before being permanently banned from the sport.
“Jungle” Jim Liberman is arguably the most famous funny car racer in history and undoubtedly was the sports greatest entertainer, showman, and personality. In 1972, Jungle Jim was cruising through small-town Pennsylvania when something caught his eye. That something was 18-year-old Pam Hardy, a soon-to-be high school graduate.
Jim convinced Pam to tour the country with him as his backup girl, a piece of eye candy used to get the funny cars back in position. Scandalous outfits, a mysterious personality, and a knack for showmanship helped Pam transform into “Jungle Pam,” the most recognizable woman in drag racing through the 70s.
Daytona 500 Repair
“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s not often that you see a crew repairman straddling the hood of a precision racecar with a hammer in hand ready to deliver a punishing blow. Crew repairmen are a vital cog in any successful racing team.
While the driver may soak up all the attention and be the face of the team, the crew repairmen do all of the unsung dirty work (literally), enabling the car and driver to perform at optimal levels. Side note: what is that NFL referee doing to the left of MC Hammer?
Hurst Golden Girls
We already mentioned Linda Vaughn, the original Hurst Golden Shifter and First Lady of Motorsports. But what we didn’t mention was the team that supported and accompanied her to every race. Vaughn may have been the centerpiece of the show, but the supporting cast garnered quite a bit of attention themselves.
The Hurst Golden Girls were an ensemble of attractive women paid by Hurst Performance to promote both racing and their products- high-performance parts for muscle cars. Today, the Hurst Golden Girls have a lot less shine than they did during their golden days, but their lasting impact on NASCAR is undeniable.
You just hit the beach for a nice day in the sun, but before you let those sweet UV rays penetrate your skin and radiate throughout your body, make sure to lather on some Hawaiin Tropic Sunscreen, the best in the business.
It’s not often that sunscreen gets big publicity, but the MVP (most valuable product) behind tanning does deserve some more time in the sun, and Donnie Allison, brother of Bobby, helped put Hawaiin Tropic on the map and on more bodies. Donnie famously drove and crashed the Hawaiian Tropic No.1 car in the 1979 Daytona 500, leading to the most infamous fight in NASCAR history.
Step aside, Danica Patrick, we’re talking about a true pioneer in the sport of racing. Janet Guthrie, a University of Michigan graduate and aerospace engineer, didn’t start racing until later in life. While working in the aerospace industry, Guthrie realized her passion for speed and wanted to be the one in the cockpit, not the one designing it.
But being a fighter pilot was out of the question, so Guthrie opted for the next best thing- racing. After ascending through the lower ranks of racing, Guthrie made it to NASCAR, becoming the first woman to race in the Daytona 500. Shortly after her NASCAR debut, Guthrie made the transition to F1 racing, becoming the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Today, this iconic southern competition is called the Folds of Honor Quicktrip 500, but from 1967-1979, the race went by a cleaner, more iconic name: the Dixie 500. The race is held annually at Atlanta Motor Speedway, located in Hampton, Georgia.
From 1987 until 2001, this race, going by a variety of different names, was the last race of the NASCAR season, meaning it often decided the season’s champion. However, on the flip side, being the last race also yielded anti-climactic results. Often drivers would enter the race already having enough points to theoretically be crowned champion, thus rendering the race a mere formality.
Despite looking like the ultimate showman, David Pearson has been described by peers and racing enthusiasts as one of the sport’s most humble personalities. Other analysts went so far as to say Pearson lacked charisma. But in this picture, Pearson and his sagging spirit appear to be doing just fine as two trophy girls, with what must be genuine ear-to-ear smiles, prop him up.
Dull personality aside, Pearson was as skilled a driver as anyone in the sport. He currently sits in second place on NASCAR’s all-time win list with 105 victories. He backs up that impressive stat with three titles in a four-year span.
Dale Earnhardt 1998 Daytona 500
That is the face of victory and triumph, the face of a man who has finally broken through to the other side. In 1998, NASCAR’s greatest driver entered his 20th Daytona 500 race. His best finish up to that point was second. First place was elusive.
But finally, after decades of trying and coming up short, Earnhardt captured first place, marking the only time in his illustrious career that he’d win NASCAR’s premier race. Three years later, on that same course, Earnhardt would violently crash into the wall on the race’s final lap, getting killed instantly from blunt force trauma.
Hurst Shifter Girl
Here she is again, Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. The trophy she’s posing next to is as big as her…um….sash. The sash lets everyone in the crowd know who she is, as if they didn’t already know. Linda Vaughn was a ubiquitous presence at various racing events for decades.
For Vaughn and the Hurst Golden Girls, it didn’t matter what vehicle class or race type was on the schedule, so long as it had an engine that rumbled and some fans to cheer. Today, Vaughn has retired from her official role as a golden shifter but still remains deeply involved with the sport of racing, her first and only true love.
