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

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4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  238 Ratings  ·  49 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
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Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Crown (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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James J.
Mar 31, 2011 James J. rated it it was amazing
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
Logan
Feb 17, 2016 Logan rated it it was amazing
Driving With The Devil written by Neal Thompson, is a fascinating book that revolves around the history of stock car racing. NASCAR is a sport that has been around since the early 1900’s when Moonshine was discovered in the east. With the new popular drink’s high demand, Bootleggers (individuals who made, sold, or transported alcoholic liquor unlawfully without registration or payment of taxes) began to create vehicles that could outrun the local authorities. The spark of this treasured beverage ...more
Matt
Feb 23, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
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
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Ruth
Mar 16, 2009 Ruth rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 26, 2014 R.E. Thomas rated it really liked it
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
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Eddie Taylor
Feb 13, 2014 Eddie Taylor rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 13, 2009 OK Dad rated it it was amazing
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.
Stephen
Oh Rapid Roy that stock car boy
He's the best driver in the lan'
He say that he learned to race a stock car
By runnin' shine outta Alabam'

(Jim Croce, "Rapid Roy")

Today’s NASCAR is big business on par with the NFL, but it didn’t start out that respectable. The inventors of the sport were backwoods rebels, supplying populations with forbidden liquor. Savvy drivers and genius mechanics combined to outwit the law by night, and each other on the weekend -- but as their sport grew, it attracted big money
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Chris
Mar 19, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it
A well-written account of the deep-history behind NASCAR and stock racing: long before the purported start in 1948 was the moonshining and outlaw racing before the war. The author goes into depth into the myths and accounts of the time from the 1930s through the mid-1950s (and some discussion of what came hence, although all of that is well documented) based on newspaper articles, first-hand interviews with those who were there, pictures, and anything that could be cobbled together. They may not ...more
Bob Schmitz
Sep 01, 2014 Bob Schmitz rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
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Zack
Mar 23, 2011 Zack rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Dave
Mar 08, 2009 Dave rated it liked it
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
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Abbie
Jul 04, 2014 Abbie rated it really liked it
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
Robert Rich
Feb 22, 2016 Robert Rich rated it really liked it
An excellent account of the earliest days of stock car racing and how the sport and eventually NASCAR owes its existence to moonshining bootleggers who essentially created the first stock race cars because they were trying to make vehicles that would outrun the cops. This story isn't a secret to racing fans, but I've never seen it so carefully or thoroughly detailed as in this book. It's also a great account of the circumstances surrounding how the France family became basically the dictators an ...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.
Brian Morgan
Dec 02, 2015 Brian Morgan rated it really liked it
Great story on the origin of stock car racing and its roots in bootleggers
Sean Holland
Apr 12, 2016 Sean Holland rated it liked it
Bill France was a jerk.
Kazuki
Aug 25, 2016 Kazuki rated it it was amazing
A very good book about the origins of NASCAR. from a moonshine bootleggers to Detroit automakers
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
Pat
Jan 31, 2008 Pat rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 19, 2013 Eric Warren rated it really liked it
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.
Stephanie Hatch
Jan 12, 2016 Stephanie Hatch rated it really liked it
The early roots of anything is always very interesting. There is something to be said for looking outside the official version of a corporations history. This book and the first hand research for it came just in the nick of time too - much longer and all this rich history would have been lost. The writing is highly romanticized which is a good thing for me because I have never even seen a nascar race before (on tv or otherwise). I loved the included pictures too.
Joshua
Aug 13, 2007 Joshua rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2007
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!
Dave
Apr 09, 2012 Dave rated it it was amazing
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 now...you'll thank me later.
Ben Erwin
Jan 07, 2011 Ben Erwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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.
Aubrey
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.
Elizabeth
Jan 11, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
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."
Frank
Apr 24, 2008 Frank rated it really liked it
Shelves: nascar
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.
Sara
Feb 23, 2008 Sara rated it liked it
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.
Stacy
Jul 16, 2008 Stacy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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!
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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 Oprah.com '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
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