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Did Bootleggers Start NASCAR?

 Bootleggers Start NASCAR In the roaring 1920s and during the prohibition era, bootlegging and moonshining were rampant practices in the United States. As the demand for illegal alcohol grew, so did the need for skilled drivers who could outrun the law enforcement officers. This intense competition led to the development of some of the fastest cars on the road, and this culture of racing eventually laid the foundation for the sport of NASCAR. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history and the potential involvement of bootleggers in the creation of NASCAR.

The Rise of Bootlegging

The Prohibition Era

The Prohibition era, which began in 1920 and lasted until 1933, saw the nationwide ban on the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. While the intention was to curb social issues related to alcohol consumption, it unintentionally gave rise to a massive illegal alcohol market.

Bootlegging and Moonshining

Bootlegging refers to the illegal production and distribution of alcoholic beverages, while moonshining specifically refers to the clandestine production of high-proof distilled spirits. These illegal activities thrived in hidden distilleries located in remote areas, away from the watchful eyes of law enforcement.

The Birth of NASCAR

The Need for Speed

To outmaneuver authorities, bootleggers required fast and agile vehicles that could navigate rough terrains and narrow escape routes. As a result, they started modifying their cars to achieve higher speeds and better handling. This competition among bootleggers to have the fastest cars gave birth to informal races.

From Dirt Tracks to Legitimate Racing

As the informal races gained popularity, they started taking place on improvised dirt tracks. Spectators were drawn to the excitement and adrenaline of watching these souped-up cars race against each other. The demand for organized racing events grew, and in 1947, NASCAR was officially founded.

The Legends of NASCAR

Many early NASCAR drivers had their roots in bootlegging. They were accustomed to the thrill of high-speed chases and had honed their driving skills while evading the law. Legendary drivers like Junior Johnson, Tim Flock, and Wendell Scott were all involved in bootlegging before transitioning into professional racing.

NASCAR’s Evolution

From Moonshiners to Corporate Sponsorships

Over the years, NASCAR evolved from its humble beginnings to a mainstream sport. The sport shed its image of being associated with illegal activities and moonshining. Corporate sponsorships, endorsements, and major broadcasting deals transformed NASCAR into a legitimate and highly professionalized sport.

The Impact of Television

The advent of television played a crucial role in NASCAR’s growth and popularity. With races broadcasted to millions of households across the nation, NASCAR became a household name. This exposure led to a surge in fan following and interest from major investors and sponsors.


In conclusion, while bootleggers might not have directly started NASCAR, their involvement in moonshining and the need for fast, skilled drivers undoubtedly contributed to the genesis of the sport. The early days of NASCAR were closely tied to its bootlegging roots, but as time passed, it shed its illicit connections and transformed into a respected and beloved motorsport.


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