Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR

Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR

by Neal Thompson
4.7 10

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Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR by Neal Thompson

“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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307522269
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 02/04/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 530,190
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Neal Thompson is a veteran journalist who has worked for the Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times, and whose magazine stories have appeared in Outside, Esquire, Backpacker, and Men’s Health. He teaches at the University of North Carolina-Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program and is author of Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard, America’s First Spaceman. Thompson, his wife, and their two sons live in the mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been following NASCAR since 1979. Being raised in the south I'd always known there was a connection between bootleggers and stock car racing but Neil Thompson brings to life the history, the drivers and the driven! I found myself excitedly rooting for the likes of Raymond Parks, Red Byron, Seay, Hall, Vogt, Turner, the Flocks and so many others even if it was whiskey trippin' that allowed them each to develop their respective talents. Matter-of-fact it was because of this illegal activity and the ability of Big Bill France to dictate the sports future direction that we can now enjoy the high speed, tactical and often times heart pounding, visually awe inspiring sport of NASCAR. Thanks Neil for your in-depth research and analysis. For connecting the past to the present in a clear and fascinating page turner. Whether or not the France family or Mike Helton or any of their cronies will ever admit or acknowledge it, moonshine fueled the early years and utimately set them up like fat cats and you've laid it all out in print!
Anonymous 14 days ago
It is wonderful to have suck a detailed look into the birth of NASCAR and the men who gave birth to it. At time it almost felt as it I was in the room with these men.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ErikEllefson More than 1 year ago
I have never been a huge fan of, NASCAR but this book might have changed that. The time that Thompson took to give you background information on every single topic that is brought up that you might not know about. I really liked the description and back story that he included to every city and track that was mentioned. Another aspect of this book that I also liked is how the book is set up going chronologically through events jumping to multiple people and showing how they contributed to the sport or how they were an influence on it. Overall I am amazed at the amount of research and fact that are included in this book and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in NASCAR or just cars in general.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love Southern history and racing - you will enjoy this book. Well written and with much research.
WAP3rd More than 1 year ago
I have been intimately involved in NASCAR for 50 years and although the names Parks, Vogt and Byron were familiar, I never knew their stories. This book is a history lesson on more than NASCAR with relevant side-stories about Ford, moonshining, WWII and the poor depression-era South.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mxer514 More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a book that I could actually read all the way through without being bored. It definitely showed the hard work and determination needed to bring Nascar to where it is a multi-billion dollar sport today. I definitely recommend reading this book if you like stories about people who are thrill seekers. From moonshinig to racing, you will be eager to turn to the next page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago