For the beginning of the year, and my 33rd birthday, I thought I would lead off 2015 with something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Every racing season comes to an end, and then there are banquets, both NASCAR and team. These banquets are meant to honor the drivers and the crew members who work hard to put the drivers into cars, and help them try to win.
The tradition of giving special rings to teams that win championships in sports in the United States dates back to 1922. After winning the World Series, the New York Giants issued the first championship ring, and the trend has caught on. In the 1990’s a new form of this trend came in to wide spread use in NASCAR, the championship napkin ring.
These over sized rings were used as napkin rings for team banquets and then the attendees were allowed to keep them. They were awarded for winning a race, and designed in the same style as championship rings. This first one is from the 1995 Coca Cola 600, which was won by Bobby Labonte. During that race, he started 2nd, led 85 laps, and his brother Terry finish second. It was his first Sprint Cup win, and is done in a gold colored metal, with Labonte’s image, car number and signature on one side, and an image of his car on the other side.
5 years later, in 2000, Labonte won the UAW-GM Quality 500, again at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He started 2nd, and led 37 laps. This ring was given at the banquet to the attendees, it is silver, with an enameled Interstate Batteries logo on the top, Labonte’s name and car number on one side, and Interstate Batteries and Joe Gibbs Racing logos on the other side.
It briefly spread to Roush Racing, where, at the 1997 banquet, these rings were issued to Jeff Burton’s crew for his victory in the 1997 Hanes 500 at Martinsville. During that race, he started 10th and led 92 laps. This silver ring with an enameled 99 logo, a Roush Racing logo, car logo and signature on one side, and an Exide Racing Team logo, and crossed checkered flag logo on the other side.
The rings are too large for even the largest person to wear, with an inch and a half diameter on the inside. They were never sold to the general public, but like most things, eventually find their way onto eBay. They seemed to disappear after about 2001, and I think they should make a comeback.