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Rewind: The first-ever NASCAR race held outside North America

Submitted by on August 18, 2014

Bob Howard Michael Waltrip NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

Images thanks to The Coventry Collection

Marcos Ambrose’s time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series over recent years has helped open the eyes of the North American racing world to the talent of Australians in big V8-powered monster machines.

But Australia holds a special place in NASCAR history for another reason – it hosted the first-ever NASCAR race held outside North America.

Back on February 28, 1988, the Calder Park Thunderdome in Melbourne hosted the ‘Goodyear NASCAR 500’ featuring a range of local stars and visiting Americans in the 32-strong field.

Podium - Nascar Australia

The late Neil Bonnett won the 280-lap race by just 0.86s over Bobby Allison, who just weeks earlier had claimed the Daytona 500.

Tasmanian Robin Best was the top-finishing Australian in 11th while Bathurst touring car legends Allan Grice and Dick Johnson were wiped out in a multi-car wreck that eliminated eight cars.

Familiar NASCAR name Michael Waltrip – who would later go on to claim two Daytona 500 wins – finished 14th – while Kyle Petty finished 10th.

MORE: When NASCAR went to Monza… With Max Papis and Alex Zanardi

Danielson Esau NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

The race was shown live by long-time motorsport telecaster the Seven Network as Australians were introduced to the unique form of oval track racing.

The local Australian NASCAR racing scene would prosper and remain strong into the 1990s, however momentum faded at the turn of the century and it came to a grinding halt.

The Calder Park Thunderdome oval remains today but is sadly in a state of overgrowth but and is no longer used as a racing venue.

Enjoy these images from The Coventry Collection. 

The collection, made up of images shot by Graeme Neander and now owned by Australian television commentator and journalist Aaron Noonan, is rich of ‘down under’ racing imagery covering the 1980s, 90s and 00s.

Aaron Noonan

Images: The Coventry Collection

Email here (an1media@bigpond.com) to buy prints or enquire.

Follow Aaron Noonan online (twitter.com/aaronnoonan or facebook.com/v8sleuth)

MORE: Doing the Indy NASCAR double

Bill Venturini Crash NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

Bobby Allison NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

Grice Crash NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

Herschel McGriff NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

Jerry Churchill NASCAR Down Under - Nascar Australia

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