Unraveling NASCAR’S Moonshine Magic of North Wilkesboro

Workers at North Wilkesboro Speedway uncovered a mysterious cavity under the grandstand, evoking NASCAR’s moonshining roots and sparking excitement about the sport’s colorful history

Foundation repair begins on frontstretch grandstands where there was thought to believe underground moonshine cave at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina. @NWBSpeedway

Picture this: It’s a regular Tuesday morning at North Wilkesboro Speedway, nestled in the North Carolina foothills. The air hums with the buzz of leaf blowers as workers prepare the track for the upcoming NASCAR All-Star Race. Then, suddenly, the hum stops. A giant crack in the grandstand reveals a hidden cavity big enough to fit a Ford truck. For Steve Swift and his crew, this wasn’t just a problem – it was an adventure straight out of “Indiana Jones.”

Swift, who oversees operations at Speedway Motorsports Inc., thought it might be a sinkhole. Instead, he found something way cooler: a man-made structure. Could it be a secret moonshine cave? The discovery sparked excitement and speculation, hearkening back to the days when NASCAR and moonshine were as inseparable as peanut butter and jelly.

Take a ride into moonshiner history

Located in the foothills of North Carolina, North Wilkesboro Speedway has a rich history dating back to the Prohibition era. Scottish-Irish immigrants settled in the region, bringing their whiskey distilling traditions with them. The local terrain, perfect for growing ingredients and hiding distilleries, became a hotspot for illegal moonshine production.

Back in the day, moonshiners made a tidy profit from their illicit trade. A single load of 22 cases of moonshine could net about $110, which is nearly $1,300 in today’s money. To transport the alcohol, bootleggers used Ford sedans, not the ordinary ones, but cars retrofitted with high-powered Indy 500 engines and custom spring suspensions. These modifications allowed the runners to outmaneuver law enforcement on twisty mountain roads, even when their trunks were loaded with hundreds of pounds of liquor sloshing around in mason jars and jugs.

1940 Ford sedan, vintage moonshine runner cars

You see, North Wilkesboro isn’t just any racetrack. It’s a living monument to the wild origins of NASCAR, where bootleggers raced their souped-up cars through winding mountain roads to evade the law. These daredevil runs laid the groundwork for stock car racing. Junior Johnson, a local legend, grew up in this world. His family was so deep into moonshining that federal agents once found over 7,000 cases of illegal alcohol hidden all over their house.

Uncovering the moonshine cave

So, when Swift’s crew unearthed this mysterious cavity, it felt like a portal to racing’s rebellious past. Imagine the thrill of standing in a place where moonshiners might have stashed their contraband, right under the noses of race fans.

X post from North Wilkesboro Speedway @NWBSpeedway describing the sinkhole found before NASCAR All-Star Race

Despite the Indiana Jones vibes, the team found no treasure. Just dirt and an old structure. But that didn’t dampen the excitement. Swift’s crew, feeling more like archaeologists than construction workers, carefully examined every inch before filling it with concrete and restoring the grandstand.

Heading into NASCAR’s All-Star Race this weekend

Naysayers might call it a publicity stunt, but for NASCAR aficionados, it’s a nod to the sport’s colorful history. This weekend, fans attending the All-Star Race can reflect on this history while enjoying legal moonshine from the speedway’s concession stands, a nod to the sport’s colorful past.

Richard Petty, who holds the record for the most wins at North Wilkesboro (15 wins), summed it up perfectly: “If there was moonshine down there, someone either drank it or sold it. But it sure is fun to think about.”

So, whether you’re a history buff, a racing fan, or just someone who loves a good car story, North Wilkesboro Speedway is where the past and present collide in the most thrilling way possible. And who knows? Maybe there’s still a secret or two waiting to be uncovered. As the legend of North Wilkesboro continues, the speedway remains a testament to NASCAR’s thrilling roots and adventurous spirit. Cheers to that!

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