A grandfather clock? A gladiator sword? A live lobster? NASCAR’s top-14 novelty trophies, ranked

Michelle R. Martinelli, USA TODAY
·8 min read

It’s undeniable: NASCAR and the tracks it competes at deliver some pretty spectacular trophies to Cup Series race winners.

Sure, there are plenty of traditional-looking trophies that are treasured and will surely be part of drivers’ display cases and trophy rooms. But many of those are also subject to change — in name and design — based on the race sponsor, and other than signifying another tally in the win column, they might not mean much.

Instead, we’re talking about the icons, the staples, the ones drivers can spend their careers chasing because they’re so uniquely coveted. We’re talking about the novelty trophies — whether they’re quirky, funky, steeped in tradition or synonymous with the track presenting them.

And NASCAR has some fantastic ones. So here is our ranking of the top-14 novelty trophies the sport’s tracks give their race winners.

14. Pocono Raceway: The Eagle Trophy

Ryan Blaney celebrates at Pocono Raceway in 2017.
Ryan Blaney celebrates at Pocono Raceway in 2017.

There’s a lot to take in here from Pocono’s Eagle Trophy, which has been given to race winners since 1996. The soaring eagle isn’t the most remarkable fixture, but it certainly stands out compared with a more traditional trophy.

13. Watkins Glen International: Corning Museum of Glass Trophy

Chase Elliott celebrates at Watkins Glen International in 2018.
Chase Elliott celebrates at Watkins Glen International in 2018.

Looking at that photo, it’s understandable if your eye is immediately drawn to the bowling pin trophy — Watkins Glen has a history of wild sponsor trophies, though the Cheez-It trophy is unparalleled — but that’s not the point here.

Instead, focus on the custom glass trophy made by the nearby Corning Museum of Glass that celebrates both the track and the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York where it’s located. Along with the hand-sculpted center in the shape of the road course (which isn’t visible in this photo), the blue tint of it is a nod to the track’s similarly colored guard rails. Not the quirkiest of NASCAR novelty trophies, but it’s still pretty cool.

12. Michigan International Speedway: The Heritage Trophy

Kevin Harvick celebrates at Michigan International Speedway in 2020.
Kevin Harvick celebrates at Michigan International Speedway in 2020.

Naturally, the Michigan race track honors its winners with a trophy that celebrates the track, the Motor City and the history of the auto industry in the U.S. But it’s not actually awarded to the driver. Since 2013, the trophy has been presented to the winning manufacturer — either Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota.

Inspired by the Stanley Cup, the trophy is about 50 pounds and more than three feet tall. While the base is an ode to landmark Detroit buildings, the sculpture on top resembles Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory, who also served as an inspiration for hood ornaments from Cadillac, Rolls-Royce and Packard.

11. Talladega Superspeedway: The Vulcan Trophy

Aric Almirola celebrates at Talladega Superspeedway in 2018.
Aric Almirola celebrates at Talladega Superspeedway in 2018.

With another hat tip to ancient mythology, Talladega presents Cup race winners with the Vulcan Trophy, inspired by the Roman god of fire and the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, Alabama not far from the superspeedway. The hot-poured iron trophy weighs more than 130 pounds.

10. Phoenix Raceway: Live painting in victory lane

Denny Hamlin, left, and Bill Patterson
Denny Hamlin, left, and Bill Patterson

A trophy that’s also art is fabulous, but a trophy that’s also art and created on the spot is even better. Artist Bill Patterson generally begins painting his canvas with a few laps remaining in the race and quickly completes it with the respective winners — and sometimes the runner-up — according to the track. And then the winning driver signs it.

However, the only strike against this novelty trophy is the fact that the driver doesn’t get to keep it — the track does, though the winning teams often commission more. Still, a live painting from victory lane is decidedly impressive.

9. Texas Motor Speedway: Six-shooter revolvers, a cowboy hat and a cowboy boot trophy

Denny Hamlin celebrates at Texas Motor Speedway in 2019.
Denny Hamlin celebrates at Texas Motor Speedway in 2019.

These are some quintessential Texas novelty awards right here with the winner dressed in victory lane looking like a cowboy. The trophies are unlike anything else presented to NASCAR race winners, but given the rampant gun violence in the U.S., it’s time for Texas Motor Speedway to reconsider ditching the six-shooters and stick with the hat and cowboy-boot trophy.

8. Charlotte Motor Speedway: A vintage Coca-Cola vending machine

Austin Dillon celebrates winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Austin Dillon celebrates winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

For the Coca-Cola 600 — one of NASCAR’s “crown jewel” races, which is held at the iconic Charlotte track — the winning driver receives a traditional piston-style award called the Bruton Smith Trophy.

