- Early NASCAR Champions The moonshine drivers found a home racing in NASCAR. There were the Flock brothers, Bob, Fonty and Tim, whiskey trippers all, before they became NASCAR pioneers. From Wilkes County, North Carolina, the legendary Junior Johnson, fresh from prison, started winning at a prodigious rate, racking up 50 victories.
- 1 Which Nascar drivers ran moonshine?
- 2 Was Junior Johnson a moonshine runner?
- 3 Why was running moonshine the beginning of Nascar?
- 4 Where did moonshine runners originate?
- 5 Where did Junior Johnson run moonshine?
- 6 Do moonshine runners still exist?
- 7 Who is Junior Johnson’s wife?
- 8 Is Junior Johnson dead?
- 9 What was Nascar called before Nascar?
- 10 Why was moonshine made illegal?
- 11 Who makes midnight moonshine?
- 12 When did people stop running moonshine?
- 13 Who discovered moonshine?
- 14 What kind of car did Junior Johnson run moonshine in?
- 15 From Moonshine to NASCAR
- 16 Moonshine Running Stock Cars
- 17 Racing Bootleggers
- 18 Digging into NASCAR’s Roots, Moonshine Runners & Junior Johnson
- 19 NASCAR Rooted in Prohibition Bootlegging – Prohibition: An Interactive History
- 20 How Prohibition Gave Birth to NASCAR
- 21 How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR
- 22 NASCAR and Prohibition: How Outlawing Alcohol Created a Racing Industry
- 23 Did NASCAR Really Start With Bootleggers?
- 24 Lots More Information
- 25 NASCAR’s Most Colorful Drivers of All Time
- 26 How a Group of Daring Bootleggers Created NASCAR
Which Nascar drivers ran moonshine?
#6 Junior Johnson He returned to NASCAR, and used his moonshine-running skills to become one of NASCAR’s top drivers. Johnson’s biggest victory came in the 1960 Daytona 500, when he invented the art of drafting and used it to slingshot past faster cars.
Was Junior Johnson a moonshine runner?
One of the most prominent displays in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Heritage Speedway is a genuine whiskey still built by racing legend and former moonshine runner Junior Johnson, a member of the Hall’s inaugural Class of 2010.
Why was running moonshine the beginning of Nascar?
From North Carolina to Spokane, Washington, bootleggers during Prohibition used “souped-up” automobiles to stay ahead of federal agents and local police while transporting illegal whiskey on back roads in the dark of night.
Where did moonshine runners originate?
During the 1930s, moonshiners began to race their whiskey cars at local fairgrounds and racetracks, where they discovered that people—sometimes tens of thousands of them—were willing to pay to watch them showcase their driving skills. It wasn’t just the drivers who had moonshine in their blood.
Where did Junior Johnson run moonshine?
Johnson became the great driver he was by running moonshine throughout North Carolina. The New York Times reported that Johnson’s father was a moonshiner. He later even spent time in prison. This led to Johnson also delivering moonshine and creating the “bootleg turn” while “being chased by revenuers,” per the Times.
Do moonshine runners still exist?
Moonshine production today comes in many forms. There are still plenty of backwoods blackpot stills throughout the South, the traditional home of illegal liquor production. But there are also high-tech, larger operations organized like modern businesses.
Who is Junior Johnson’s wife?
His marriage to Lisa Day (b. 1965)in 1992 resulted in two children: daughter Meredith Suzanne (b.1995) and son Robert Glenn Johnson III (b. 1993), both of whom attended Duke University. Johnson built a new home for his family in 1997,selling in 2012 due to poor health.
Is Junior Johnson dead?
Born in Randleman in 1960, Petty joined the Winston Cup Series in 1979 and went on to collect eight career wins in NASCAR’s preeminent cup series. During the 1995 season, Petty won the final race of his career in the very car that today sits on our museum floor.
What was Nascar called before Nascar?
The series began in 1949 as the Strictly Stock Division, and from 1950 to 1970 it was known as the Grand National Division. In 1971, when the series began leasing its naming rights to the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, it was referred to as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (1971–2003).
Why was moonshine made illegal?
So why is moonshine still illegal? Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine. Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of 14 percent alcohol or less) and 5 cents for a can of beer.
Who makes midnight moonshine?
Junior Johnson’s Description Midnight Moon Original is an 80 proof (40% alc./vol.) spirit with a subtle sweetness from the corn.
When did people stop running moonshine?
In 1933 Prohibition had finally come to an end, but this only slightly slowed down the demand for Moonshine. The tax free, cheap price and high alcohol content of moonshine kept it in high demand throughout the Southern U.S. and major cities all over the US.
Who discovered moonshine?
The term moonshine has been around since the late 15th century, but it was first used to refer to liquor in the 18th century in England. The American roots of the practice (and of modern American whiskey production in general) have their origins in frontier life in Pennsylvania and other grain-producing states.
What kind of car did Junior Johnson run moonshine in?
“So we invited the Wilkes County fans out of the stands to enter passenger cars and Junior ran in a 1939 Ford. That’s how he got his start.” Johnson’s first appearance in NASCAR’s top division was on an even bigger stage, in the 1953 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
From Moonshine to NASCAR
Moonshine is a type of alcoholic beverage that is produced under the cover of darkness in order to avoid discovery of smoke rising from clandestine stills. When the United States Constitution’s 18th Amendment prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages, the illicitly manufactured high-proof distilled spirit known as moonshine saw an explosion in popularity. So started the Prohibition era (1920-1933), which resulted in an expansion of illicit smuggling of alcoholic beverages throughout the United States.
