The Daytona 500 is the first official car race of the season in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Fans of this motorsport delight in the heart racing action of man and machine coming together to test the limits of human and machine endurance. As organized and profitable as this motorsport has become it wasn’t always so. The need for speed came out of necessity and the need to keep bellies full and stay one step ahead of the law.
Overnight, the prohibition era made law abiding citizens into criminals with the passing of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which forbid the selling and consumption of alcohol. The passing of the 18th Amendment made alcohol a profitable endeavor for those who were willing to transport distilled spirits to a still thirsty nation. So with nothing to lose, some ‘good ole boys’ souped up their cars and started hauling moonshine from Virginia to Georgia. With this newfound gain, these dirt poor men were able to provide for their families but they had to stay one step in front of the law. The most famous of these moonshine runners was Junior Johnson, and NASCAR’s first class Hall of Fame inductees.
On February 21st 1948, Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR. This organization started out as a regional southern sport but now has a following throughout the United States and some international countries. Their headquarters are located in Daytona, Florida as well as 2 international offices (Mexico & Canada), two regional offices (New York & Los Angeles) and 3 satellite offices in the state of North Carolina.
This motorsport has the second most popular following in the United States sports landscape- the first is the National Football League (NFL).
Embracing the Past
NASCAR, historically, has tried to stay at arm's length from its checkered past but has now come full circle to embrace it. Without prohibition and the men who were willing to take a chance to earn money to support their families during the great depression, this motorsport would have never gotten off the ground.
Some say, that this sport is soaked through and through with moonshine. Historically, this was the case and there’s no denying that.