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

NASCAR today is a dazzling spectacle, a blend of Disney’s magic, Vegas’s glamour, and the showmanship of Barnum & Bailey. It’s a multibillion-dollar enterprise with a fan base of 80 million, half of whom are women, growing more prominent and mainstream with each passing day. Yet, beneath this modern colossus lies a shadowy past filled with secrets that are only now coming to light.

The story dates back to the Depression-era South, a time and place where options were limited to the factory or the farm, and a Ford V-8 could be the ticket to a new life. For many, bootlegging was not just a daring adventure but a lucrative business, offering both speed and significant earnings. “Driving with the Devil” delves into how the skills honed from evading federal agents with bootlegged liquor were perfectly suited to the burgeoning red-dirt racetracks of the South.

During the 1930s and ’40s, a dynamic era unfolded with three men at the forefront: Raymond Parks, a convicted felon; Red Vogt, a brash mechanic; and Red Byron, a war veteran and NASCAR’s first champion. Together, they formed the first stock car racing team, driving Ford V-8s and laying the foundation of what would become a beloved Southern sport.

This book does more than recount the birth of stock car racing; it captures the spirit of an era, similar to Laura Hillenbrand’s depiction of horse racing in “Seabiscuit.” It’s a poignant story of struggle, resilience, and the raw power of speed, illustrating how moonshine-running techniques translated into the skills needed for early stock car races. It’s a vivid portrayal of the sport’s gritty origins and a tribute to the characters who dared to redefine auto racing, setting the stage for the NASCAR we know today. This tale is a must-read for anyone captivated by the rich and often tumultuous history of American motorsport.