After the invention of the automobile, bootleggers became a general term to apply to anybody who smuggled alcoholic beverages by the mail or by car (of the alcohol variety).
They did this by modifying the engines and suspensions of their vehicles in order to make them quicker.
Moonshine Running Stock Cars
When it came to customizing an automobile to turn it into a moonshine runner, the first rule of thumb was to be discreet. The vehicle had to be “stock” in appearance; it couldn’t have any spectacular upgrades that might draw attention away from the main road. Moonshine runners employed a range of automobiles, including Dodge Coronets, Oldsmobile Rocket 88s, and Chevrolet Coupes, to transport their wares. The Ford Model A Coupe, on the other hand, was the most popular automobile of all time. It was ideal for the purpose since it was quite popular for the time, powered by a Flathead V8 engine, had easily adaptable suspensions, and had a spacious trunk.
These automobiles were not only required to travel at high speeds, but they were also required to transport a substantial amount of weight.
Leaf springs were added by bootleggers to strengthen the suspension, allowing them to handle a greater amount of weight.
To avoid being tracked down by the authorities, bootleggers would use “stolen” license plates on their runs in order to avoid being apprehended.
They would also install switches that would turn off their taillights and brake lights, which would aid them in avoiding any coppers who may be following them.
Bootleggers would rely on their knowledge of local roads and exploit it to their advantage because prohibition officers did not have the same level of familiarity with the backroads as they did. To get rid of them, drivers would perform “the 180,” in which they would twist their automobile 180 degrees and fly right by the law enforcement officers on your trail. Junior Johnson, a former bootlegger, moonshiner, and NASCAR racer, was well-known for employing this tactic in his criminal activities.
Johnson was just 14 when he started working for his father’s moonshine business – before he even had a driver’s license: “I didn’t need one, ’cause I wasn’t going to slow down!” Bootleggers used to race against each other on wide dirt fields or on backroads in their spare time, demonstrating who had the fastest vehicle and who was the greatest driver.
As a result of Prohibition being dissolved in 1933, a large number of bootleggers and moonshiners transitioned into respectable liquor enterprises.
Junior Johnson, Benny Parsons, and Lee Petty were among those who did so.
saw a need for a formal organization and created the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, now known as NASCAR.
Digging into NASCAR’s Roots, Moonshine Runners & Junior Johnson
Tom Jensen’s exhibits are on display. The date is June 26, 2020. Many of NASCAR’s early stars got their start hauling illicit moonshine on the rocky mountain roads of Appalachia, where they learned their trade.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley explains the story behind the whiskey still Junior Johnson built at the Hall. Video courtesy of FOX Morning News.
It is one of the most prominent displays at the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Heritage Speedway, and it is a genuine whiskey still that was built by racing icon and former moonshine runner Junior Johnson, who was inducted into the Hall as a member of the Hall’s first class in 2010. What is the significance of a whiskey still at an auto racing museum? The answer is straightforward: It was a booming business during the first decade or so of NASCAR racing, and many of the sport’s early stars were involved with, owned, or produced moonshine cars in the Southern United States.
- Dawsonville, Georgia, was another heart of the liquor business.
- Wendell Scott (2015) and Curtis Turner (2016) were among the Virginia drivers who were whiskey trippers — slang for bootleggers – in 2015.
- Until he started racing, Tim Flock(2014) worked as a booze courier between Alabama and Atlanta before becoming a two-time NASCAR premier series winner in 1950.
- Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images provided the image for NASCAR.
- In his home county of Wilkes County, he knew the back roads like the back of his hand, and he was a highly adept driver.
Back then, Johnson did a lot of the same things as the other liquor haulers did: he’d modify the engines of his cars to produce more power, install heavy-duty suspension components to safely carry the additional weight of all the liquor, and remove everything except the driver’s seat to maximize the amount of space inside for mason jars filled with liquor.
- Others fitted steel plates in front of their radiators to prevent police officers from blasting holes in them, causing their engines to overheat and fail to function properly.
- The image is courtesy of Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images.
- By taking off his windshield wipers and taping up the gaps surrounding his headlights, he discovered that he could increase his peak speed by 10 miles per hour, more than enough to avoid his pursuers.
- After all, he was well aware of what would occur if he were to be apprehended.
As Johnson once stated, “Moonshiners invest far more time, energy, thought, and love into their vehicles than any racer would ever put into his or hers.” “If you get knocked out on the track, you’re going home.” If you lose with a lot of booze, you’ll end yourself in jail.”
“Moonshiners put more time, energy, thought and love into their cars than any racer ever will.”
Junior Johnson is credited with inventing the phrase The Moonshine Still used by Junior Johnson is on exhibit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum. This takes us to the current situation at Heritage Speedway. Given the importance of moonshiners in the early years of NASCAR, their tales needed to be shared, and Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley knew who to contact in order to ensure that the narrative was told correctly: Junior Johnson. Kelley narrates the tale of how Johnson came to develop the still that is now housed in the Hall of Fame in the accompanying video.
‘He (Junior) started to work on it right away.’ And he was adamant about it.
Tom works as the Curatorial Affairs Manager for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and has more than 20 years of experience in the NASCAR media sector under his belt.
