Imagine being Jeff Gordon, walking into your trophy room and trying to pick out which award goes with each of your 81 victories.
The task would be simple and amazingly difficult at the same time. It would be easy to spot a grandfather clock and immediately think Martinsville, but the black carbon trophy with a flag waving (which he won last fall) doesn't exactly scream Talladega.
Trophies in NASCAR have become a game of one-upmanship. Having a cool, recognizable one is something tracks hang their hats on, in some cases (see Texas Motor Speedway) literally.
That said, while some are really cool, others aren't, and a few are just plain odd.
Whether they incorporate the track, the sponsor, the region or nothing at all, a trophy says a lot about a race. With that in mind, Y! Sports presents, The Good, the Weird and the Meaningful: A look at NASCAR's hardware.
Jimmie Johnson won the Martinsville clock three years in a row.
1. Goody's Cool Orange 500/Subway 500 (Martinsville Speedway)
The tradition began in 1964 when H. Clay Earles,
founder of Martinsville Speedway, decided winners of his race needed a "different" trophy. He settled on a grandfather clock produced by the Ridgeway Clock Company, a local furniture manufacturer. Today, Cup winners at Martinsville receive the "Independence Grandfather Clock," reportedly the only clock in the world that chimes "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful." The clock, valued at more than $11,000, is the most unique trophy in NASCAR and possibly in sports.
2. Samsung 500 (Texas Motor Speedway)
Originally, Texas Motor Speedway awarded a replica of the "Fort Worth Cup" to its winners. But according to track personnel, several years ago Mark Martin and Jeff Burton sent Texas track president Eddie Gossage a photo of them standing next to the four-foot-tall Bristol trophy along with the Forth Worth Cup replica, which measured only a foot tall. Gossage got the hint, and now the spring race winners at Texas receive the "Boot Trophy" – a pair of hand-carved cowboy boots, complete with genuine spurs, featuring the circular Speedway Motorsports Inc. logo.
The Boot Trophy is immediately identifiable with Texas.
"Eddie says, any time you see a picture of a driver here in victory lane, you'll know they won in Texas," explained Mike Zizzo,
director of media relations at the track.
3. Daytona 500 (Daytona International Speedway)
Probably the most coveted trophy in NASCAR, it's named after Harley J. Earl, a famous designer for General Motors and a friend of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. The trophy features a miniature replica of the 1954 Firebird One, a vehicle Earl designed, resting on top of a black base shaped like Daytona's 2.5-mile tri-oval.
It's only fitting that a monster be a part of The Monster Mile trophy.
4. Dover 400 (Dover International Speedway)
It's only fitting that the winner at the Monster Mile receives a Monster trophy, and so in 2004 that's what Ryan Newman got: a 30-inch-tall white sandstone monster holding a diecast car – a replica of the winner's car is slipped into the Monster's hand prior to the victory lane celebration – in its right hand mounted on a black trophy base. The Monster has become so identifiable with the track that a 46-foot tall version – that's nine feet taller than Fenway Park's Green Monster – has been erected outside the track in a newly-constructed "Victory Plaza."
The Richmond guitar can be removed and played.
5. Chevy Rock-n-Roll 400 (Richmond International Raceway)
Shrouded in aluminum flames, this guitar/trophy incorporates the race's sponsorship (Chevy Rock-n-Roll) in a very cool way. Designed by Paul Reed Smith Guitars, the guitar is fully functional once removed from the base. The trophy measures more than four feet tall and weighs nearly 75 pounds.
Would you want this trophy in your living room?
1. Bass Pro Shops 500 (Atlanta Motor Speedway)
No longer in circulation (because Bass Pro Shops isn't the title sponsor of either race in Atlanta), the Bass Pro Shops 500 trophy was a rotation of wildlife mounted on the top of a four-foot-tall block of wood. One year, it was a near life-size grizzly bear; another it was a giant large-mouth bass; another featured a pair of bald eagles. While certainly unique and interesting, the animal trophies, especially the grizzly bear, would be a creepy addition to any home, save Ted Nugent's.