Money shot. Emerson Fittipaldi was the Brazilian Formula One racecar driver who loved posing with fat stacks of cash. The 1989 Indy 500, considered one of the greatest races in history, was the first Indy 500 to offer a $1 million purse to the race’s winner.
With a million dollars on the line, you can bet the farm that everyone would be gunning for the top spot. In the last lap of a close contest, Fittipaldi narrowly captured victory, his first at Indianapolis. Fittipaldi won his second and final Indy 500 four years later and is regarded by many as one of the greatest Brazilian drivers.
Jackie Stewart F1 Girls
Sir Jackie Stewart — yes, he was knighted — was a Scottish Formula One race car driver who also went by the awesome nickname “Flying Scot.” Stewart, a classy showman, won three Formula One World Drivers’ Championships, known simply as WDCs.
If you look closely at the top of Stewart’s helmet, you will notice an awesome plaid pattern, referred to in Scotland as a tartan. This special pattern, known as the Royal Stewart Tartan, pays homage to certain Scottish clans and is also the personal tartan of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1973, Stewart was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, the first and only time a racecar driver has won the award.
Race at Chicago’s Soldier Field
Chicago’s Soldier Field might be most recognized as the home of the Chicago Bears. However, back in the ’30s, the ownership of Soldier Field wanted to experiment with racing and the experiment became a wildly popular nightly spectacle. In the ’40s, racing slowed down to aid the war effort, and when it returned in the 1950s, its popularity exploded with Soldier Field regularly seeing capacities exceed 90,000.
In 1956, NASCAR made its grand debut at Soldier Field for the sport’s only 100-mile race. Shortly after, racing’s popularity at Soldier Field dwindled until the sport shuttered after the Bears made the stadium their home in 1971. The Bears haven’t fared too well there, either.
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of old, aka Buco Bruce and the Creamsicle Kids, had a car racing in NASCAR, it would be this one. Cale Yarborough’s No.11 Holly Farms racer had a paint job and color scheme that had the 70s written all over it. The racing stripe on his suit is bold, unique, and purely a relic of the past.
The car may be an eyesore to modern-day racing enthusiasts, but rest assured, when Cale was burning rubber in this doozy, the fans were on their feet screaming at the top of their lungs. Cale won three Cup championships, three-peating from 1976-78, and four Daytona 500s.
Cale Yarborough No.11 Busch
The Busch Bandit. Cale Yarborough was a cool dude driving in the hot seat, but nothing was cooler than his No.11 Busch mobile. This car oozed greatness and reeked of many nights of partying. Yarborough is considered one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history drove some of the most memorable cars in the sport.
Yarborough only had a few years booze cruising as the Busch Bandit and the maker of this iconic car, Oldsmobile, is no longer in production. Yarborough won the Daytona 500 four times and became the second NASCAR driver to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Bobby Allison High Life
Nothing like the High Life. Nothing like driving a beer can. Bobby Allison drove plenty of cool cars during his day, but nothing compared to his No.12 Miller High Life ride. Allison and the Miller Mobile rode together during the 1980s. The pinnacle of Allison’s success came in 1983 when he won his only Winston Cup.
Cup wins aside, Allison won the Daytona 500 three times and is fifth on NASCAR’s all-time win list with 84. Allison’s two sons, Clifford and Davey, were also NASCAR drivers. Tragically, both of them passed away within a year of each other from vehicular related accidents.
Old Logos from Another Era
The old logos and varieties of cars no longer in commission in this photo is equally impressive as it is nostalgic. The Budweiser car is much simpler than its modern-day counterpart. Levi Garrett, a tobacco company, no longer sponsors a car. The all-white 66 car is void of any big corporate sponsorships while the Zerex car also no longer exists.
The all-black chariot of darkness, the Stroh’s Light car, also doesn’t exist today. NASCAR, like any industry or sport, has undergone plenty of changes since its inception, and a great way to visually digest the changes is through the evolution of sponsorships and car styles.
1960 Indy 500
Well, IndyCar racing sure looks different today. Back at the 1960 Indianapolis 500, the cars were genuine single-seater race cars, a far cry from what the modern body IndyCar racers look like today. The driver back then is actually visible compared to today’s drivers who, besides the exposed top portion of their helmet, remain largely invisible.
The only similarity may be the passionate fans packing the stadium, patiently waiting for the big rubber wheels to start turning at ridiculously high RPMs. Jim Rathmann won the 44th edition of the race by the slimmest of margins- 12.75 seconds. Rodger Ward finished in second.
Ah, Monaco, the land of casinos, gambling, yachts, James Bond films, and street racing. The Monaco Grand Prix started in 1929 and, along with the Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans, makes up a leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport. Considered the most technical and dangerous race in Formula One racing, the Monaco Grand Prix takes its drivers through the old, windy streets of Monaco, a micronation located within France.
With six wins, Aryton Senna of Brazil has won the race more than any other driver. Despite its glamorous looks and flashy appeal, many drivers think the course is boring and restricted. We’re guessing in the 50s it was a bit more interesting.