NASCAR Rooted in Prohibition Bootlegging – Prohibition: An Interactive History
Bootleggers transported illicit whiskey via back roads in the dead of night from North Carolina to Spokane, Washington, during Prohibition, using “souped-up” autos to keep one step ahead of federal officials and local police while carrying illegal whiskey. Simple enough: take a car that appeared unassuming on the outside, modify its engine for greater speed, remove floor boards, passenger and back seats to accommodate as many cases of liquor as possible, install extra suspension springs to handle the weight, a dirt-protecting plate in front of the radiator, and deliver the prohibited liquor by outsmarting or outrunning the authorities to their destinations.
For these daring “runners” to stay one step ahead of federal agents, sheriffs, and police officers on the road, they needed sharp driving skills to speed and maneuver along dirt, gravel, single-lane, and occasionally paved roads after dark, and at times with their headlights turned off to avoid being apprehended.
- They raced one other’s automobiles, many of which were Ford models, on homemade dirt tracks in the country on Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the summer.
- Booze runners were on the lookout for excellent mechanics who understood how to modify their engines so that they ran quicker and handled better than police cars.
- Because of the nature of their illicit booze business, which required them to travel quickly through twisty, mountainous roads, runners developed the skills necessary to be the finest stock car drivers of their day and beyond.
- The 1940s were a time when many future NASCAR drivers learned their trade by bootlegging illegal moonshine.
Edmund Fahey of Spokane, Washington, who smuggled cases of Scotch whiskey from Canada across the border in his modified Buick in the early ’20s, wrote in his 1972 autobiography that runners had to be on the lookout for flats in the era’s flimsy tubed tires and be good roadside mechanics, almost like a race car driver and crew all in one, in order to succeed.
- Despite the fact that you were hauling heavy cargo across the most difficult of roads at times at reckless speeds, the rubber on your automobile was constantly under the most extreme pressure.
- As a matter of fact, some tire manufacturers created tires specifically for the rum-running industry.
- As a promotional event, the city of Daytona, Florida, hosted the first organized stock car race in 1936, thus cementing the reputation of the Prohibition runner beyond backwoods racing.
- NASCAR’s structure took more than a decade to establish an uniform set of regulations for racetracks and standardize the sport, but he was successful.
The inaugural NASCAR race was conducted at Daytona on February 15, 1948, and it was the first of its kind. Red Byron, a former moonshine runner, drove away with the victory in a modified Ford. Brewers and distillers used ingenious strategies to stay afloat during the Great Recession.
How Prohibition Gave Birth to NASCAR
The next year, even after Junior Johnson tore up dirt tracks across the South and claimed five victories on the NASCAR circuit, the rising star of stock car racing returned to his family’s moonshining operation in the North Carolina mountains to labor. During Johnson’s childhood, his forefathers had been distilling moonshine since the days of the Whiskey Rebellion, and there were so many cases of hooch stacked inside his home that he had to clamber over stacks of them just to get to his bed each night.
- Johnson’s father was sentenced to prison.
- The St.
- A country boy by birth, Johnson learned to drive while moonshining as a teenager.
- The image is courtesy of ISC ImagesArchives through Getty Images.
- “If it hadn’t been for whiskey, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing would not have been created.” That is a proven truth,” Johnson stated to the BBC.
- During the Great Depression, which hit the region particularly hard, the region became a center of stock car racing.
- Moonshining in the Appalachian mountains thrived long after Prohibition was repealed, partly to the persistence of dry counties and a desire to avoid paying high federal alcohol taxes.
“Moonshiners didn’t want to share the tax revenue or any of the profits from this enterprise they had built from the ground up with the federal government.” Because of a flat tire, agents were able to seize a vehicle registered as a taxi that was filled with booze and stacked high.
(Image courtesy of Buyenlarge/Getty Images) The irony is that it was an outspoken avowed teetotaler who contributed more to the bootlegging industry than anybody else in the years after Prohibition.
For a long time, bootleggers tried with a variety of automobiles, but none of them were quite fast enough for their liking, according to Thompson.
“It was quick enough to keep one step ahead of the law, robust enough to handle the mountain routes, and spacious enough in the trunk and back seat to transport moonshine,” says the author.
Aside from adding elements right out of a spy movie or a Looney Tunes cartoon to their vehicles, bootleggers also outfitted their vehicles with mechanisms that, with the push of a button, could deploy smoke screens, oil puddles, or even buckets of tacks to damage the tires of their pursuers.
There were moonshine traces in the blood of everyone, not just the drivers.
Pierce, is the fact that “the majority of stock car racing and NASCAR have failed to note.” in White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France, “is that a huge majority of the early technicians, vehicle owners, promoters, and track owners had extensive links to the illicit alcohol market,” according to the author.
- Worked in a still and transported corn whiskey around Atlanta, Parks amassed a substantial fortune through bootlegging.
- After winning the 160-mile modified race for Parks, Roy Hall (middle) and Raymond Parks (right) celebrated together.
- Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, two of his relatives, were among the best moonshine runners in northern Georgia, eluding arrest with their incredible speed and daring 180-degree hairpin bends.
- 20,000 people witnessed Seay win the first major stock car race in 1938 at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway, and Hall would go on to win the national stock car championship the following year.
- Authorities relented after hearing chants for Hall, who had his driver’s license revoked after being detained no fewer than 16 times, and allowed the bootleggers to race in front of 30,000 supporters.
- Atlanta, on the other hand, was not welcoming of the bootleggers’ return, and another top stock car driver, Bill France, began recruiting bootleggers to race in Virginia and the Carolinas, where they were met with hostility.
