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Ford vs. Chevy: Inside One of NASCAR’s Greatest Rivalries

Born from steel and molded by man, only one American automotive juggernaut reigns supreme.      

By Andrew Woodin
Ryan Blaney and William Byron race during a qualifier

The evolution of the automobile is about as rich and complex as it gets. Starting in the 15th century when a young savant by the name of Leonardo da Vinci began designing models for transport vehicles, to Frenchman Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot’s steam-propelled road vehicle in 1769, to Scotsman Robert Anderson’s electric carriage in the 1830’s and on up to Karl Benz patenting the first petrol-powered combustible engine, the circuitous path toward Charles Edgar Duryea and his brother Frank successfully creating the first gasoline-powered car in 1893 was peppered with one mechanical feat after another as emerging industry pioneers continued to test the limits of both the available technology at the time and their developing engineering acumen. Still, if you’re talking about cars, especially the American muscle monsters at the heart of NASCAR’s elite Cup Series, you’re talking about Ford and Chevrolet – two companies forever entangled in innovation and an unyielding journey of competition that’s only just begun.

When did Ford start making race cars?

Henry Ford began making race cars in 1901.

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When a precocious Henry Ford began tinkering with mechanics at the tender age of 12 in a small machine shop that he had equipped himself, little did he know the immense impact his mechanical creativity would have not only within the automotive sphere but on the world at large. “Fast” forward 18 years to his 30th birthday in 1893, and Ford had created his first engine in Detroit – a crudely constructed, small, one-cylinder gas-powered model. As impressive as that was, Ford topped this feat by developing the first Ford car just three years later in 1896. Known fittingly as the Quadricycle, the bare bones vehicle featured a svelte frame and essentially four bicycle wheels, but again, Ford was just warming up.

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While his first automobile company, the Detroit Automobile Company, sank into bankruptcy just 18 months after it was founded in 1899, the intrepid innovator started designing race cars, and after defeating Alexander Winton in 1901 on a Michigan track in a car dubbed Sweepstakes, the road was paved for him to create the Henry Ford Company. Turmoil would again rear its ugly head, forcing Ford to leave the company in 1902, which would go on to become the Cadillac Motor Car Company.

Henry Ford standing beside his famous racer 999 with Barney Oldfield at the tiller.

But the dauntless Ford was on a quest and, as his creativity continued to soar, so did his insatiable appetite for speed. He created the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and just a year later, Ford jumped behind the wheel of another one of his creations – the zippy 999 – and throttled his way into setting a world record for the mile in car, running the distance in just 39.4 seconds on the iced-over surface of Lake St. Clair. In 1908, Ford famously unveiled the first mass-produced and affordable car, the Model T.

When did Chevy start making race cars?

Chevy created its first race car in 1911.

Hot on the heels of Ford’s success, Swiss race car driver Louis Chevrolet – a former chauffeur – and automotive engineer William C. Durant, the sacked founder of General Motors with a chip on his shoulder, founded Chevrolet in 1911.

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Chevrolet had made a name for himself in 1907 after obliterating Barney Oldfield’s closed-course one-mile world record in a Fiat, earning high praise by The New York Times. Considering Chevrolet had already engrained his need for speed in his DNA while racing for Buick, once he opened his new company’s factory doors for production, Chevrolet was ready to showcase his prototype Series C Classic Six – an innately powerful and stylized beast whose engine’s throaty roar turned heads while competing in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

Who are some of the biggest drivers to race in a Ford?

The list of Ford’s most well-known and best drivers to compete in the top tier of NASCAR includes, among others: Wendell Scott; Brad Keslowski; Kevin Harvick; Rusty Wallace; David Pearson; Matt Kenseth; Cup Series champion Joey Logano; the legendary bootlegger-turned-stock car driver Junior Johnson; Dale Jarrett; Kurt Busch; Mark Martin; Bill Elliott; and Ned Jarrett, who remains in the top spot with 43 victories, according to NASCAR.

Joey Logano Celebrating a win

An interesting fact that Ford boasts over Chevy, according to Jayski, is that five families have had multiple members win a NASCAR Cup Series race in a Ford: Ned and Dale Jarrett, Bobby, Donnie and Davey Allison, John and Mario Andretti, Richard and Kyle Petty and Buck and Buddy Baker.

Who are some of the biggest drivers to race in a Chevy?

The list of Chevrolet’s most well-known and best drivers to compete in the top tier of NASCAR includes, among others: The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt Sr.; Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Chase Elliott; the Watermelon Man Ross Chastain; Kyle Larson; Alex Bowman; Kyle Busch; Tony Stewart; Jeff Gordon; Jimmie Johnson; Cale Yarborough; and Terry Labonte.

Dale Earnhardt spinning out of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

While Chevy floundered in the early 1950s, once seven of Ed Cole’s newly produced V-8s placed in the top-10 spots at Darlington in 1955, Chevy had cemented itself as a formidable adversary to Ford.

Who’s won more NASCAR championships, Ford or Chevy?

Since the two juggernauts entered the racing realm, Chevy has bested Ford, winning more NASCAR championships than its competitor.

Spanning eight decades, according to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Chevy has won more than 842 individual races, earning a whopping 33 Driver Championships and 41 Manufacturers’ Championships throughout its involvement with NASCAR. Ford, on the other hand, while still impressive, has amassed 722 race wins, garnering 17 NASCAR Championship titles along the way, according to Jayski.