In fact, the sport started off with extremely inauspicious beginnings, and only later evolved into the multi-billion dollar enterprise of the 21st century. This essay examines the history of American stock car racing and considers the factors that contributed to its evolution from an event associated with bootlegging to one of the most watched sports in the United States.
Although stock car racing is more popular today the ever it can be traced back to inauspicious beginnings during the 1920s. From 1920 to 1933 the Prohibition Period made it illegal to produce, sell, and drink liquor, so a prosperous bootlegging industry developed. Many people called bootleggers would illegally run whiskey to market places often racing at high speeds to outrun the police. In an effort to increase their efficiency and limit their chances of being apprehended bootleggers began to develop enhanced, or ‘souped-up’, engines and suspensions for the cars they drove. As the faster vehicle greatly increased the chances of evading the United States Department of Justice these drivers were termed ‘moonshine runners’.1 David “Turbo” Thompson, an associate professor at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, who also raced stock cars stated, “Runners built their reputations by outsmarting and outdriving the law.”2 As much of the alcohol was produced in the Appalachian region this primarily became a southern activity. In 1933, when the prohibition ended, stock car racing was becoming very popular.
After Prohibition was repealed a great deal of the runners’ business halted, but soon many regions developed an affinity for moonshine alcohol. Moonshine running soon became a recreational activity and races along dirt roads and similar tracks began occurring throughout the southern states, most notably the Wilkes County region of North Carolina. The cars continued to improve and eventually races on Sundays were organized. A number of moonshine runners gained great acclaim,