- Red Byron (left) with his racing car owner Raymond Parks in front of Byron’s automotive garage, approximately 1950s.
- (Image courtesy of the ISC Archives and Getty Images.) The first two NASCAR championships were won by a team created by Parks and included Red Byron at the wheel.
- When Francoise France took over as NASCAR’s president, the sport embraced corporate sponsorship and downplayed its bootlegging background, becoming more connected with Mountain Dew than with mountain dew.
- “He tried very fast in the 1950s to disassociate himself from the association between the sport and moonshiners,” says the author.
- A bootlegging exhibit and a real moonshine still, manufactured by Junior Johnson himself, are on display inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame, where Parks was inducted in 2017.
Johnson was sentenced to prison for six years for possession of marijuana.
How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR
Piranka/iStock Former distillers gathered in secret sites in rural sections of the southern United States to produce homemade spirits for sale beneath the radar and away from alcohol taxes and prohibition. This was even before Prohibition was repealed. The beverages were prepared under the light of the moon in the hopes that no one would see the smoke rising from the stills and thereby bust the operation—a technique that gave the liquor the nickname “moonshine” for its association with the moon.
- Farmers and immigrants throughout the southern United States began producing their own batches of products to sell for additional money, free of tax, in order to combat the impacts of great poverty in the area.
- In Kentucky, there is still an original moonshine still on exhibit.
- On the outside, the automobiles seemed “stock,” or ordinary enough to avoid drawing notice.
- In order to prevent the jars carrying the booze from shattering while traveling down rocky mountain roads, the trucks were equipped with heavy-duty shocks and springs.
- Furthermore, high-powered engines provided the automobiles with an advantage in terms of speed, allowing them to avoid any cops or tax officers who may have been on the road.
This group of drivers became well-known for their high-speed reckless driving, inventing maneuvers like the bootleg turn, in which the drivers would quickly turn the car around in a controlled skid, either to avoid pursuing officers or to play a game of chicken with them, driving head-on at full speed until the pursuer suddenly changed course.
- Because of the end of Prohibition, the market for bootlegged booze began to dwindle, and the runners found themselves with souped-up automobiles but still bereft of work—despite the fact that they continued to participate in organized races.
- The first official race was held two months after the first practice run.
- Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works North Carolina Moonshine, published by Arcadia Publishing in January, is a book on the Tar Heel State’s part in the history of firewater.
- Secret garages are mentioned in the book, including one tucked away in a wooded area near the North Carolina-Virginia state boundary that was established in the 1930s and focused on moonshine automobiles.
and Barbara Nichols Mulder argue that “this shop was handled for more than 35 years by a cunning, huge, and crafty technician named Jelly Belly, who serviced moonshine runners from far and wide with powerful automobiles that were practically untouchable.” In contemporary times, the garage is long gone, but archaeologists and anthropologists may still discover relics of moonshine operations hidden away in little nooks alongside rivers and in caves throughout Appalachia and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- They can be difficult to locate, and it can be practically impossible to identify whether the debris is in fact an antique still or simply a mound of garbage and scrap metal in certain cases.
- Dawsonville, Georgia hosts the Mountain Moonshine Festival.
- A number of legendary NASCAR drivers visit this event to meet and greet their fans, and the organizers have assembled one of the country’s greatest collections of actual moonshine-hauling vehicles.
- The entire event is in support of Kare for Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of local children.
- This Georgia distillery was founded by a real moonshining family from the surrounding region.
- Visitors will not be able to purchase the spirit on site, but they will be able to take a tour and sample it.
- /SinisterMedia/iStock Millions of gallons of moonshine were transported from the mountains to the city of Atlanta by bootleggers in Dawson County, Georgia, during prohibition.
- Hikers travelling to the county’s Amicalola Falls, a spectacular cascading 729-foot cascade, may view the wreckage of a 1940s bootlegger truck that slid off the road and down a 200-foot hill, slamming into a stand of poplar trees, which is now a nature preserve and museum.
- In order to see the crash, take the main route to the falls and look up and to the right approximately halfway down the trail.
- Hickory Nut Gorge in North Carolina FotoMonkee/iStock Inside this fissure cave in Hickory Nut Gorge, the crew at Chimney Rock State Park has built up a duplicate still and whiskey business, named Moonshiner’s Cave, to commemorate the park’s founding.
- A cave identical to this one, which is supposed to contain the remains of a genuine still, may be located near Moonshiner’s Arch in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.
Hikers may also stop at another moonshiner’s shelter, this one in Arkansas’ Devil’s Den State Park, which is a stone structure carved into a rock overhang by distillers in the early 1900s. AlcoholCarsProhibition Sports Travel Videos That Should Be Watched
NASCAR and Prohibition: How Outlawing Alcohol Created a Racing Industry
While the 18th Amendment prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages, it had little effect on Americans’ demand for them. And it definitely did not dampen the enthusiasm of businesses for filling the hole left by Prohibition. Most people are aware that, even though drinking was officially prohibited in our nation for a period of time, individuals continued to discover methods to obtain alcoholic beverages. However, most people are unaware that, were it not for prohibition – and the bootleggers who ran their illicit moonshine – we would not have the NASCAR racing that we enjoy today.
