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Tom Hearst

(Wilton – now rural Tipton, IA) – Tom Hearst was already pretty well known in eastern Iowa racing circles by 1982 when Winston cigarette brand suddenly began pumping thousands of dollars into the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series. But, his renown was somewhat limited; he’d been racing pretty much close to home before that season. The lure of big money, however, was too much for Hearst to ignore. In 1982, Hearst began racing weekly at tracks that offered the big money that NASCAR offered. He won 27 feature races in 52 starts – winning more than half of the races he’d entered. That was far and away enough wins and enough points to vault Hearst to NASCAR’s first-ever weekly national championship. But, Hearst was even busier than those 52 NASCAR races in 1982; he also won 15 of the 17 non-NASCAR races he entered that season. Hearst is rightly proud of those numbers.  The series win that season netted Hearst $20,000, a far cry from the more than $100,000 that later winners pocketed. But Hearst was the first and will always be the first. He went on to score victories in many series, won track championships and scored victories in major events. But Tom Hearst will always be remembered for that one magnificent season in 1982 when he became the first-ever national champion.