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Landon Huffman

Prof. Presnell
UWRT 1103
10/26/14

NASCAR: The Beginning


Fast cars, loud engines, and venues packed with screaming fans are just a few of the
intriguing sights and sounds from any given NASCAR race day. People swarm from all areas to
observe 43 competitors race door to door at 200 mph, in hopes of their favorite driver bringing
home the glory. What was NASCAR before the big stage, big lights, and fame? An article
grabbed my attention not too long ago on www.nascar.com that talked about moonshine. Illegal
trafficking of a prized possession of the south? NASCAR and the law clash? Along with my
already intense passion for racing, this caused me to immediately have interest in the topic. I am
extremely involved in stock car racing, yet I never really took the time to learn about how the
sport that I love came about. What started this giant American pass time? I set out to figure out
who exactly was behind the creation of NASCAR, what in the world this moonshine connection
was, and how it all came together.

Racing is a passion and a way of life


As I see it, racing isnt a sport, or a hobby, it is a way of life. I would go even farther to
say that it is my passion, and what I live to do. I race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American

Series, my dad works in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and raced himself in several
divisions, and my grandfather also raced. From the time I was able to walk, I was at the
racetrack, cheering on Dad. I remember making cross country trips, traveling from Vegas, to
Nashville, to Daytona Beach, going from race to race as dad competed on the circuit. I guess you
could say my passion was sparked super early in life. At four years old I began racing dirt gokarts across the southeast. I absolutely loved it. I won a good many races over the next ten years,
then I stepped into a full size stock car. I have been competing in NASCAR late model stock
competition since 2010. I have brought home the trophy on seven different occasions throughout
the past several years, and plan on adding to that number in the future. There is nothing else I
would rather do. If I cant make it in the sport as a driver, you best bet I will be working on
racecars for a living. When we began researching topics, I knew I wanted to do something that
involved NASCAR. The one part about racing that I knew least about, was the history. Now
NASCAR is a trademark of the south, a true spectacle of the sporting world, but who exactly
created what is now so popular, and what was involved in the creation of such a powerful
organization? That is what I wanted to find out, and I feel like I have done just that.

Moonshine and the law


During the days of prohibition, alcohol wasnt allowed to be sold. Moonshine was
illegal to produce, and sell. Did that prevent it from finding the hands of many? Of course not.
Bootleggers, men who illegally produced, sold, and transported moonshine, engaged in high
speed chases with the local law on a regular basis. These so called Rum Runners piloted cars
of their day, enhanced with speed far superior to anything factory produced in the era. While
running from the cops was obviously frowned upon, the skills inherited from performing such

acts proved to be very promising in another area, racing. According to head NASCAR historian,
Buz McKim, around 50% of the early racers in NASCAR were in fact involved in the moonshine
business in some way. This struck me as shocking! I thought, how can half of the competitors
taking part in events that are being held, be openly involved in an illegal market, and the police
not be cracking down on them? Turns out, the law cant arrest anyone, unless they are caught in
the act, even if they know the person has committed the crime of bootlegging a thousand times
before. Although there was one instance Buz told me about, in Atlanta at Lakewood Raceway.
The track had a rule that no person who committed a felony was allowed to compete in an event.
When the police got word that a known bootlegger, Bob Flock was entered in a race at
Lakewood, they stalked him to the track. While Flock was on the grid preparing to race, the cops
attempted to arrest him, but he fled out through the track gate and managed to escape behind the
wheel of his hot rod. Earlier I mentioned an article I found from NASCAR that somewhat played
as the catalyst of this paper. The write up talked of moonshine running, and a man named Junior
Johnson. Junior was recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson himself was a
bootlegger. In the article, he made a comment referring to the advantage gained by running the
alcohol illegally, he said It gave me so much advantage over other people that had to train and
learn how to drive. In return for his actions with moonshine, Junior served a year in jail. He
won many NASCAR sanctioned events in his time as a driver and is considered one of the key
men that helped form the sport.

Who is this Bill France guy?


