The subject of trophies is an interesting one in the world of NASCAR. Most people are familiar with sport’s most famous trophies like the FIFA World Cup in soccer, the Stanley Cup in hockey, the Wimbledon Championship Trophy in tennis…and so the list goes on. But how familiar are you with the Grandfather Clock of the Martinsville Speedway? or the lobster Read on to learn more.
The majority of winning NASCAR Drivers who win a trophy can keep and take them home. These victories often come with trophies and other gifts that represent the race location, surfboards in California, lobsters in New Hampshire etc. One trophy that winners cannot take is the Harley J Earl trophy from the Daytona 500.
Another key question some people wonder about is whether or not NASCAR drivers get to keep these trophies. In today’s article, we’ll be starting with this question of keeping trophies, before taking a wander down trophy lane to look at some of the most unique awards in the NASCAR Cup Series, of which there are many.
Do NASCAR Drivers Keep Their Trophies?
By and large, the answer is yes, they do. Back in 2019, Fox Sports did a feature where NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip meets with current veteran driver Kyle Busch to see his collection of more than 200 NASCAR trophies. Amazingly, Busch was able to identify each trophy while blindfolded, and was even able to say the year it was from and who he managed to beat to get that trophy.
The vast majority of trophies won at NASCAR events are simply reproduced each year and awarded to the winners. Besides the driver winning a trophy, awards are often given to pit crew chiefs and team owners as well, but it depends on the exact location.
There is one interesting exception to the rule, which is the Harley J. Earl Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Daytona 500, one of the “crown jewel” races in the NASCAR calendar.
Harley J. Earl Trophy
The history of this trophy goes all the way back to 1959 and is named for noted automotive designer Harley Earl, a former and first design chief at General Motors.
Earl was the visionary behind GM’s need for a sports car to rival those of the European OEMs, thus giving birth to the now iconic Chevrolet Corvette. Earl was also a former NASCAR commissioner.
The trophy is adorned with a silver Firebird I concept car, another of Earl’s proud creations, and is awarded to the winner of the Daytona 500, the season opener for the NASCAR Cup Series. It is the apex of NASCAR trophies and the one that every driver aspires to win at least once in their career.
So why is this award not simply reproduced each year? Well, a version of the trophy is in fact reproduced each year, and has taken different forms over the years. The original trophy sits on display at the Daytona International Speedway. It’s about 4 feet in height and 5 feet in width and is shaped like the tri-oval shape of the Daytona 500 track.
Each year that the Daytona 500 is run, the trophy is removed from its display case where it goes to sit in victory lane awaiting its latest “recipient.”
The NASCAR Trophy Drivers Cant Take Home
The thing is, no one actually gets that trophy. From 1959 to 1997, winning drivers were presented with something known as the Harley Earl Award, which was a 3-ft tall wooden trophy decorated with silver figurines.
From 1998, that changed to a replica of the original trophy. Production of the replica trophy each year takes many weeks and two separate suppliers in Omaha, Nebraska. Herman Engraving handles the painstaking process of creating the Firebird I automobile, and Koley’s Inc then handles all the plating.
The first replica was awarded to none other than Dale Earnhardt in 1998, and was mounted on a base of marble (heavy!), but that was changed to acrylic from 1999. It still weighs 54-lbs and is 18 inches tall and 22 inches wide. Richard Petty has won the trophy the most times.
Unique NASCAR Trophies
We mentioned further above that NASCAR trophies are especially prized not just for the prestige and race-winning talent that they represent, but that each one is quite unique, with some speedways and events really pushing the boat out to create something special. Here are some notable examples:
Coca-Cola 600 – Vintage Coca-Cola Vending Machine
The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest NASCAR Cup Series event at 600 miles, and is one of the 5 crown jewel races along with the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500. It’s held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the main coveted prize is actually the Bruton Smith Trophy, a rather stunning bronze piston-style award. On top of that, however, winners also receive a restored vintage coke machine that delivers cold and tasty glass bottles of coca-cola.
The prize list at the Coca-Cola 600 actually goes on a bit longer, with the winner receiving a white gold and diamond ring, a fancy watch, and the custom “Winner’s Coat.”
Auto Club Speedway – Surfboard
Does it really surprise you that a race held in southern California awards winners a fantastic surfboard? Perhaps not, but it’s still an interesting price for a motorsports event. The board itself doesn’t come straight away, as it happens. On race day, the winner receives a rather fetching surfboard-motif trophy. The following year when they return to Auto Cub, they are honored again with the receipt of their custom-made surfboard.
Texas Motor Speedway – A Pair of Six-Shooters
No, you didn’t read that wrong! The Texas Motor Speedway winner’s package is distinctly cowboy themed. The trophy itself is in the shape of a cowboy boot, and the winner is further presented with a pair of six-shooter pistols and a cowboy hat. Some are saying that it might be time for Texas to ditch the firearms prize, so some drivers might want to pick up the pace if they want to be one of the winners of these unique “trophies.”
Talladega Superspeedway – The Vulcan
Visitors to Birmingham, Alabama may know that it is home to the world’s largest cast-iron statue, Vulcan. It stands 56 feet tall just 45 minutes west of the Talladega Superspeedway, and replicas of it are made for the winner of the Talladega race. Named for the Roman god of fire, the Vulcan trophy is a monstrous 130 pounds in weight and is made by local suppliers of hot-poured iron. A truly unique and special NASCAR trophy.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway: A Live Lobster
We had to put this here in case you were wondering about the random lobster in the image above! It is true that the winner of the NASCAR Race at the New Hampshire Motor speedway will receive a live lobster as a NASCAR Winning trophy, of considerable size. However usually they are about 20lb or so, the one in this image on USAtoday was over 40lb. The “lucky” winner, Denny Hamlin, actually can’t stand lobster!
There are many MANY more examples, that while writing this we have decided to do a feature on all of the weird and wonderful trophies of NASCAR, past and present, but mostly present! You can click the link here and below once its completed.
For most trophies NASCAR winners do keep them and get to take them home. Some are more coveted than others, mainly for the prestige of the race of course, but also as they are pretty cool trophies! That grandfather clock from Martinsville almost makes me want to dust off my Driving gloves and give it a shot!
There are exceptions, the original Daytona trophy stays at Daytona, However the sprint cup trpohy was handed out to the driver, the team and the sponsor from 2004 to 2016. Since 2020 this has been the Bill France Cup.