The need for speed
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1920, legally prohibiting the manufacture, importation, transit, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Until the end of 1933, when the amendment was repealed, the restriction remained in effect. It was illegally made “moonshine” (also known as “hooch” or “white lightning”) that provided the majority of the alcohol consumed in the United States during the previous thirteen years. Creation was only half of the fight for individuals involved in the production of the illicit beverage.
Bootleggers all around the country had to make modifications to their vehicles in order to keep one step ahead of the law while delivering illegal booze on back roads at all hours of the day and night.
They also adjusted the suspension to better manage the weight of the cases, and they installed a dirt-protecting plate in front of the radiator to keep the engine from becoming dirty.
Out of necessity, bootleggers had excellent driving abilities in order to travel at higher speeds without causing an accident and to handle the roads, which were frequently dirt or gravel and single-lane back in the 1920s.
Post-prohibition and the V-8 engine
Despite the repeal of prohibition, the moonshine industry continued to prosper in many parts of the country for decades. Dry counties meant that many Americans were still unable to acquire alcoholic beverages at their local shop. In addition, the federal government imposed high federal taxes on alcoholic beverages, which many bootleggers refused to pay, especially because they had created their enterprises from the ground up without the assistance of the federal government. Bootleggers were able to continue escaping the law after 1933 because to Henry Ford’s V-8 engine, which was introduced just before the end of prohibition.
Then along came Ford, who unwittingly invented the ideal vehicle for delivering moonshine to customers.
and that made all the difference in terms of avoiding capture by the authorities. Some of them even employed the most powerful V-8 they could find at the time, which happened to be an ambulance engine.
Interest in watching cars race
It’s hardly unexpected that bootleggers finally decided to start racing each other because there are so many fast vehicles around. After all, they’d been racing against one other on back roads for years, attempting to get their stuff to customers before the other man got there first. During the 1930s, the drivers realized that people would travel from miles away to see them race each other around courses at fairgrounds and racing tracks, and they began charging admission fees. This marked the birth of the sport of stock car racing.
Aside from technicians and automobile owners, promoters and track owners were also interested in the sector since they had a connection to alcoholic beverage use.
By the late 1930s, Parks had drivers winning major races at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway, which was owned by the Parks family.
In 1947, NASCAR was established as an official organization.
Bootleggers who became famous drivers
Jr. Johnson, one of the most well-known names in racing, got his start as a moonshine runner in the early 1900s. Since the days of the Whiskey Rebellion in the late 1700s, his forefathers had been distilling moonshine in their homes. When he was younger, there were so many cases of moonshine stacked in his house that he had to crawl over them just to get into his bed. When Johnson was a youngster, he found his driving ability while moonshining for a living. He viewed moonshine running as a form of preparation for a future racing career.
- Byron’s “red” automobile A second former moonshiner, Robert “Red” Byron, rose to fame as a race car driver.
- Aside from “Lightning” Lloyd Seay and “Rapid” Roy Hall, there are several more well-known drivers who got their start in moonshine.
- He was pardoned for the crime by President Ronald Reagan 30 years after it occurred.
- We’ll never be able to tell for sure.
Did NASCAR Really Start With Bootleggers?
Things are beginning to look up. You were able to extract 100 gallons (378.54 liters) of booze from your illicit backwoods still, pour the 150-proof white lightning into jars, and put them into the trunk of your automobile without being caught by the authorities – all while avoiding detection by the authorities. Your unlawful cache has been put up under blankets for extra protection, and it is being protected by an array of old jackets. All that is left is for you to do is deliver it. Unfortunately, that may out to be the most hazardous of all the tasks.
- The 18th Amendment legally prohibited spirits, but that didn’t stop a slew of “spirited” businesses from filling the hole left by the prohibition.
- Even though the outside of this dark-blue 1940 Ford Coupe seems stock (the same as any other vehicle purchased from a dealership), it is powered with an engine that is capable of giving any revenuer a run for their money.
- Driving through the Appalachian foothills at breakneck speed under the cover of dusk, negotiating switchback curves and dodging animals that has strayed into the tree-lined roads, you can’t help but smile as you pass through.
- This is the most powerful V-8 that was available at the time.
- And you know these routes like the back of your hand, to the point that you could drive without using your car’s headlights and still get at your destination on time.
- You’re all driven by the same competitive instinct, one that’s fueled by the high-performance cars that allow you to demonstrate your ability.
- It began as a group of moonshine runners and evolved into one of the most prominent racing circuits in the world today: NASCAR.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was established as a result of this conference.
15, 1948, just two months after the formation of the organization.
One of them, Red Byron, was the winner of the first race.
The Southern 500, which took place on September 4, 1950, was the first 500-mile (805-kilometer) race in the history of NASCAR.
NASCAR races were broadcast live on television by 1989, lucrative sponsor relationships had been established, and the drivers, whose forefathers were once considered criminals, were even making frequent appearances at the White House on a regular basis.
With millions of followers (the Daytona 500 had an average TV viewership of 11.4 million people in 2016), NASCAR has emerged as an important component of American racing — and no longer requires the use of moonshine. The original publication date was September 15, 2014.
Lots More Information
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend the day at Road America, a closed-circuit racetrack that has been in operation since the 1950s. It was an exciting day. I sped through the Champagne Slalom course as quickly as I could, taking tight curves and switchbacks along the way. It was really fantastic. It made me ponder why I’d never explored being a racecar driver as a possible career path. Seriously. On the hunt for another high-performance driving opportunity on a world-class racetrack, I’ve already found one.
