Back home in England, sports trophies in my favorite sport of football (OK, soccer on this side of the pond) are simple awards. They are made of sterling silver, are Cup shaped, and rise to a mere two-to-three feet in height. In a nutshell, they are exactly what you would expect a sports trophy to be. At least, that’s what I thought until I became involved with NASCAR – and realized things work slightly different for them.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been wowed – and not so wowed – but the many and varied offerings doled out in victory lane. So with that in mind, and in honor of the sheer level of creativity, here’s my unscientific list of the top-10 NASCAR trophies that drivers would love to add to their collection:
The Martinsville Grandfather Clock
H. Clay Earles, the founder of Martinsville Raceway, came up with the concept of awarding a Ridgeway Grandfather Clock to the winners of races at his facility some 44 years ago. The first clock was awarded to Fred Lorenzen, who won the 1964 Old Dominion 500, and the tradition has continued ever since. The most recent Ridgeway Grandfather Clock – produced by a local furniture manufacturer – plays “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” as well as the traditional Westminster chime. It is a genuinely unique and beautiful trophy worth over $11,000 – that’s more than some of the top-10 finishers win in a Craftsman Truck Series race alone! My only real question here (and perhaps this is another article for another day) is what exactly do guys with multiple wins at Martinsville – think Richard Petty (15), Darrell Waltrip (11), Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon (seven each) do with their massive collection?
The Harley J. Earl Trophy
Designed by American automotive stylist and industrial designer Harley J. Earl, this trophy is given out to the annual winner of the Daytona 500. Featuring the Firebird-1 rocket car – a concept car Earl designed himself – this is the trophy every driver with stock car aspirations wants to get their hands on. No less an authority than Bill France, Sr. noted on Earl’s passing that, “He knew cars, for he was an artist-engineer. He knew people, for he was a man. He knew racing, for he loved the sport.”
The permanent trophy lives in the Daytona 500 Experience (formerly Daytona USA); but since 1998, a smaller replica is presented to the winner of the biggest NASCAR race of them all.
The Monster Trophy
I remember when I first saw the Monster trophy awarded to the winners at Dover International Speedway. It was perhaps the second day I worked in NASCAR, and my immediate thought was that it was some kind of joke-publicity stunt. It couldn’t be a real trophy, could it? Oh, right… it is. Wow.
The trophy itself is about 20 inches tall, made of sandstone and it’s, well, an ugly, blocky monster that somehow seems to represent the track just perfectly. One question, though: Does anyone think that the track organizers really have all 43 diecast cars available to slot into the Monster’s hand in victory lane?
The Bass Pro Shops trophies
OK, I know these trophies are no longer presented because Bass Pro Shops no longer sponsors the events in Atlanta, but I had to throw them in because of their uniqueness. And unique only begins to describe them – even by NASCAR’s slightly different trophy standards.
Past trophies from the company have included a giant green leaping bass and a soaring eagle; but perhaps the best of all was the giant life-sized grizzly bear Tony Stewart won in 2006. The bear itself absolutely dwarfed Stewart (and that was just the four-foot wooden plinth the award sat on.) Weighing in at a ferocious 800 pounds, the trophy was far too big and heavy for Smoke to bring home on his plane – so by all accounts, the bear traveled home in the hauler. Only in NASCAR, people… only in NASCAR.
The Gibson Trophy Guitar
A custom Gibson Trophy Guitar is awarded to every winner of either a Nationwide or a Craftsman Truck series race held at the Nashville Superspeedway. Voted by Sports Illustrated as one of the top-10 coolest trophies in sports, the guitar is a unique, customized prize that the designer of the award, Sam Bass, sees as being as much a trophy as it is a piece of art. No word on whether any of the winners have actually tried to wire up the thing…
The Beretta Shotgun Pole Award
This award is given not to the winner of the race at Texas Motor Speedway, but to the wheelman that turns the fastest qualifying lap. A custom made “Guibilileo” (Italian for ‘jubilee’) 12-gauge over/under Beretta shotgun worth an estimated $65,000 is the sweet reward for Friday’s winner. The Texas Motor Speedway logo is engraved on one sideplate, with the driver’s likeness, name, and number on the other. A Beretta spokesman noted that over 300 hours of labor goes into the engraving process, and in a sport where a number of the drivers like to hunt, it’s a fully functional weapon that can be used right out of the box. That is, of course, after they’ve run the main event…
Pistols and Cowboy Hats in Texas
In keeping with their intentions of creating trophies and awards that reflect the traditions of the Lone Star State, the winner of each of the Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway gets awarded a Cowboy hat and a pair of Beretta pistols. The hats are made by Charlie 1 Horse of Garland, Texas, and are the official suppliers of the King himself, Mr. Richard Petty.
The winner of the spring race is awarded a straw-style hat, while the winner of the autumn race gets a felt-style version. In addition to the headgear, each winner receives two working Beretta Stainless Stampede pistols. In victory lane, the winning driver gets to fire some blanks, too, which is kinda cool and oh-so-very appropriate in Texas.
The Las Vegas Belt
There can be few more amusing sights in NASCAR than 150-pound Kasey Kahne lifting a heavyweight boxing-style championship belt over his meager shoulders. But the belt is a cool trophy, and it’s apropos for a race held at a venue such as Las Vegas. All that’s missing in victory lane is Michael Buffer’s patented announcement of, “Let’s gets ready to rumbllllllllllle…”
Which, come to think of it, would work out really nice.
The Elvis Trophy
At 27 inches, this 60-pound cast bronze statue – the only official statue of “the other King” ever commissioned – is a replica of the nine-foot version that stands on Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn. As you might expect, the trophy is awarded to the lucky winner of the Craftsman Truck Series event at Memphis Motorsports Park.
“Elvis was a sports enthusiast,” says Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. “Cars were one of his passions, and he loved Memphis. This award in his image embodies all three.”
The Sprint Cup Trophy
Forget about the method by which it is earned, the Sprint Cup trophy is a nice piece of hardware in its own right. It has a touch of the MLB flag-thing going on, but the 24-inch Tiffany’s sterling silver trophy is beautiful close up – and it’s a fitting award to the driver who earns it over the course of a grueling 36-week grind.