Who is Bill France? I began to ask this question at the start of my research. His name
appeared in almost every piece of information I found. France was a normal hard working guy,

with a passion for racing. He moved to Daytona Beach Florida with his family in 1934 to start a
new life. The beach was the site of the World Record automobile speed trials, and France was a
huge car fanatic. He was an experienced mechanic and loved speed. Once he became surrounded
by the festivities, it wasnt long and he began to dabble in promoting races until the war put a
halt to the events. After the fighting had settled, France continued to put on races across the
south. He noticed the lack of organization within the racing community. There was no set of
rules that everyone had to abide by. Purses were falsely promoted, which means a money amount
was supposedly promised to the winner, yet some promoters would take the money and run. It
was a jumbled mess and France saw that.

Meeting at the Streamline


After seeing how scattered things were, Bill
France decided it was time to establish an
organization that sanctioned stock car races,
providing rules, guaranteed purse, and a set schedule
of events. In December of 1947, France called a

meeting of the minds at the Streamline Hotel in

Figure 1: Streamline Hotel as is today- birthplace of


NASCAR

Daytona Beach, Florida. 35 of the most important


people in stock car racing at the time gathered in the ebony lounge of the hotel. Among the group
were drivers, promoters, and car owners. They discussed the issues and problems facing the
sport, as well as ways to improve what they already had established. The product of the meeting,
was the birth of NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing). (www.nascar.com)

Buz informs me of the early years


I mentioned it once earlier, but I was fortunate enough to sit down and talk with Buz
McKim, the official NASCAR historian. At this point in my research, I had a pretty good
understanding of the moonshine correlation, but having the opportunity to talk him allowed me
to sharpen up my knowledge. What Mr. McKim touched on in our interview that I was most
unclear about at the time involved the early years of the organization and its rise to power. Who
helped create such a powerhouse of a pass time? He spoke of a man named Bill Tuthill, who was
ultimately the leading business mind behind the sanctioning body. He also mentioned two other
men, Raymond Parks and Ed Otto. Parks was a self-made millionaire though bootlegging, and
the moonshine business. He owned cars that regularly competed in NASCAR events. Secretly,
he was the financial backing that kept NASCAR on its feet through the early years. He supported
France and the organization, and wanted to see it prosper. Otto is the man recognized for
expanding the sport into different parts of the country. He helped find new partners, and establish
relationships with businesses. Although the information McKim was able to provide in the short
amount of time he had to give me wasnt the most detailed, he gave me what he felt was most
important.

From Miniscule to Immaculate


It is crazy to think that what began as a bunch of dirt poor guys running from the law,
evolved into a National pass time. In my research, I found that moonshine is definitely the root
of NASCAR. There was so much that came from that era. Drivers took their talents established

on back roads of the South and implemented them in sanctioned events. I find the fact that what
ultimately, when it comes down to it, was a group of criminals, helped create a giant, money
making, stock car racing, business is so intriguing. Even before Bill France, racing was popular.
France just thought up and proposed the idea for an overseeing organization. The combination of
the moonshine running drivers and car owners, along with Frances passion for the sport, and his
drive to make what he loved an even bigger spectacle, helped launch NASCAR into the world.
Today, thousands of loyal fans congregate at tracks all across the country to take part in what
France and the boys created. If Mr. France could see what his baby has evolved into, he would
truly be in awe.

Sources
Houston, Rick. "NASCAR's Earliest Days Forever Connected to Bootlegging | NASCAR.com."
Www.nascar.com. NASCAR.com, 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.nascar.com/en_us/news-media/articles/2012/11/01/moonshine-mystique.html>.

"NASCAR Founded." History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.


<http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nascar-founded>.

"NASCAR Origin & History." Www.decadesofracing.net. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.


<http://www.decadesofracing.net/TheBeginning.htm>.

Pierce, Daniel S. Real NASCAR White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France. Chapel Hill,
NC: U of North Carolina, 2010. Print.

Interview with Buz McKim: NASCAR historian