A Selection of Hallmark Ornaments: Auto Racing
12 artifacts in this set
Christmas and racing -- it's a combination that dates back at least to 1963, when the Beach Boys first sang about Little Saint Nick "haulin' through the snow at a frightenin' speed." In a similar vein, Hallmark created this whimsical version of "Santa's racin' sleigh" in 2002.
Many children are introduced to racing through the popular Hot Wheels brand of die-cast cars. Hallmark's "And the Winner is..." ornament captured the straight-line excitement of drag racing with versions of two popular Hot Wheels cars: the Red Baron (based on a Monogram model kit) and the Demon (based on a real custom car built by Dave Stuckey).
Racing found its way into more sedate childhood pastimes too. Monopoly -- one of the most popular board games of all time -- has long featured a race car among its player tokens. The game piece's design is based on the front-engine roadsters raced at the Indianapolis 500 in the 1930s. Parker Brothers issued its first Monopoly sets in 1935.
NASCAR stock car racing reached an increasingly mainstream audience from the late 1990s into the 2010s. Its broadening appeal was reflected by new sponsorships. Suddenly, it wasn't just motor oils and soft drinks sponsoring race cars -- it was laundry detergents, internet service providers, and blockbuster movies. Of course, NASCAR-themed Hallmark ornaments were another sign that the sport had arrived.
NASCAR kicks off each new season with its most important race: the Daytona 500. It takes place at Florida's Daytona International Speedway, a tri-oval track with steeply banked turns and a long back straightaway where drivers hit speeds near 200 mph. For racing teams, it's a return to hallowed ground -- the NASCAR organization was formed in Daytona in 1948.
Hallmark launched its "Stock Car Champions" series in 1997 with Jeff Gordon, who had won his first Cup Series championship in 1995. Fittingly, Gordon took the NASCAR crown in 1997 too. He would go on to win two more championships -- in 1998 and 2001 -- before stepping back from his full-time driving career after the 2015 season.
Hallmark duly celebrated Jeff Gordon's 1998 Cup Series championship with a special ornament released that holiday season. Gordon clinched the title in early November -- very late in Hallmark's production schedule -- which may explain why the commemorative ornament was a basic glass globe rather than an elaborately sculpted piece.
When it comes to "Stock Car Champions," no one fits the title better than Richard Petty. Fans and fellow drivers called him "The King" with good reason. Between 1958 and 1992, Petty earned 200 NASCAR Cup Series wins, seven Cup Series championships, seven wins at the Daytona 500, 127 poles, and more than 700 top-ten finishes.
Bill Elliott's nickname, "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville," was a nod to his hometown in Georgia. Elliott made his Cup Series debut in 1976 and earned his first series win seven years later. He won the Cup Series championship in 1988. Fans loved him, and they voted Elliott "Most Popular Driver" a record 16 times.
Dale Earnhardt ran his first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1975. Over the next 26 years, he earned 76 wins and seven Cup Series championships. Fans called him "The Intimidator" -- an apt description of his assertive style behind the wheel. Earnhardt's death at the 2001 Daytona 500 devastated the racing community and prompted improvements in stock car safety.
At a time when many drivers focused on one type of auto racing, Tony Stewart competed successfully in open-wheel, sports car, and stock car events. He won an IndyCar championship in 1997, and he earned NASCAR Cup Series championships in 2002, 2005, and 2011. Stewart made his NHRA drag racing debut in 2022.
Nothing captures the excitement of the race track like the magic of the movies. Box-office hits, cult classics, and charming children's movies have all found inspiration in the world of motorsport. Disney/Pixar's 2006 movie Cars was an animated love letter to car culture and racing, complete with voice talents like Paul Newman, Richard Petty, and Mario Andretti.