The History Of NASCAR Explained

For longer than most of us have been alive, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (or NASCAR, to its friends) has been rattling the ground beneath Daytona, doing their damndest to make up for all those left turns that UPS trucks aren't allowed to make. To outsiders, the practice might seem like a given, with little ever changing about the sport and its culture — cars go fast, cars get loud, people enjoy things that are fast and loud. Boom, the invention of a multibillion dollar franchise, explained.

In reality, the genesis of NASCAR was a little more complicated than that. It all came down to two things. The first was booze. The second was people who liked booze enough to risk exploding in a ball of 151-proof glory.

According to History, it all started during Prohibition. With the Great Depression in full swing, the good people of the Appalachian region were in dire need of a quick buck and a stiff drink, and many of them turned to moonshining as a way to get both. The problem, as any red-blooded Duke boy could tell you, was steering clear of a dad-gummed mess of corn shuckin' trouble with that rascally Sheriff while transporting their goods from point A to point B. The answer, it seems, was to make fast, maneuverable cars, capable of outrunning Johnny Law.

Who wants to go fast?

As the 1930s continued, bootleggers started racing one another at fairgrounds and tracks, and the public was eager to watch. In 1938, around 20,000 fans showed up to witness Lloyd Seay take first place at the Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta.

Progress towards a standardized racing league was slowed by the onset of World War II, but by 1947, things were back in full swing. In December of that year, a stock car enthusiast named Bill France organized a meeting between the country's top racers, owners, and mechanics. Rules were put in place, and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was officially founded the following February.

Since its inception, NASCAR has become one of the most popular and lucrative sports on American airwaves. It's come a long way from its start as a way to outrun the authorities, with NBC Sports reporting that in 2018, the top eight most successful racing teams were worth an average of $158 million apiece. That's a lot of moonshine. Now, the organization has boldly stepped into a brighter future by announcing it will ban the Confederate flag from all future races. It may sound like a no-brainer, but for a sport whose culture is steeped in Southern lore and all its accoutrements, for better and for worse, it's a big deal — and something worth swigging 151-proof liquor about.