During prohibition in the southern United States, bootleggers would use modified cars to get more cargo space for their illegal booze as well as more speed to outrun police, and later tax revenue agents after prohibition was lifted. All that racing around the country backroads stuck and they began doing it for fun as well as for business to create what would become known as stock car racing.
|The origins of NASCAR.|
In 1947, Bill France saw the potential for a unified series of racing competitors and created the National Championship Stock Car Circuit (NCSCC). The venture would oversee 40 events over the course of a single season at the Daytona Beach track, with a grand prize of $1,000 going to the winner. Attendance ended up exceeding the venue’s capacity multiple times. By the end of 1947, France and the other 35 men who represented the NCSCC gathered together to bring France’s vision of an organized group of race car drivers to reality. On February 21, 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was founded.
|Bill France, Sr., the founder of NASCAR.|
NASCAR was originally split by three divisions: Modified, Roaster and Strictly Stock, although Roadster proved unpopular with fans and was soon abandoned. The first Modified race was held at Daytona Beach later that month, while the first Strictly Stock race ran at Charlotte Speedway in June of 1949. In 1950, Strictly Stock became the “Grand National” division, allowing for modifications to be made to the cars to improve both safety and performance. As foreign manufacturers took notice of their cars being used in the races, they began to show interest in entering the races themselves. In 1952, NASCAR expanded beyond the United States with its first race in Canada.
|A garage with Unlimited Division racers.|
Today, NASCAR is a major racing concern still held within the France family and comprised of several different series. In 1999, NASCAR partnered up with FOX Kids to produce an animated series for the younger NASCAR fans. Developed by Saban Entertainment, NASCAR Racers took place in the near future in Motor City. Jack Fassler (Paul Dobson) had pushed for the creation of a new Unlimited Division which would allow for cars that possessed various technology to aid in the races along extreme reality-defying tracks. Amongst these advancements were rocket boosters for speed and jumping, wings and parachutes for gliding, and an inner Rescue Racer that could be ejected if the car was in trouble. To train for these races, racers used an advanced virtual reality simulator.
|Team Fastex: Jack Fassler, Duck, Charger, Flyer, Spitfire and Stunts.|
The show primarily focused on Fassler’s Team Fastex comprised of Mark “Charger” McCutchen (Ian James Corlett), a second generation racer; Carlos “Stunts” Rey (Rino Romano), a daredevil who raced in order to win money for his ill father; and Steve “Flyer” Sharp (Roger R. Cross), a retired Air Force pilot who suffered some brain damage from an explosion during a mission. After some convincing, Fassler’s adopted daughter (a plot point that played out during the second season) Megan “Spitfire” Fassler (Kathleen Barr) was allowed to join the team. Megan was also responsible for the creation of the team’s cars and their technology. Douglas “Duck” Dunaka (Dale Wilson) was the team’s crew chief. Mark’s brother Miles (Andrew Francis), also an aspiring racer, often helped Duck around the pit.
|Spex with Rexton on his view screen.|
The primary competition for the Fastex team was Team Rexcor. The team was owned and operated by Garner Rexton (Ron Halder) who attempted to do anything in order to win races as well as destroy Fastex. Amongst his racers were Lyle “The Collector” Owens (Philip Maurice Hayes) who was a spy on the Fastex team, but with his ruthlessness and arrogance behind the wheel was ejected by Fassler; Hondo “Specter” Hines, an incredibly sneaky and spooky driver; Zorina, who was very ignorant and aggressive and often teamed-up with Specter to destroy opposing cars; and Diesel “Junker” Spitz, a gang member recruited by Rexton who managed to trash opposing cars despite being clumsy and very slow in other regards. Spex (Richard Newman) was a cyborg and Rexcor’s crew chief. Other racers included veteran racer Farrell Longstreet, Kent “Demolisher” Steel, an android, and Eve “Wild Card” Kildere, a female stunt driver that initially worked for Rexton.
|NASCAR Racers promotional paint jobs on actual NASCAR racers.|
The first three episodes aired as a preview movie on November 20, 1999 before the rest of the season began that February. Interestingly enough, the actual NASCAR wouldn’t be seen on FOX until the show’s second season when it began airing in February of 2001. The series blended 2-D traditional animation for the characters designed by Joel Adams with 3-D computer animation used for the racing and action sequences by Creative Logik and VanHook Studios. It was written by Michael Edens, Mark Edens, Steve Cuden, Scott Peterson and Matthew Edens, with music composed by Alexander Van Bubenheim, David Hilker, John Costello, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy and Haim Saban (as Kussa Mahchi). To promote the series, four racing teams were tapped to have their cars done in a scheme representative of one of the four hero characters for a photo op. The cars were unveiled at a Winston Cup event on November 14th, 1999. Jeff Gordon’s #24, Bobby Labonte’s #18 and Terry Labonte’s #5 were all involved with the promotion early on, with Andy Petree’s #55 coming on board after some initial challenges navigating around car sponsor commitments. Each design had to be approved by the racing teams, Hasbro, who was handling the toy merchandising, and FOX Kids.
|Duck and Spex fighting over tools.|
The series was renewed for a second season, and some changes followed. The Unlimited Division cars were replaced with new atomic-powered XPT racers, which looked like sleeker versions of the original cars. The second half of the season saw the introduction of Nitro Racers with high-flux fusion units, many of which had a six-wheel design. Feeling betrayed over not being told about her adoption, Megan left Fastex to form her own team: The Spitfires. They were an all-female team comprised of her, Eve, Zorina after she was booted from Rexcor, and an intimidating racer named Chrome. Replacing Zorina was Tanker, an army veteran whose car resembled a tank. Phil “Octane” Knox worked clandestinely for Rexton and frequently employed a hallucinogen to his foes. The mysterious “Redline” O’Rourke was also introduced and provided competition for Charger both on the track and for Megan’s affections. Fastex also gets a new mechanic in the form of the klutzy “Lugnut” Gooch.
After the second season, the show was cancelled. Despite its short run, a strong merchandising push was made. Hasbro created a variety of cars and tracks featuring the characters and designs from the show. Harper Entertainment published a series of books by Gene Hult under the name J.E. Bright. A set of regular and deluxe foil valentines were made by Paper Magic Group, as were sticker sheets and vending machine sticker cards.
|Back cover to the video game.|
Hon2 Games, Inc. developed a game based on the show for the PC and Game Boy Color released by Electronic Arts. A PlayStation version was planned from Hasbro Interactive but ultimately cancelled when the studio was sold. Fox Home Entertainment released two VHS collections of the show in 2000. The pilot movie was released on Start Your Engines, while Maximum Overdrive featured the episodes “Always” and “Boy vs. Machine”.