- “Our Favorite Moonshine Cars of All Time,” according to Auto Foundry. AutoFoundry, 3 December 2012 (accessed 5 July 2014)
- Danner, Alexa. NASCAR: A Chronology of Events. Meredith Levinson, ABC News, August 7, 2007 (accessed July 5, 2014)
- Levinson, Meredith. From Moonshine Runners to Dale Earnhardt Jr., here’s a brief history of NASCAR racing. Margolis, Bob. CIO, February 1, 2006 (July 5, 2014)
- Margolis, Bob. “NASCAR is better than ever, but why isn’t anyone watching?” asks the author of the article. Bleacher Report, published on April 3, 2014 (accessed on August 28, 2014)
NASCAR’s Most Colorful Drivers of All Time
- NASCAR is a sport founded on the personalities of its participants, who may appear to be larger than life at times. From the early days when drivers came from a background of moonshine production to the present day driver who, like their ancestors, was eager to live life on the edge, there has been a constant evolution. Some of the most illustrious winners in sports history were also colorful people who helped to shape the sport into what it is today. In that case, here are the “Ten Most Colorful Drivers in the History of NASCAR.”
- Darrell Waltrip, also known as “D.W,” was one of NASCAR’s most successful drivers, winning over 84 Cup races and three drivers’ championships throughout his career. He was also inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Waltrip was renowned as a terrific talker, but he was also known as someone who could clearly back up anything he stated
- According to a reporter from Sports Illustrated, Curtis Turner allegedly stated, “I enjoy drinking and partying more than racing, but I am better at racing.” Turner enjoyed flying airplanes and even flew his single-engine plane all the way to his home in Mount Airy, North Carolina, landing on the main street and then parked his plane at a local cafe for breakfast, which was a first for him. In July 1950, he became the first driver in NASCAR history to win two Grand National races in a row from the starting line by leading every lap in Rochester, New York, and Charlotte, North Carolina
- He was also the first driver in NASCAR history to win two Grand National races in a row from the starting line in Rochester, New York, and Charlotte, North Carolina
- Lee Petty was a hybrid of a racecar driver and a businessman, as well as a fierce competitor who backed down from no one. He won the first-ever Daytona 500 and went on to form Petty Enterprises, giving the No. 42 car to his son, Richard, who continues to race today. A driver who went on to become a Hall of Famer, Petty won 54 races throughout his 17-year racing career.
- Bobby Allison was a member of the renowned Alabama Gang. Allison finished third in the all-time NASCAR Cup Series standings with 84 victories, matching him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Allison is a three-time winner of the Daytona 500, including in 1988, when he finished second to his son, Davey, in a nail-biting 1-2 finish. Allison, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, won the Cup championship in 1983, but his finest season may have been in 1971, when he won 11 races for three different teams, including his own, to claim the championship. Alison’s professional racing career came to an end in 1988 when he sustained a severe head injury in an incident at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. Ironically, both of Allison’s sons, Clifford and Davey, were murdered at race tracks in 1992 and 1993, respectively
- This was a tragic coincidence.
- A true folk hero, Junior Johnson was once labeled “The Last American Hero” in an Esquire story. After honing his driving talents as a moonshine runner, he was apprehended by federal investigators at his father’s moonshine still in 1956. He was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison after being convicted. He returned to NASCAR and utilized his moonshine-running talents to rise through the ranks to become one of the sport’s most successful drivers. It was in the 1960 Daytona 500 that Johnson achieved his most notable triumph, when he pioneered the practice of drafting and exploited it to slingshot past quicker cars. Johnson was a competitive driver who raced for a number of team owners. His best season came in 1965, when he won 13 races for his own team, which was a career high for him. He announced his retirement from racing the next season after amassing 50 victories in his career. He went on to become one of the most successful car owners in the history of NASCAR, winning 132 races and six titles with drivers Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, among other notable achievements. Johnson was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class in 2010.
- Tony Stewart’s hero is none other than A.J. Foyt, which is only right. Stewart was crowned Sprint Cup Champion this year, and he is widely regarded as one of the most talented drivers in the sport. He is similar to his hero Foyt in that he is an outspoken individual, both on and off the track. His strengths as a driver provide as a counterpoint to his sometimes aggressive approach to dealing with problems. Because of his IndyCar background, he was given the moniker “smoke.” Despite being a former IndyCar winner and a previous USAC champion, Stewart has shown to be equally as good in stock cars since capturing the NASCAR Cup rookie of the year award in 1999. Stewart has won 39 races and three NASCAR Cup titles in his career, which spans 12 seasons (2002, 2005, and 2011). After winning 33 races and two championships with Joe Gibbs Racing before launching his own Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2009, Stewart has developed a fiery attitude and a proclivity for controversy that are reminiscent of his mentor’s. Stewart, whether you like him or not, is always entertaining
- That A.J. Foyt is Tony Stewart’s idol is quite appropriate. As the Sprint Cup champion this season, Stewart has proven himself to be one of the most talented drivers in the sport. On and off the track, he is just like his hero Foyt in that he is a blunt and opinionated individual. In addition to his driving ability, he has a blunt approach to dealing with problems that is often overbearing. Because of his IndyCar background, he was given the moniker “Smoke.” Despite being a former IndyCar champion and a previous USAC champion, Stewart has shown to be just as competitive in stock cars since capturing the NASCAR Cup rookie of the year award in 1999. With 39 victories and three Cup crowns (2002, 2005, and 2011), Stewart has amassed an impressive resume over the course of twelve seasons. After winning 33 races and two championships with Joe Gibbs Racing before founding his own Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2009, Stewart has been compared to his mentor’s fiery demeanor and proclivity for controversy. Stewart is always interesting, whether you like him or not.
