NASCAR History: The Early Days

The official founding of NASCAR dates back to 1948, after a series of meetings at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. But the actual roots of the association go further back in time and about 600 miles north of Daytona, in the Appalachian Mountains. Deep in those remote highlands, the descendants of Irish whiskey makers crafted a potent version of their ancestors’ time-honored brew, known as “white lightning.” As Prohibition was in full swing at the time, the mountain men did their work secretly, by the light of the moon. Thus they earned the nickname “moonshiners.” Of course, as with any business, creating the product was only half the story. Distribution was handled by fast-driving daredevils, who had to outrun the lawmen who waited alongside the dark, winding mountain roads. To evade capture, the moonshine runners altered their stock automobiles with an eye towards speed and maneuverability. Many of them were so adept at handling a fast-moving car that they quickly became legends, as anyone who has ever heard the name Junior Johnson knows quite well. After Prohibition’s repeal on December 5, 1933 the moonshine business took a hit, and fellows like Junior looked for other ways to apply their skills. Auto racing was gaining ground as a popular event, and the former bootleggers took to the raceways. But not all the racecar drivers in those days had such colorful pasts. One of the more law-abiding ones was Bill France. A decent racer, his real skills lay in organization and promotion. He began to sponsor races in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida. By 1947 he saw the benefits that could be gained from having a single governing association for stock car racing. He held a series of meetings with 35 other men, who represented some of the finest driving talent of the day. The conferences culminated in the founding of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing on February 21, 1948. The rest, as they say, is history.