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Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR [Paperback]

Neal Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.66
Price: 9.53 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

28 Aug 2007
“Moonshiners put more time, energy, thought, and love into their cars than any racer ever will. Lose on the track and you go home. Lose with a load of whiskey and you go to jail.” —Junior Johnson, NASCAR legend and one-time whiskey runner

Today’s NASCAR is a family sport with 75 million loyal fans, which is growing bigger and more mainstream by the day. Part Disney, part Vegas, part Barnum & Bailey, NASCAR is also a multibillion-dollar business and a cultural phenomenon that transcends geography, class, and gender. But dark secrets lurk in NASCAR’s past.

Driving with the Devil uncovers for the first time the true story behind NASCAR’s distant, moonshine-fueled origins and paints a rich portrait of the colorful men who created it. Long before the sport of stock-car racing even existed, young men in the rural, Depression-wracked South had figured out that cars and speed were tickets to a better life. With few options beyond the farm or factory, the best chance of escape was running moonshine. Bootlegging offered speed, adventure, and wads of cash—if the drivers survived. Driving with the Devil is the story of bootleggers whose empires grew during Prohibition and continued to thrive well after Repeal, and of drivers who thundered down dusty back roads with moonshine deliveries, deftly outrunning federal agents. The car of choice was the Ford V-8, the hottest car of the 1930s, and ace mechanics tinkered with them until they could fly across mountain roads at 100 miles an hour.

After fighting in World War II, moonshiners transferred their skills to the rough, red-dirt racetracks of Dixie, and a national sport was born. In this dynamic era (1930s and ’40s), three men with a passion for Ford V-8s—convicted criminal Ray Parks, foul-mouthed mechanic Red Vogt, and crippled war veteran Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champion—emerged as the first stock car “team.” Theirs is the violent, poignant story of how moonshine and fast cars merged to create a new sport for the South to call its own.

Driving with the Devil is a fascinating look at the well-hidden historical connection between whiskey running and stock-car racing. NASCAR histories will tell you who led every lap of every race since the first official race in 1948. Driving with the Devil goes deeper to bring you the excitement, passion, crime, and death-defying feats of the wild, early days that NASCAR has carefully hidden from public view. In the tradition of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, this tale not only reveals a bygone era of a beloved sport, but also the character of the country at a moment in time.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (28 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400082269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400082261
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BIG BILL'S BIG STORY A SHAM? 1 May 2007
This book had me hooked from the opening pages. So much more than a book about the origins of a sport, this is the story of many peoples lives (Red Vogt, Bill France, Raymond Parks, Red Byron, Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall and others) and how they intertwined. The backdrop is the Southern inferiority complex and identity of a region who like to thumb their nose at Yankee rules. As an English NASCAR fanatic I lapped it all up but I am sure that anybody with an interest in motor sport, and/or US history will love this. The fascinating story of how Bill France more or less stole the sport right from under the noses of all the founders and made it a dictatorship, and then went on to kick all of the whiskey bootleggers out and write a different history for future consumption is just amazing. Then the irony of him spending his final days riddled with Alzheimers telephoning all of the old cronies to talk about cars and racing is touching. I am now going on to read his book about Alan Shephard - and I don't have any interest in spaceflight!