- Richard Petty is a fictional character created by author Richard Petty. When television was introduced to NASCAR, Petty quickly rose to the top of the sport’s popularity. He is the Babe Ruth of NASCAR, both in terms of accomplishment and in terms of legendary renown. Petty, who competed in NASCAR from 1959 to 1992, holds nearly every record in the sport, including the most starts (1,185), the most victories (200), the most pole positions (123), the most Top 5 finishes (555), the most Top 10 finishes (712), the most championships (seven), and the most autographs signed (countless). His 200 career victories represent a mark that is unlikely to be equaled or even surpassed. Furthermore, his 27 victories in 1967, including 10 consecutive victories, rank alongside Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak as one of the most extraordinary achievements in sports history. Although Petty was a dominant force on the track, he has proven to be even more so off it, serving as NASCAR’s primary ambassador and becoming a famous character who is still a fixture in the sport today. While donning his characteristic cowboy hat and sunglasses, he set the bar for fan involvement and sponsor relations, eventually becoming the most well-known driver and personality in NASCAR history. The only knock against Petty – and the only caveat that prevents him from being ranked No. 1 on this list – is that he accumulated the majority of his victories and championships during the 1960s and 1970s, when NASCAR’s top stars competed in 40 to 50 races per year, often against inferior competition at small-town short tracks across the country, preventing him from reaching the summit of the sport. Petty has 200 career victories, 140 of which occurred before the current era (1972), when he won an average of 44 races each season.
- Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty are two of the most well-known names in NASCAR history, and they are tied by a huge accomplishment — they have each won a record seven NASCAR Cup titles — that binds them together. It is worth noting that Earnhardt won his in a considerably more competitive era, dominating NASCAR in the 1980s and early 1990s, which was the sport’s golden age in terms of competitiveness and popularity at the time. In 1979, Earnhardt won his maiden race and was named rookie of the year, a distinction he has held ever since. The next season, he won five races for his car’s owner, Rod Osterlund, and went on to win his first national title. When he rejoined team owner Richard Childress in 1983, it was a watershed moment in his professional life. Earnhardt won six NASCAR Cup championships while racing for Childress Racing from 1986 through 1994, including three victories in a row. Earnhardt rose to prominence as NASCAR’s most famous driver and a near-mythical figure in the sports world. The “Intimidator” and “The Man in Black,” as he was known on the track, was a driver who was feared on the track and revered off it. At the same time that he was a phenomenal driver, he was even more successful in terms of cultivating a legendary fan base and developing an iconic image that enabled him to make millions of dollars in sponsorship and souvenir sales. The embodiment of the working class, Earnhardt was a cross between Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and James Garner in the world of NASCAR. His death in an accident on the penultimate lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 made international news — his burial was broadcast live on CNN — and his fame has only risen in the years following. It is still possible to feel his influence and impact on the sport today.
- ‘Fireball’ Roberts was to NASCAR what Arnold Palmer was to golf, and he was to both. Roberts was the guy for the job when the sport required a colorful hero who could bring in new followers from outside of the sport. He won the 1962 Daytona 500 and was never crowned a NASCAR champion, but he did win 33 races, finish 122 times in the top ten, and win 32 pole positions in his career. Roberts was designated one of NASCAR’s 50 Best Drivers of All Time and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a result of his accomplishments. In 1964, he was killed in a car collision at the Charlotte World 600, when he was 35 years old. Roberts was involved in a car accident and died six days later as a consequence of burns he sustained as a result of the accident. Additionally, drivers Eddie Sachs and David MacDonald passed away in the Indianapolis 500 on the same day as Roberts. NASCAR and the Indy Racing organization both began developing vehicles that were safer and more fire resistant as a result of their respective incidents. Some authors have referred to Roberts as the “Buddy Holly of NASCAR,” a promising young driver who passed away before he had a chance to shine brightly.
How a Group of Daring Bootleggers Created NASCAR
It was a two-person effort. With a 39 Ford filled with white whiskey, Bill Blair Sr. sat back as his pal Elmer sped along winding North Carolina roads like he was on the back of the devil’s horse. “Agents would go after Elmer and follow him,” recalls Bill Blair, who inherited his father’s surname as well as his father’s passion for racing. “My father would drive along the road with nothing to occupy his attention.” The agents were from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which is now known as the ATF (Assault Weapons and Explosives).
Instead of making a choice between left and right, he slipped into a nearby maple tree.
The agents began firing because they suspected he was running for the tree line.
In the manner of a squirrel, Elmer emerged from the tree, opened the door, hopped in, and exclaimed, “Let’s get out of here!” They had 40 miles to travel and were burdened by 120 gallons of white whiskey.
The ATF finally caught up with Blair Sr., who was squeezing past them on the back roads.
Blair claims that the hideouts were large enough for anyone to drive inside and then close the doors behind them.
Despite the fact that the narrative, like many family stories, is impossible to verify, it is consistent with a number of other accounts.
The Greensboro Fairgrounds in North Carolina is the site of a moonshine car race.
Blair’s father began hauling moonshine in 1932 as a way to spice up his dairy farm life in High Point, North Carolina.
The man’s father claims that his son “was born for the death penalty.” A gearhead and pool shark, Blair Sr.