The Chicago skyline is overwhelmed by this trophy.
2. USG Sheetrock 400 (Chicagoland Speedway)
This trophy features a cutout of the Chicago skyline resting on the shore of Lake Michigan, which would be cool if it weren't dwarfed by an odd collection of shapes and circles. It's reminiscent of the miniature Stonehenge in the cult classic "Spinal Tap."
Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson were the "lucky" winners of this Pep Boys trophy.
3. Pep Boys Auto 500 (Atlanta Motor Speedway)
This one takes the race sponsor thing too far. The Pep Boys guys are pervy enough. Who actually wants to take them home? Well, winners of the Pep Boys Auto 500 get to, because this trophy features all three – holding a tire, a battery and a trophy, standing in a pseudo victory lane. If only the winner actually got the cup one of the Pep Boys is holding. That might be cool.
Is it a can opener or a trophy from Kansas?
4. Kansas 400 (Kansas Speedway)
Uhh, what is it? Resembling a giant can opener, the trophy is actually a piece of art called "Soaring" made by a Canadian sculptor. Odd, yes, but as an artistic piece it's one of only a handful of trophies that might look good in a living room.
George Washington would have been proud of this trophy from Talladega.
5. Aaron's 499 (Talladega Superspeedway)
A cloud (that looks more like George Washington's powdered wig) resting on top of two mountains that might as well have been drawn by a 4-year-old? Totally lame. Here's an idea: Why not build on your brilliant 499 theme and deliver a trophy – get this – with a giant '499' carved in crystal?
The brick is the second-most coveted trophy in Indiana.
1. Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
A simple brick resting on top of a base made of gold, sterling silver and alloy aluminum incorporates the history of the Brickyard, while distinguishing itself from the Borg-Warner Trophy that's given to the Indy 500 winner.
The winner's name is engraved on the trophy.
Las Vegas is where championship belts of all types are won.
2. UAW Dodge 400 (Las Vegas Motor Speedway – spring)
The brainchild of track general manager Chris Powell, this championship belt celebrates Las Vegas' prize-fighting tradition. The championship belt features real gold, diamonds and rubies and comes at a cost of over $3,000.
The track actually hands out two belts – one goes to the race sponsor, the other to the winner, whose name is already engraved on the belt by the time he receives it.
Recognize this trophy from Bristol? It was featured in the movie "Talladega Nights."
3. Food City 500/Sharpie 500 (Bristol Motor Speedway)
Used in the movie "Talladega Nights," the Bristol cup measures four-feet tall and weighs around 50 pounds, making it one of the largest – if not the largest – trophies in NASCAR. Darrell Waltrip won the first one, handed out in 1983. Since then, the track has considered changing the "outdated" trophy, which features a winged woman on top of a cup, but hasn't done so because drivers like it.
The original version of this Lowe's trophy weighed 80 pounds.
4. Coca Cola 600/Bank of America 500 (Lowe's Motor Speedway)
When Bobby Allison won the first Lowe's Motor Speedway trophy in 1981, he literally dropped to his knees. That's because the two-foot-tall trophy weighed a hefty 80 pounds.
Made through a multi-step casting process, that includes heating metal at 1,800 degrees, the trophy is a picture of strength. And it should be. It's made of solid metal. Though it's been hollowed out since Allison won it, it still weighs 22 pounds.
It also features the Speedway Motorsports Inc. logo on top.
Victors at Infineon also get to sip red wine in the winner's circle.
5. Toyota/Save Mart 350 (Infineon Raceway)
Incorporating the wine country where the track is located, the trophy features a three-liter wine bottle and five wooden casks mounted on a wooden trophy with the rolling Sonoma Valley hills set in the background.
Originally, there was actually wine in the bottle, but it was taken out because it made the trophy too heavy.
Winners also receive "The Champion's Cabernet" served in a foot-high goblet that sits atop a polished marble base. The track provides the wine, however two years ago Jeff Gordon, anticipating a win, brought his own Jeff Gordon brand wine to the winner's circle.