The 2017 season brought in a new era with Monster Energy taking over as the title sponsor of NASCAR's Premier Series.
Take a look back at the history of NASCAR's top-tier series and how the name has changed from the sport's early days.
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Strictly Stock Series, 1949
NASCAR started off with its highest tier being called the ‘Strictly Stock Series’ in its opening season of competition. The series ran eight races with Red Byron being crowned the inaugural champion.
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Grand National Series, 1950-1971
After its debut season, NASCAR rebranded to the Grand National Series for the next 22 years. The naming change was a focus on making the sport the prominent series for stock car racing in America.
Some of the biggest names from the early days of NASCAR under the Grand National name included Lee Petty, Buck Baker, Tim Flock, Joe Weatherly, and Ned Jarrett.
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Winston Cup Series, 1971-2003
The longest running sponsor of NASCAR’s top series took over in 1971 tying the cigarette brand to stock car racing for over 30 years. Under the Winston Cup name, NASCAR grew tremendously, especially with the telecast of the 1979 Daytona 500 and the success of Richard Petty in the early Winston Cup days, winning five of his seven championships under the Winston brand.
After Petty’s success, Dale Earnhardt stepped in with his first championship in 1980 and dominated the sport for the next 20 seasons, tying Petty’s record of seven championships.
Along with Petty and Earnhardt, NASCAR saw its most memorable stars emerge in the Winston Cup days with Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki, Dale Jarrett, and Jeff Gordon to name a few.
The health initiatives around smoking were part of the reason why Winston initially started sponsoring NASCAR because of the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act that banned cigarette-related TV commercials in 1971.
That same concern and focus on smoking also eventually moved Winston out of its NASCAR sponsorship in 2003.
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Nextel Cup Series, 2004-2007
After spending over 30 years with Winston, NASCAR headed in a completely different direction when telecommunications company, Nextel, became the title sponsor of the Premier Series.
The move to the Nextel Cup Series also saw a major change in how NASCAR’s champion was decided as the Chase for the Cup was recreated, initially featuring 10 drivers battling for the title in the final 10 races of the 36 race season.
When Sprint and Nextel merged in 2006, the announcement came that it would become the Sprint Cup Series in 2008.
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Sprint Cup Series, 2008-2016
In the final year of the Nextel Cup, the Chase field increased to 12 drivers and continued adjustments to the playoff format continued throughout Sprint’s entire run as the series sponsor.
The one constant during the run of Sprint/Nextel as the title sponsor was Jimmie Johnson’s dominant success. As Petty and Earnhardt did under the Winston Cup moniker, Johnson won seven championships under the Sprint/Nextel banner.
In 2014, a wide range of changes were made to The Chase with an addition to 16 drivers competing for the championship in an elimination format with four drivers eliminated after every three races until four compete for the championship.
Monster Energy Series, Present
It was announced in 2014 that Sprint wouldn’t extend its contract with NASCAR beyond 2016 and the search for a new title sponsor started. It took until the 11th hour for Monster Energy to strike a deal with NASCAR to take over as the new title sponsor of the Premier Series.
Monster Energy sponsors the AMA Supercross Championship along with many motorsports athletes and other extreme sports personalities. The full details haven’t been released for the contract between NASCAR and Monster, besides that fact that it’ll be a multi-year partnership.