Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fan of NASCAR? No? You might become one after reading this.

NASCAR is big in US: only NFL holds more TV viewers. NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Two key words are Stock and Racing. Stock means that cars look (yes, just look) like regular cars that we all drive everyday. And racing means just that - who gets to finish first. The most fascinating fact about NASCAR for me is that stock car racing originates from very interesting but not so bright period in US history - Prohibition.

Everyone knows that Prohibition gave us organized crime, but NASCAR? Yes, if not for love for booze and Volstead Act with the Eighteenth Amendment it implemented, we may never had NASCAR at all. With illegal trade in booze during Prohibition bootlegging flourished. While northern states had access to Canada southern states relied on their own illegal production. Such productions (moonshine stills) would be often placed in remote hidden locations. Bootleggers had to transport moonshine from there. With police and agencies are after them bootleggers became very good drivers who could outrun police cars.

But getting in a race with police was the last resort. Best way to avoid unnecessary attention was driving regular cars retrofitted for speed, handling and cargo capacity. They required a lot of skill to drive them as well. Even after Prohibition was repealed in 1933 with ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment bootlegging still flourished among moonshiners to evade revenue collectors.

During these years car drivers came to love their cars and style of driving and began staging car races. They became popular in the rural Southern United States in 20s and 30s. After World War II ended and car racing was possible again NASCAR was formed in 1948.

The Lawless Years of Prohibition