Like so many other trippers, he was gaining the knowledge and experience necessary to pursue his ambition of becoming a NASCAR stockcar driver.
Despite the fact that NASCAR has suppressed it for decades, these are the sport’s origins.
Most people connect moonshine with Prohibition, yet Americans have been manufacturing alcoholic beverages in the woods since there has been a tax collector coming to collect on their earnings from them.
Many farmers who lived in the Appalachian Mountains transformed excess grain into spirits, and they despised the tax so much that they tarred and feathered collectors who came to collect it.
Officially, the uprising was declared a failure.
As more and more states restricted the sale of alcoholic beverages in the 1900s, paving the way for nationwide Prohibition in 1920, it was second nature to families who had been selling alcoholic beverages tax-free for decades.
Pierce, author of Real NASCAR, a book about the sport’s roots.
The Internal Revenue Service confiscated a moonshine still, which was photographed at the Treasury Department and turned over to the authorities.
If the repeal of Prohibition had not coincided with the introduction of mass-produced vehicles, it may have remained a tiny, uncontrolled operation.
The topography of the area was conducive to concealment and quick action.
According to Neal Thompson’s book Driving with the Devil, as much as 35 million gallons of moonshine were manufactured in the United States by 1934.
was just one of several young men whose passion for vehicles and thrills enabled them to get illegal alcoholic beverages into the hands of unsuspecting clients.
Meanwhile, others turned off their lights and drove in the dark onto lonely and rugged side roads.
Pierce talks of the moonshiner Smokey Purser, who utilized a variety of disguises, including a priest’s collar and writing “fresh Florida fish” on the side of his car, as well as putting in some dead fish for good measure.
They also learned maneuvers such as the “bootleg turn,” which was a high-speed dance of breaks and gears that completely turned the car around.
Photograph by Bettmann/Getty Images The American Automobile Association (AAA) dominated auto racing at the time, and it controlled the most important race, the Indy 500.
“The majority of the fans were guys, dressed in suits and bowlers and smoking pipes.” Southern stockcar racing, with its desperado drivers and vehicles customized for whiskey tripping, was unusual from other forms of motorsport.
Races in the early days of stockcar racing were a shambles, with scrappy drivers and destroyed vehicles.
“It wasn’t the do-gooders who went to stockcar racing,” Blair explains.
At Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1956, Junior Johnson rolled his 1956 Pontiac multiple times, but he managed to escape unscathed via the back window.
Mud had accumulated on windshields, and drivers had placed screens in front of radiators to keep them protected from dust.
Rather than wearing jumpsuits, the drivers donned crude helmets and wrapped handkerchiefs across their faces, as though they were armed bank robbers.
“My papa would spit red dirt till Tuesday,” Blair recalls his father saying.
According to Blair’s father, “He just did it because he enjoyed it.” “It didn’t have any money in it.” Drivers may receive a check for $75 as a prize, or they may discover that a promoter has made off with the prize money.
“White liquor served as his patron.” As far back as the 1950s, according to Pierce, haulers might earn as much as $450 a night transporting moonshine, which was, of course, completely tax-free money.
was at a racetrack or in a tiny town, people would stop and chat to him about anything.
Blair recalls his mother providing breakfast for the racers at his childhood home.
Thanks to Bill Blair for providing this image.
As a result of fuel restrictions, many young men were sent out to fight or work in shipyards, and vehicle racing was put on hold for a short period of time.
France altered the course of sport forever.
According to Thomspon, the AAA sponsored many stockcar races before discontinuing sponsorship in 1946, noting that “the Contest board is vehemently opposed to what it refers to as ‘junk car’ events.” France had a thorn in his side over the respectability of different races.
He founded the North Carolina Sports Car Club (NCSCC), which compensated drivers for each victory and provided a $1,000 reward to the driver who accumulated the most points from NCSCC events.
Library of Congress/LC-USZ62-96757 (Library of Congress) Under France’s leadership, the masses expanded in size.
The Tri-City Speedway, located in North Carolina, was founded by the Blair family in 1947.
utilized to construct the track was not racing money; rather, it was money from the liquor industry.
Despite the large number of spectators, France wished to draw the country club set to stockcar racing.
Despite this, moonshiners continued to race.
won a championship race at Danville, Virginia, in NASCAR’s first year of competition, and he would go on to win three more races in the purely stock division throughout the course of his career, which spanned 1949 to 1958.
Dean Combs, a former NASCAR contender who is shown here with a crew member, was arrested and accused with running an illegal still.
Pierce claims that it gives the idea that just a number of outliers were involved in the investigation.
Moonshine was the fuel on which NASCAR raced, despite the fact that it claimed to only require gasoline.
A moonshine produced by Sugarlands Shine in Tennessee was licensed by NASCAR and made available for purchase in October 2018.
“Moonshine has a historic connection to the roots of our sport, and that association has always been present with our fans…
In recent years, it appears that the relationship between NASCAR drivers and moonshine has become more formalized.
Some males, on the other hand, are unable to keep their hands off the excellent stuff, such as surreptitiously stilled moonshine, white mule, or mountain dew.
In an interview with The Richmond-Times Dispatch, he stated, “I’d drink it for a cold.” He’d whipped up a batch of cookies the previous morning.
Over 200 gallons of gasoline were seized by authorities. Gastro Obscura is a food and drink magazine that explores the most extraordinary foods and beverages from across the world. Sign up for our email newsletter, which is distributed twice a week.