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

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  203 ratings  ·  41 reviews
“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 Ve
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Broadway Books (first published 2006)
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James J.
Born in and raised around NASCAR, I never really paid attention to the sport. Listening to the automotive podcast Car Stuff, the hosts covered the topic of moonshine runners and read a short excerpt from this book. The wild stories of revenue agents versus bootleggers made me intensely interested in reading the entire book. Neal Thompson has an ability to make potentially dry historical narratives entertaining. The figures described in the book bought my empathy. I even developed some favorite d ...more
I know almost as little about NASCAR as you can-- like, I didn't really understand that the Indy 500 wasn't a NASCAR thing. That said, this book did an awful lot to help me get a handle on NASCAR's history and the way it dovetails with Southern culture.

Mostly, this is a funny and distinct story, told well. I think there are moments when Thompson leans too hard on his Scots-Irish anti-authoritarian thing, and by moments, I mean every time he brings that up as an explanation for anything. But the
This book transformed me into a lover of NASCAR’s history if not NASCAR. Neal has a wonderful ability to make the reader feel inside the story and to begin cheering for the people he describes. My hero was Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champ and a veteran of WWII who was in constant pain from a war injury to his leg. I also enjoyed reading about how moonshiners learned to race as they sped away from the police, about why people became moonshiners, and why people wanted to drink this illegal fluid.
R.E. Thomas
Car racing and moonshine are as Southern as fried chicken and sweet tea, and one of the things the corporate suits who run NASCAR are eager to forget is how not just their sport of stock car racing, but their very own racing organization is based squarely on a foundation of moonshining and bootlegging. Just in case anyone does, Neal Thompson’s Driving With The Devil will serve as a reminder, every bit as bracing as a belt of sweet white lightning.

Driving With The Devil relates the story of how a
Eddie Taylor
Feb 13, 2014 Eddie Taylor rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NASCAR fans, history, Southern history
When I saw the title of this book it realty interested me. So I got it and started reading. However, reading the introduction and learning that the author was Yankee had me wondering. There was a part of me that wanted to put the book down at that point. That is like me, a southerner, writing about Hockey. However, my OCD with books is once I start one I have to finish it. And I am glad I didn’t put this book down as that is the difference between me and Neal Thompson is he is a great writer. Ev ...more
OK Dad
Great read, and I'm not even a fan of NASCAR. In fact, after reading this, I'm less a fan of NASCAR than I ever was but a huge fan of what Stock Car racing was before NASCAR came along.

These boys were the real deal. Make even Dale Sr. look like a wuss.
Bob Schmitz
Great book about the origins of NASCAR in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia, from the winding, dirt, unbanked mountain roads of Appalachia where revenue agents could not catch the young kids in their hopped-up Fords, to dirt tracks around Atlanta to the sands of Daytona beach. From the hard living criminals who raced around tracks and tried to stay out of jail to the slick business men who now make millions.

Henry Ford felt that cars should be driven slow but realized that fast cars we
Phew, this is a manly dang book. Drinkin' and drivin' and bootleggin' and shootin' and crashin' and all kinds of whatnot. Thompson's research is extensive and casts a very wide net, perhaps wider than you might think necessary: the backstory includes a profile of the "Scotch-Irish" ethnic group in the South as well as a history of whiskey. There is no doubt that this is a very well-researched book, and there's a lot of interesting things to learn. I would like Mr. Thompson to know, though, that ...more
So far so good. It is a real interesting history on the south of the US and how many illegal activities lent themselves to start Racing and NASCAR. Largely written in a story form and almost thoird person omniscient narrative- on what should be fact driven history. that's wierd.
also as far as this guy's take on the development of racing in the USA,, he lends little to the open wheel, early board track racers influence on why any one goes oval racing at all, infact racing being well established i
The kind of non-fiction useful for fulfilling CCSS requirements, Driving with the Devil reads with the competitive thrill of racing incorporating themes of Americana- defiance,independence, and justice in extrapolating the history of NASCAR against the background of US history from Prohibition to the present. While I was familiar with a lot of the premise and some of the names from stories Pat<3 would tell, Thompson illustrates how NASCAR is part of the fabric of modern America from innovatio ...more
John C. Kohl
Great stories of the roots of NASCAR!!!

