English Composition II
April 18, 2011
NASCAR- From Bootleg Runners to Sports Phenomenon
Since the beginning of the United States,there have been many different
types ofsports such as baseball, football, and even soccer. In the early 1900’s, a
new sport was founded. Early illegal moonshine runners revolutionized the
sporting fields bydeveloping the sport of NASCAR. “NASCAR, in full National
Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, sanctioning body for stock-car racing in
North America, [was] founded in 1948” (NASCAR 1).This sport started when the
moonshine runners raced on dirt tracks for fun. Around the 1930’s, drivers began
to race in organized races all over the country for money. NASCAR grew into one
of the biggest sporting fields in the country.
In the 1930’s, moonshine runners, also named bootleggers, used
homemade stills to manufacture alcohol called moonshine. This homemade
alcohol was made from corn, barley, yeast, and even fruit. The moonshiners’ stills
were placed out in the woods or in the mountains along flowing streams.
Moonshine was popular in the rural South, such as Alabama, North and South
Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia. The most famous area for
moonshine was in the Appalachian Mountains called “Wilkes County, North
Carolina” (Tabler 4).
During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, “Henry Ford created a
monster”(Thompson, Driving 31). “*…+ in 1927, at the height of the Prohibition,
Ford unveiled the Model A, unwittingly helping the cause of the southern
moonshiner, who found it an even better delivery tool than the Model
T”(Thompson, Driving 34). A few years later, Ford invented a new car, the “V-8,”
the V-8 was “the first affordable v-8” powered car to be mass produced
(Thompson, Driving 34). This car was able to out run any sheriff deputies or
revenuers around. Moonshiners made certain modifications to the V-8’s motor
and suspension to make the car go in excess of one hundred miles per hour. The
car would handle better on the rough back road because of the modifications.
With these modifications, Ford’s new car made transporting this illegal alcohol a
Moonshine runners made their run from the mountains into towns at night.
Bootleggers would carefully maneuver down winding back roads at top speeds to
deliver their “shine” on time. “Daring young men would load up the trunks of
their cars with cases of moonshine” (Woods 8). Bootleggers transported their
loads to “secret locations called Speakeasies”(Thompson, Driving 30). Moonshine
runners not only had to worry about crashing or breaking the glass jars of
moonshine, but they had to worry about government agents called revenuers.
Revenuers set up road blocks on the known roads traveled by moonshine
runners. They would also hide out alongside the roads to catch the bootleggers in
the act of transporting moonshine. The moonshine runners would accelerate to
high speeds and maneuver through the winding roads to out run the officers and
revenuers. If caught by the revenuers, bootleggers would face fines and
imprisonment. Author Dave Tabler said, “The runners would modify their cars in
order to create faster, more maneuverable vehicle to evade the police” (Tabler 2).
In 1933, the Prohibition Act was appealed: “Bootlegging continued even
after the end of the Prohibition era, because of the huge tax placed on whiskey
upon repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933” (Betting 5). Even with the Volstead Act
placing a tremendous tax on all alcohol, moonshine runners slowly began to stop
running moonshine because a regular supply was being delivered. Dave Tabler
wrote, “Since they had no reason to use them [moonshine runners’ cars] for
‘running shine’ anymore and found themselves with time on their hands and a lot
of money, many wanted to race their cars for pride and money” (Tabler 3). At
first, they would race down back roads but “eventually shifted to oval dirt
racetracks, which had sprung up across the country by the late 1940’s” (Woods 8).
In 1938, Bill France conducted the first organized race at Daytona Beach, Florida,
his home town. “The outbreak of World War II brought stock car racing to a halt.
The drivers went to war and the production of new cars ceased” (Betting 7).
Bill France later decided to gather a wide range of supporters to help
organize a new sporting field. “ On December 12 of that year *1947+ he * Bill
France] gathered promoters from the Southeast, Northeast, and Midwest to the
Ebony Bar atop the Streamline Inn at Daytona” (Betting 7). This meeting was
called to come up with the rules and regulations for the organization called
NASCAR. NASCAR was first to set limitations of a class called “strictly stockcar.”“The first NASCAR race *…+ was held at the Charlotte Fairgrounds in North
Carolina on June 19, 1949” (Betting 8).
