NASCAR Racing History
Working at Mosport for Rusty Wallace Racing ExperienceClick thumbnail to view full-size
For my eldest son, we are fortunate to live near Mosport International Speedway near Clarington, Ontario Canada. Through connections of a close friend, my son was able to participate in the experience of a lifetime as part of the pit crew for a visiting organization, Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. As a 17 year old boy, cars are his passion and in his own words, "This was my dream job!" For a boy who gets out of bed by noon if we are lucky, Connor, who was also completing an on-line academic grade 11 math course at the time, got up at 6am every morning to catch a ride into work with my husband. He worked 8 to 12 hour days in extreme heat but came home always with a huge grin on his face. He changed tires, pumped gas and helped the participants, getting the race driving experience of their lifetime, into and out of the cars. He worked with stock cars and formula one racers. It was his experience at Mosport that prompted me to investigate the history of this sport. As well, I recently finished the novel by Kathy Reichs, Flash and Bones, which revolves around the world of NASCAR racing and the historical tidbits provided linking development of car racing with moonshine running piqued my interest.
Race Track Quote
"Moonshiners put more time, energy, thought, and love into their cars than any racer ever will. Lose on the track, and you go home. Lose with a load of whiskey, and you go to jail." – Junior Johnson, NASCAR legend, and one time whiskey runner.
Moonshine and NASCAR
Moonshining finds its historical roots in the Scottish Highlands. Farmers there would use their excess grains such as corn to ferment into liquor. Fleeing high taxation on their 'whiskey' many fled to America bringing with them the art of 'moonshining'.
Moonshine and NASCAR history intertwined in the backroads of Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
- This town was once considered to be the moonshine capital of the world.
- During Prohibition, when alcohol was an illegal commodity, moonshiners in North Carolina would use common sedans to transport their still-produced moonshine to interested buyers.
- Apprehension by the police was a constant danger, so they modified their vehicles for better speed and handling.
- Many of the drivers got a taste for the thrill of the chase and driving at top speeds down twisty mountain roads.
- Many started racing each other for fun.
More Race Track Quotes
When Junior Johnson was asked, 'Why moonshine?'
"It was a good life, very exciting and fun to be a part of," Johnson said. "We didn't do anything to hurt anyone, we just didn't want to pay taxes on the alcohol, and we wouldn't make any money."¹
"Johnston was known for his 'bootlegger turn,' where he would avoid roadblocks by jerking the wheel to one side and mashing the gas to spin the car 180 degrees and take off in the other direction."¹
- The end of Prohibition did not end the demand for moonshine, however.
- As a legal alcoholic commodity it became subject to taxation.
- Now the drivers who continued "runnin'" shine needed to evade the revenuers.
- They tinkered with their cars even more for more speed.
- It was along these dirt roads of Wilkes County that these runners learned to become stock car racers by evading the tax men and by the friendly competition that arose among the drivers out for more thrills.
- Junior Johnston, a legendary bootlegger continuing his family business in Wilkes, County North Carolina, became a successful racecar driver and team owner.
Areas of Interest to NASCAR Enthusiasts
Influenced NASCAR racing through moonshine bootleggers outrunning police and revenuers while tranporting illegal hooch.
A lot of NASCAR racers set up shop in Charlotte, NC.
Many stock car enthusiasts still consider Daytona Beach as birthplace of stock car racing.
Location of the first wooden built track and site of the first off-road stock car race in 1915.
The Birth of NASCAR
Auto racing began 5 minutes after the second car was built. – Henry Ford
- Race cars have existed since the late 1800's and most were built to race at top speed.
- J. Frank Duryea, in November 1895, driving a car of his own making, won a race starting from Chicago Illinois and finishing in Evanston, Illinois.
- The packed sand beaches between Daytona and Ormond Beach was the site of the world-record automobile speed trials.
- These speed trials began in 1905 and continued into the 1930's.
- By the 1930's cars were reaching speeds close to 300 mph.
- In the 1930's, driver's began racing family cars.
- Stock cars, called this because they came directly from a car dealers' stock, are cars not modified specifically for racing.
- Cars grew in popularity and mechanics began tinkering with the basic design to increase their speed.
- The first race called a 'stock car' race was held in 1909 on 23 miles of the streets of Long Island, New York.
"France wanted an organization that would sanction and promote races, bring uniformity to race procedures plus technical rules. He wanted an association that would oversee a membership benefit and insurance fund, and one that would promise to pay postseason awards, and crown a single national champion using a clearly defined points system."²
Test Your Knowledge of NASCAR
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- The Chicago Speedway was the first specially built wooden track, built in 1915 to host the first off-road stock car race.
- In the 1940's stock car racing had become extremely popular, especially in Southeastern states where tracks appeared all over.
- In these early years, there were no schedules telling fans where their favourite drivers would be racing and safety rules were virtually non-existent.
- After the speed trials left Daytona Beach for the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Daytona Beach area officials wanted to bring back to their area speed-related events.
- To this day, Daytona Beach is still regarded by stock car enthusiasts as the birthplace of their sport.
- Bill France Sr. got his start in race promotions, in late 1935, through this avenue.
- Races which followed were poorly organized leading to bad feelings among drivers and promoters.
- It soon became apparent to France that an official organization was required to provide uniform rules for automobile racing.
- Bill France Sr., a driver and racing promoter, did not like the lack of organization and haphazard way of running a sport which predominated car racing to this point.
- In 1948, France founded NASCAR - the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing - was born.
Buckley Jr., James. DK Eyewitness Books: NASCAR. 2005
²Decades of Racing.net. NASCAR History "The Beginning"
Johnstone, Mike. NASCAR The Need for Speed. 2001
¹Swan, Raygan. Nascar.com. A day with Junior Johnson: Moonshine, ham'n stories. October 11, 2007.