NASCAR National Commissioner

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The NASCAR National Commissioner is a largely honorary title awarded by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Created by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. as a reward for contributions to the sport of auto racing, the commissioner today acts as the final appeals level for penalties and sanctions dispensed by the auto racing sanctioning body.


Established by Bill France, Sr., the position of National Honorary Commissioner of Racing was intended to be a powerless, honorary title in recognition of lifetime contributions to the sport of stock car racing.[1] The title was originally awarded by France to Erwin Baker, known as "Cannonball"; following his tenure in the position, he was replaced by General Motors design czar – and personal friend of "Big Bill" France – Harley Earl, with Earl being followed by Dixiecrat Mendel Rivers.[1]

The position has, over the years, evolved into the final court of appeal for those protesting penalties and sanctions administered by NASCAR to its competitors. Following appeal to the National Stock Car Racing Commission, a 32-member body,[2] an appellant can appeal directly to the Commissioner instead of accepting the Commission's verdict.[2] During the eight years prior to 2010, 102 appeal hearings were held by the Commission; of those, only eight were overturned by the Commission, while a ninth penalty was overturned on appeal to the Commissioner.[2] A total of twelve appeals were heard by the Commissioner between 1999 and 2009.[3]

The current NASCAR National Commissioner is John Middlebrook, who assumed the post upon the retirement of Charles D. Strang before the start of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.[3] NASCAR's records on the commissioner position are surprisingly sketchy; upon Strang's retirement, the sanctioning body was uncertain as to the exact amount of time he had held the post of Commissioner.[3]

List of commissioners[edit]

Name Photo Year appointed Year departed[1][3][4]
Erwin "Cannonball" Baker
1947[5] 1960[5]
Harley Earl
Harley Earl.JPG
1960 1969
L. Mendel Rivers
L Mendell Rivers.jpg
1969[6] 1970
Tom Adams
Thomas Burton Adams, Jr.jpg
1971[7] ?
Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen 1978[8] 1998
Charles D. Strang 1998[9] 2009
John Middlebrook 2010


  1. ^ a b c Finke, John; Nikki Finke (2010). Imagine That: Over 45 Years of Auto Racing Experiences. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4490-8751-7. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  2. ^ a b c Aumann, Mark (March 8, 2010). "The Commission: Inside NASCAR's appeals system". Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  3. ^ a b c d "Middlebrook in spotlight for first appeal". October 4, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  4. ^ Adamczyk, Jay (September 30, 2000). "#24 Team News Archive". Jayski's Silly Season Site. ESPN. Archived from the original on October 30, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  5. ^ a b "Erwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker" (PDF). Crown Hill Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2015-12-29.
  6. ^ Mintz, Zoe. "NASCAR Changes: Race, Gender, Youth Fan Base Growth Key To Sport's Financial Future". International Business Times. Retrieved 2015-12-29.
  7. ^ "Adams at Wheel for 400's Pace". Tallahassee Democrat. 1971-06-20. p. 36. Retrieved 2021-01-18 – via
  8. ^ Glick, Shav (1998-07-10). "Fires Put Some Heat on NASCAR". Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  9. ^ "Waltrip's Rebirth Continues in New Car, Number". Pittsburgh Post - Gazette. August 8, 1998.