Brought back names and memories of growing up around the dirt track in my home town. Especially the photos of the "original"stock cars.
Nick Hylands-white
I haven't finished. I just got bored. This book certainly doesn't lack in detail, however there's only so many times you can read about someone winning a race, getting arrested, getting drunk, or possibly all three at once. The timeline was way too short for a book of this length, it covers about 20yrs, in which not a great deal happened. I like Nascar, a lot, but there wasn't enough about racing in this book for me, the author was all about the characters, good for him, shame the characters wer ...more
Thompson captures the history behind the origins of Nascar in an engaging voice; much in the way "Seabiscuit" brought the reader into that era and sport. I have become a race fan because of my husband and already knew of the origins of the sport but this book brought a fresh look at the people, cars, and historical and socialogical influences that culminated in the creation of what would evolve into the fastest growing sport in the country. You don't have to be a race fan to enjoy this book.
Eric Warren
Faulkner said, "You can't understand it. You would have to be born there."
If you weren't born moonshining, you can simply read Neal Thompson's "Driving with the Devil" to understand the birth of NASCAR.
Thompson sets himself up at the beginning as an outside looking in, but throughout the book it becomes clear that he's delved deeper into the early, "outlaw" days of the sport than most. He then describes the rowdy early days clearly and with the forward momentum of a good novel.
This is about the early history of Nascar in the '30s and '40s--lots of dirt tracks, drivers who also run moonshine in the South, wild and wooly events. The moonshine stuff and the stories of the drivers I liked--but at times this concentrated too much on "gear head" kind of talk regarding engines and cars that I just wasn't interested in that much. But I'm not a car person at all...Probably the ONLY thing I ever read remotely connected to Nascar!
I absolutely loved it. This is a MUST READ for fans of NASCAR or those who just enjoy American History. It is not just about racing--it is about the culture that surrounded its birth and growth. The author really did his homework on this one, and my friends know I am very particular about recommending history books. Start reading it'll thank me later.
Ben Erwin
A fascinating look into some of the lesser-known origins of stock car racing and what would become NASCAR. Especially interesting for those in Georgia; the sport's ties to North Carolina and Daytona are pretty widely known, but Georgia had a pretty large role in the development of stock car racing and the men who made it possible.
I found Thompson's account of the men who made stock car racing well researched, well written, extremely engaging, and over far too quickly. The book is packed cover to cover with the sort of larger-than-life characters one only finds in Prohibition/Depression era America. Highly recommended, and not just for NASCAR fans.
The information was fascinating, but the writing wasn't fantastic. I think someone taught him about foreshadowing but forgot to tell him to use it in moderation. Every single section ended with something like, "Little did he know that that would be his last race."
Tim gave me this book for my birthday. Ok, it's about the origins of NASCAR, but that and much more. It goes pre-moonshine, the the immigration of the Irish into the hills of the Carolina's. All I could say is wow! What an excellent read.
I found the history of NASCAR fascinating, but the intense detail on the workings and building of the cars kinda lost me. But the stories about individual drivers and how it all started was fascinating.
A fun and humorous look at the roots of NASCAR. Its not a history of the sport (who won what race and such) but a look at the culture, events and people that brought about the greatest sport in the world!
Stanley Cramer
By far and away the best NASCAR / racing book I ever read and among the best sports books as well. In many ways pure Americana, this books breaths life into the many "characters" who built NASCAR.
And you thought it was a rumor that Moonshine started Nascar! Fascinating look at the birth of a sport that has grown from a Southern institution to a national phenomenon.
I read this book a few years ago and really love this book. It made me understand the history of how NASCAR got it start and the men and women racing & hauling moonshine.
If you are a Nascar fan, this is a must read. If like me, you just enjoy history, this is a pretty good book about a long forgotten (and rewritten) piece of history
The Scot-Irish origins of moonshine and eventually NASCAR from the turn of the century. It's a bit more sophisticated than you might think. The 20th Century cowboys.
Barb Radmore
This was a fascinating book, It would appeal to all NASCAR fans but also to history buffs, biography lovers or anyone who enjoys engrossing nonfiction
Informative and a lot of good history, but my brother was right on when he said the author's style reminded him of beer commercials and movie trailers.
I'm a car guy,and a good friend recently gave me a copy.............very interesting read for those seeking info on the start of NASCAR.
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Veteran journalist and author of four books, most recently A CURIOUS MAN, a bio of eccentric world-traveling millionaire/playboy cartoonist Robert 'Believe It or Not' Ripley.
A CURIOUS MAN was featured on The Daily Show, on NPR, was a Vanity Fair Hot Type pick, an 'Book of the Week,' an Amazon Best of the Month, and much more. Here's what Ben Fountain had to say about A CURIOUS MAN (on NP
More about Neal Thompson...
A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First Spaceman Hurricane Season: A Coach, His Team, and Their Triumph in the Time of Katrina Mother Om: Connect with yourself and your child in one mindful moment a day

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