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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Awesome, Short-Lived NASCAR Convertible Racing Division



NASCAR has had a pretty cut-and-dry formula for its racing series for a long time. All the cars in the current field barely share parts with their road going counterparts, and despite the manufacturer, all cars have to adhere to certain specs. But back in the 1950s, NASCAR was a far different beast, and there were multiple classes, including the short-lived Convertible Division.
In the mid 1950s, NASCAR had Grand National, Modified, and Sportsman, but Bill France wanted to continue expanding the brand. One way he did that was to have NASCAR acquire the SAFE (Society of Auto Sports, Fellowship and Education)’s Circuit of Champions “All Stars” circuit. That particular division was all-convertible, and the convertible NASCAR division was run from 1956 to 1959.


Throughout those years, convertibles would sometimes race against hardtop cars. The 1959 Daytona 500 featured two separate qualifying schedules; one for hardtops and one for convertibles. When they ran the actual race, the two divisions were combined and the ’59 Daytona 500 had 20 drop tops and 39 coupes.


Convertible stock car racing only occurred as a special event following the 1957 season, and then officially closed up after 1963. There is a connection between those short-lived and NASCAR racing today–The current Bojangles’ Southern 500 is held at Darlington Raceway.

 Darlington originally hosted that the convertible division race, but eventually evolved into the race it is today. It also just made us hungry for Bojangles’ chicken and biscuits!