From the meeting at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1947 to the present years,
NASCAR has made a significant uphill climb. “NASCAR shifted to a higher gear in
1950 with the debut of a superspeedway in Darlington, South Carolina” (Woods
15). Later, throughout the 1950’s NASCAR began to gather major sponsors, such
as Ford Motor Company, Chevrolet, and even Chrysler. At the end of the 1950’s,
the automobile manufacturers canceled their sponsorships with NASCAR due to a
major wreck which killed an eight year old boy. This wreck led to the addition of
many safety features being added to cars, such as “new nonflammable gas tanks”,
roll cages, and heavier tires (Woods 18).
After the car manufacturers canceled their sponsorships, “The *…+ factor
that helped bring NASCAR through its first lean years was the opening of the
Daytona International Speedway in 1959” (Betting 16). This race track became the
most important race in the NASCAR circuit, the Daytona 500. Soon after the
building of the Daytona Speedway, the automobile industry leaders came back to
sponsor NASCAR. “ABC televised the 1961 Firecracker 250 from Daytona Beach,
Florida as part of its legendary ‘Wide World of Sports’” (History 18). Throughout
the following years, NASCAR would gain even more major named sponsors, such
as Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. During the 1970’s,
80’s, and 90’s, NASCAR’s premier division was named after R.J. Reynolds’
cigarette brand, Winston cigarettes, the Winston Cup Series. Suzanne Wise
said,“In the tumultuous half-century since stock car racing has evolved from a
band of hell-bent-for-leather drivers who raced for gas money on tracks primarily
in the South, to millionaire owners and drivers who race at tracks across the
country from North Caroline to California” (Wise 4).
Over the years NASCAR produced many superstars. One superstar was a
man named Robert “Junior” Johnson. Johnson was a former moonshine runner
who developed his talents by driving on the dangerous country roads of North
Carolina. “His *Robert Junior Johnson+ aggressive driving style earned him 50
NASCAR Cup Series wins” (Robert 1). Critics from the official NASCAR website
maintains that Richard Petty was “the undisputed ‘king’ of stock car racing with
two hundred NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins[;] Petty won seven Series
championships during his 35 year career” (Richard 1). Richard Petty had “the most
remarkable season” of any other drive in the history of NASCAR by winning
twenty-seven out of forty-eight races. Petty holds numerous records, such as
most “races started”, most “top five finishes”, and most “consecutive wins”
Through the years, people watched sports at a slow and drawn out pace
until in the 1940’s, when a new faster pace sport was organized called
NASCAR.This sport was developed from illegal bootleggers who used theirhighly
modified cars to transport illegal alcohol during a period of Prohibition. Today,
NASCAR drivers have dramatically changed from bootleggers to professionals.
NASCARdraws fans from all sorts of social classes, from the “rednecks” to the
wealthypeople, to see who can take a checkered flag. NASCAR has become one of
the most watched and televised sports of the United States.
Works Cited Page
“History of NASCAR”. Chicagoland Speedway 2011
www.chicagolandspeedway.com. Web. 20 March 2011.
“NASCAR.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011. Web. 27 March 2011.
“NASCAR Betting History.” www.nascarbetting.net. Web. 20 March 2011.
“Richard Petty.” 8 January 2003. www.nascar.com. Web. 20 March 2011.
“Robert ‘Junior’ Johnson.” 20 April 2008. www.nascar.com. Web. 20
Tabler, Dave. “Moonshine and NASCAR.” Appalachian History. 20 March 2007.
www.appalachianhistory.net. Web. 20 March 2011.
Thompson, Neal. Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels,
And the Birth of NASCAR. Chapter: “Henry Ford ‘Created A Monster”. New
York: Crown Publishers, 2006. Print.
Wise, Suzanne. “History: Stock Car Racing Collection.” Appalachian State
University. www.library.appstate.edu. Web. 20 March 2011
Woods, Bob. Dirt Track Dare Devils: The History Of NASCAR. Chanhassen, MN:
Tradition Books, 2003. Print.