The boozy beginnings of NASCAR: How proud moonshiners showing off the speedy, modified cars which they used to flee from cops spawned an American racing institution worth hundreds of millions a year
- The growth of the multi-million dollar sport was fueled by those smuggling alcohol in the 20th century
- Bootleggers were the perfect candidates to excite crowds of people as they had modified vehicles
- Even after the association was formed in 1948, known bootleggers would enter the stock car races
Jessica Green For Mailonline
These intriguing photographs illustrate how NASCAR – the world’s foremost stock car racing series – evolved from the shady beginnings of US prohibition bootleggers.
The growth of the multi-million dollar sport was fueled by those smuggling alcohol in the 20th century before showing their driving talent on tracks around the country.
The moonshiners were the perfect candidates to impress the crowds as they had modified vehicles, usually a Ford Coupe or a Ford Pickup truck, which they would have resourcefully improved to readily escape the police with their loads of whiskey.
Safety measures lacking, the events were scrappy affairs and still after the association was formed in 1948, known moonshiners would enter.
Even renowned driver Junior Johnson returned to his home in North Carolina to help with the family moonshining business after five victories on the NASCAR circuit in 1955.
Johnson previously told the BBC: ‘If it hadn’t been for whiskey, NASCAR wouldn’t have been formed. That’s a fact.’
This early NASCAR race features drivers accustomed to running from the law with a car full of liquor during the US Prohibition era. The country had a nationwide constitutional ban on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. This lead to an increase of bootleggers filling their modified cars with booze and driving it around the states – soon after they would put their skills to the test on haphazard tracks
A NASCAR Cup series auto race takes place in November, 2018, in Avondale, Arizona. The association was officially founded in 1948 and is now one of the best known stock car racing events
A moonshine car racing at Greensboro Fairgrounds, North Carolina, in the 1930s. The bootleggers were the perfect candidates to impress the crowds of fans as they had vehicles, usually a Ford Coupe or a Ford Pickup truck, which would have resourcefully been improved to readily escape the police with their loads of whiskey
A bootlegging vehicle filled with sugar used for creating alcohol which was discovered by police in the 1930s
Grinning authorities pose with a large moonshine bust in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1951. The rivalry between cops and bootleggers was almost friendly. Atlanta police were even quoted as calling moonshiner Roy Hall a ‘genius at the wheel’ because of his ability to outrun the law
A wrecked Ford sits in a bootleggers garage in North Carolina, in 1940. Most moonshiners stopped their illegal practices following the legalization of alcohol by President Franklin Roosevelt. However, some continued to make and sell their own booze without the intention of paying any tax
A 1951 Ford pickup truck from Franklin County, Virginia, used for running moonshine. Liquor haulers used this pickup until 1972. The truck was modified with a different engine, extra leaf springs, heavy duty shock absorbers, and wooden bed racks to conceal the load. It also had switched license plates to fool revenuers
A pool hall in Kansas is filled with patrons drinking alcohol – despite the picture being taken in April 1931 during the prohibition era. The caption of the photograph explained the bar was supplied by travelling bootleggers
An illegal moonshine still in the mountains of North Carolina created and used throughout the 1930s. Barrels of liquid line the floor as the alcohol is prepared
A 1951 Ford pickup truck, left, which was a favored vehicle for moonshine runners, compared to the vehicles used by modern NASCAR drivers, right
The remains of a borrowed Stutz touring car after running into a tree at seventy miles an hour, in which the bootlegger driver was killed and fifty gallons of corn liquor was destroyed and confiscated on July 29, 1924
Following a chase through the busy streets of America’s capital, a couple of bootleggers are captured by police as their car full of moonshine is apprehended on January 21, 1922
A policeman stands guard alongside a ruined car full of cases of moonshine in Washington DC, on November 16, 1922
Officers from the Washington DC police department stand next to a recent haul of liquor, having captured it from bootleggers on September 23, 1922