The very first NASCAR race took place on a dirt track at the old Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina on June 19, 1949 in front of a crowd of approximately 23,000 curious spectators. Christian "Jim" Roper took first place (and the $2,000 purse) in a Lincoln Cosmopolitan after reading about the race in a syndicated comic strip. Fonty Flock came in second, future Hall of Famer Red Byron took third, Sam Rice came in fourth, and Tim Flock took fifth. Several other legendary racers competed that first day including Lee Petty, Curtis Turner, and Buck Baker.
In 1979, the Daytona 500 became the first NASCAR race to be nationally televised from start to finish. Richard Petty took first place after the two leaders going into the last lap (Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison) crashed while fighting for the lead.
Legendary racecar driver Dale Earnhardt won the most Nextel Cup Series Championships during the 1990s, finishing the decade with four championships. Jeff Gordon came in second with three championships. Earnhardt also dominated during the 1980s when he won three Nextel Cup Series Championships, tying Darrell Waltrip's record for the decade. Earnhardt's brilliant NASCAR career came to a tragic end, however, on February 18, 2001, when he died in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.