The NASCAR Convertible Division was a division of convertible cars early in NASCAR's history, from 1956 until 1959, although the signature race for convertibles remained a Convertible Division race until 1962. Two remnants of the Convertible Division are still used in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series today, the Can-Am Duel (one Daytona 500 qualifying race was reserved for convertibles) and the Bojangles' Southern 500 (started as a convertible race until the end of the division).
NASCAR purchased SAFE (Society of Auto Sports, Fellowship, and Education)'s all-convertible Circuit of Champions “All Stars” circuit late in 1955. Most drivers did not make the transition to NASCAR's sanction. NASCAR ran the division from 1956 until 1959. Some Convertibles raced against the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) hardtop cars in the same race. The 1959 Daytona 500 had one qualifying race for Convertibles and one for the hardtop Grand National cars. 20 of the 59 cars in the Daytona 500 were convertibles. The split qualifying races of the 1959 race led to the development of the Budweiser Duel qualifying races still used in the Daytona 500.
The current Bojangles' Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway was held as a Convertible Division race from 1957-62. As NASCAR's only superspeedway in 1957, the inaugural Rebel 300 was held as a Convertible race on May 11, 1957, only to be delayed by rain and raced on the ensuing Sunday (May 12), drawing a fine for promoter Bob Colvin for violating South Carolina blue law (the track's signature fall race, the Southern 500 (which was discontinued after the Ferko lawsuit in 2004), was held on Labor Day Monday until 1983, when the state waived the Blue Law for 250 mile (402 km) or longer automobile races). The Rebel would be held as a Confederate Memorial Day Convertible race even after the division ended in 1959, with full Grand National points awarded for three more Convertible division races from 1960–62, won by Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen, and the final Rebel 300 for convertibles on May 12, 1962, won by Nelson Stacy.
The Rebel 300 was run as a Grand National race with hardtops for the first time in 1963 as two 150-mile races before adopting a full 300-mile race in 1964, and expanded to 400 miles in 1966, before going to 500 miles in 1974, reverting to 400 miles in 1994, and returning in 2005 back to its Confederate Memorial Day date as a Saturday night 500-mile Sprint Cup race. The race was moved back to the April date of the 1970s in 2014, and will be run in September starting in 2015 as a Sunday evening race. The Bojangles' sponsorship of the Rebel 500 started in 2012, and despite its misleading name (first adopted for the Rebel 500 in 2009) and date (first used in 2015), the Bojangles' Southern 500 is a continuation of the Rebel 300.
List of champions
- ^ Bob Pronger - Biography; Stan Kalwasinski; Chicagoland Auto Racing, Retrieved February 20, 2008
- ^ Coulter, Bill (1998). Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars. Kalmbach Publishing, Co. p. 5. ISBN 0-89024-285-2.
- ^ Pepsi 400: Nothing like racing at night; NASCAR.com; Dave Rodman; July 3, 2002; Retrieved February 21, 2008
- ^ Daytona 500 Anniversary - The 50th Run; Stock Car Racing magazine; Benny Phillips; July 3, 2002; Retrieved February 21, 2008
- ^ Nelson Stacy; legendsofnascar.com; Retrieved February 20, 2008
- ^ 1956 NASCAR Convertible statistics, Retrieved February 20, 2008
- ^ 1959 NASCAR Convertible statistics, Retrieved February 20, 2008
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