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I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this book . I could not put it down . Neal Thompson has written a sublime history of the birth of NASCAR . It is the story that modern , corporate , NASCAR would rather see airbrushed from its history . Everything is here , all the stuff they'd sooner pretend never exsisted , the moonshine runners who were the sports founding stars , the ramshackle dirt tracks , the beat-up ( but fast ) Ford V-8 Coupes and how Bill France managed to high-jack the sport . Neal Thompson even manages a fine account of illicit whisky distilling and its place in the life style of the Southern States . A delightful book from begining to end . You will loves its heroes and even feel warmly towards its villains , whether or not stock car racing has ever interested you .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  64 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gain a new apprecation for stock car racing's early days 1 Nov 2006
By Jason D. Bunch - Published on Amazon.com
Two years ago I'd never been to a race. Now I've attended four and watch every weekend. Picked this book up in order to feed my now voracious appetite for all things racing. Guess what...it filled me in on the less well-known formative years of stock car racing. For those who think the France family created stock car racing and NASCAR as well and are unwilling to bend from that view, then this book will likely upset them. On the other hand, if you're open-minded and willing to question the so-called accepted theory of NASCAR's creation being soley by Big Bill and want to know more about the shine runners who helped make the sport popular, then you'll find this book immensely entertaining. Thoroughly enjoyed the book, and felt educated, enlightened, and entertained all at the same time.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely intriguing and entertaining book! 31 Mar 2007
By C. J. Abbott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What mystifies me is that I am not a racing fan in the least but this book seemed to call to me from the library shelf. As a new resident of Georgia, coming from NY, I felt that I needed to do the "when in Rome..." thing and soldier through the book. No need to labor, as it had me in its grip from the first page. It answered all my questions about all things southern, with a vivid description of life here in the last century as well as an unbelievably human story of the men who made moonshine and how their driving skills translated well into car racing at the outset of the stock car boom. It also introduced me to a unique man, a former master bootlegger named Raymond Parks, who, while not generally a race car driver, was as responsible as anyone for NASCAR being in existence today. His deep pockets kept many drivers racing and his mechanic, a genius named Red Vogt, actually came up with the name NASCAR. That Bill France used legal maneuvering to claim the NASCAR brand for himself and his family doesnt diminish what Raymond Parks did for the sport, and even for France himself who often found himself in need of financial help from the former moonshine baron Parks. Highly highly recommended for anyone who likes a good tale well told.

A footnote--Raymond Parks still lives and works in Atlanta, owning , fittingly, a liquor store on Northside Drive. He is 93 yrs old. I stopped in to say hello the other day, and he was courteous and happy to show me all of his wonderful NASCAR and racing mementos. While slowed by age and possibly early alzheimers, he was a gentleman and I enjoyed my chat with him. Red Vogt's garage on Spring St, where the name NASCAR was coined, is still standing but is now an urban music shop. The garage door was open though, and I could see inside to where Red worked his miracles on the early Ford engines.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Details 11 Oct 2006
By R. May - Published on Amazon.com
Being a novice to Nascar I have been reading everything I can get my hands. This book, "Driving with the Devil" is "straight up". It gives so much more insight to the beginnings of Nascar than any other book I have read. Some things I didn't even know & some things surprised me, it put together pieces of my own heritage. Amazing book, I recommend it highly.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good history 29 Nov 2006
By Marshall M. Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very well-documented history of the roots of NASCAR, illuminating well- and not-so-well-known facts about its moonshining roots, pioneers in its development and the autocratic role of Bill France. While I enjoyed the story, I felt that this was a book in search of a good editor. There's a lot of repetition -- the same facts told in one place are repeated in another, while some paragraphs begin in exactly the same way, on the same page; all of which got in the way of the story, at least in my opinion. Also, some of Thompson's vernacular was incongruous with the overall tone of his narrative. I found myself editing the book while I read it, which, unfortunately, resulted in a few bumps in what should have been a relatively smoother ride. This being said, it's still a comprehensive and well-researched history of America's fastest-growing sport and, for the most part, very readable.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great tale, even for non-NASCAR fans.. 10 May 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I have never really watched more than 10 minutes of a NASCAR race; despite this. I really enjoyed this book. Based on hundreds of original interviews, the author weaves an engrossing tale of moon-shiners, swindles, and daredevils who turned a weekend hobby into a billion dollar industry.

The author tells a good story and includes just enough technical car talk to keep it authentic, without becoming a book for gear heads. The author does not rush through the book and it is not a quick read. He carefully and slowly builds the story.

I tried watching NASCAR after reading the book, and it made me long for the old days of dirt tracks, fist-fights, and $500.00 racing budgets. I would love to see today's NASCAR stars race on dirt...
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