“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
Today’s NASCAR is a family sport with 75 million loyal fans, which is growing bigger and more mainstream by the day. Part Disney, part Vegas, part Barnum & Bailey, NASCAR is also a multibillion-dollar business and a cultural phenomenon that transcends geography, class, and gender. But dark secrets lurk in NASCAR’s past.
Driving with the Devil uncovers for the first time the true story behind NASCAR’s distant, moonshine-fueled origins and paints a rich portrait of the colorful men who created it. Long before the sport of stock-car racing even existed, young men in the rural, Depression-wracked South had figured out that cars and speed were tickets to a better life. With few options beyond the farm or factory, the best chance of escape was running moonshine. Bootlegging offered speed, adventure, and wads of cash—if the drivers survived. Driving with the Devil is the story of bootleggers whose empires grew during Prohibition and continued to thrive well after Repeal, and of drivers who thundered down dusty back roads with moonshine deliveries, deftly outrunning federal agents. The car of choice was the Ford V-8, the hottest car of the 1930s, and ace mechanics tinkered with them until they could fly across mountain roads at 100 miles an hour.
After fighting in World War II, moonshiners transferred their skills to the rough, red-dirt racetracks of Dixie, and a national sport was born. In this dynamic era (1930s and ’40s), three men with a passion for Ford V-8s—convicted criminal Ray Parks, foul-mouthed mechanic Red Vogt, and crippled war veteran Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champion—emerged as the first stock car “team.” Theirs is the violent, poignant story of how moonshine and fast cars merged to create a new sport for the South to call its own.
Driving with the Devil is a fascinating look at the well-hidden historical connection between whiskey running and stock-car racing. NASCAR histories will tell you who led every lap of every race since the first official race in 1948. Driving with the Devil goes deeper to bring you the excitement, passion, crime, and death-defying feats of the wild, early days that NASCAR has carefully hidden from public view. In the tradition of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, this tale not only reveals a bygone era of a beloved sport, but also the character of the country at a moment in time.
Used Book in Good Condition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book does exactly what the title states. It is a well researched chronicle of the early history of stock car racing in the south. As a racer and racing history buff since the 60s, I always understood that there was more to racing than NASCAR and the France family. Mr Thompson has done a great job of presenting the early history of stock car racing, a very difficult task, I'm sure, because first hand information is nearly impossible to obtain and the France family has worked since the beginning of NASCAR to distance themselves from the moonshiners who started the sport. Most of the history in the mainstream media is a revisionist version and refers to NASCAR's "modern era". As to the negative reviews about technical facts not being accurate, there are many volumes out there that cover the technical aspects of stock car racing. I am talking about thousands of pages. This book is exactly what it is represented to be. If you want technical information, it is available...
I have never watched a NASCAR race and definitely have no intentions of doing so in the future.
I do, however, drive a '37 Ford Coupe and lived in the northern suburbs of Atlanta for a decade. These facts made the book very interesting for me. From that perspective I could fully appreciate the courage and tenacity of the men who ran Highway 9 out of Dawsonville through Cumming to Atlanta in '37 - '40 Ford Coupes at speeds of 100 MPH delivering moonshine to a growing and thirsty Atlanta.
Like most great books, this books deals with three distinct subjects that co-exist in time. The first subject is moonshining in North Georgia in the pre-WWII days. The second is the politics and economics of Atlanta emerging as a center of influence in the New South. The third is the birth of stock car racing that would evolve into NASCAR as we know it today. What ties these subjects together are people with drive and vision, risk takers both physically and...
What mystifies me is that I am not a racing fan in the least but this book seemed to call to me from the library shelf. As a new resident of Georgia, coming from NY, I felt that I needed to do the "when in Rome..." thing and soldier through the book. No need to labor, as it had me in its grip from the first page. It answered all my questions about all things southern, with a vivid description of life here in the last century as well as an unbelievably human story of the men who made moonshine and how their driving skills translated well into car racing at the outset of the stock car boom. It also introduced me to a unique man, a former master bootlegger named Raymond Parks, who, while not generally a race car driver, was as responsible as anyone for NASCAR being in existence today. His deep pockets kept many drivers racing and his mechanic, a genius named Red Vogt, actually came up with the name NASCAR. That Bill France used legal maneuvering to claim the NASCAR brand for himself and...
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