But the real specialty item here is the restored vintage Coke machine, which the track has been giving out since 2010. How fun is that? And a perfect novelty trophy for an important race with a consistent sponsor.

7. Daytona International Speedway: The Harley J. Earl Trophy

Michael McDowell celebrates winning the 2020 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Michael McDowell celebrates winning the 2020 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

The Harley J. Earl trophy, given to the winner of the Daytona 500, is this high on the list mostly because of the massive accomplishment it is to get your name engraved on it. And there are actually two.

The Harley J. Earl Perpetual Trophy is the massive one that includes the names of every Daytona 500 winner, weighs more than 100 pounds and stays at the famous Daytona track. But the winner gets a smaller replica weighing in at 54 pounds with the bronze Firebird One car on top weighing 22 pounds. That car takes about seven months to complete.

6. Auto Club Speedway: A surfboard

Martin Truex Jr celebrates at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 2018.
Martin Truex Jr celebrates at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 2018.

Would you expect anything else from a southern California track? In addition to the rad surfboard trophy the winners get immediately after the race, they’re also honored the following season when NASCAR returns to Fontana.

Although it’s a year later, the previous race winner gets a custom-made surfboard, which makes for an awesome novelty trophy.

5. Sonoma Raceway: A massive wine goblet

Tony Stewart celebrates at Sonoma Raceway in 2016.
Tony Stewart celebrates at Sonoma Raceway in 2016.

Wine is a phenomenal prize for a hard day’s work, whether or not you’re in wine country. In this case, Sonoma Raceway goes all out with an incredible wine goblet, along with a huge wine-themed trophy that’s complete with a bottle made for the size of the goblet.

4. Dover International Speedway: The Monster Trophy

Kevin Harvick at Dover International Speedway in 2018.
Kevin Harvick at Dover International Speedway in 2018.

OK, look: This is not exactly a surfboard or a wine goblet or a vintage anything, but Dover’s Monster Trophy has to be among the best.

The track, nicknamed “The Monster Mile,” has been giving this to race winners since 2004, and it has to be the most peculiar and odd one given out. But its weirdness is what makes it great, and it’s even able to hold a replica of the race winner’s car.

3. Bristol Motor Speedway: A gladiator sword

Joey Logano celebrates at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2021.
Joey Logano celebrates at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2021.

A gladiator sword is exactly the kind of novelty trophy you’d expect from the short track nicknamed “The Last Great Colosseum.” It’s a wild and larger-than-you-think kind of prize, and, as the most recent Bristol winner, Joey Logano, demonstrated, you can have a lot of (somewhat dangerous) fun chopping random things with it. A cool trophy that can also help you trim your hedges.

“It kind of feels good too just to chop stuff with a sword,” Logano said about his recently discovered recreational activities.

2. New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Loudon the Lobster

Denny Hamlin reacts as he holds a lobster winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2017.
Denny Hamlin reacts as he holds a lobster winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2017.

A race win in New England obviously means a lobster trophy, but the one New Hampshire gives out is typically between 18 and 22 pounds — though the one Hamlin is holding was reportedly a whopping 44 pounds. And it’s alive. While this novelty trophy is not No. 1 on this list, it’s definitely the most exceptional one.

Unfortunately for Hamlin, his self-described “lobster phobia” probably prevented him from enjoying the trophy. When asked in 2017 what he planned to do with it — the shell is typically preserved, hand-painted and mounted on a plaque — Hamlin said, “I’m not going to do anything with it. I’ve seen it and touched it for the last time. I have a lobster phobia. I don’t know why. I just don’t like them. I cannot eat dinner if someone beside me is eating lobster. I can’t look at it. So as far as I’m concerned, they need to put it back in the water and let it live.”

1. Martinsville Speedway: A grandfather clock

Brad Keselowski at Martinsville Speedway in 2019.
Brad Keselowski at Martinsville Speedway in 2019.

Martinsville’s grandfather clock is the obvious choice for NASCAR’s best novelty trophy. It’s arguably the most coveted trophy on the schedule, and NASCAR drivers like Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have said as much.

Why? It’s a valuable piece of furniture you’d want to display proudly in your home rather than in a trophy room, and there’s a unique level of prestige associated with winning the clock.

As Johnson — who won nine grandfather clocks, tying him for third-most with Jeff Gordon — explained to For The Win in 2019:

“We get a lot of big trophies, and most are plastic. … To actually have — I don’t know if it should be called an art piece — a significant piece of furniture that you can proudly display in your home, it crosses over into that furniture category as well as a major achievement. They go right into houses because it’s not your typical trophy. Looking at that as a young driver, you think, ‘Wow, I can’t afford a grandfather clock. But I can go win one.’”

And after this weekend's Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, another grandfather clock will be given out.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NASCAR Cup top-14 novelty trophies include grandfather clock, lobster