Thursday, August 09, 2007

Moonshine and motors

You can't go to North Carolina without encountering NASCAR and moonshine. At least if you are lucky. Heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway I felt compelled to divert to North Wilkesboro, home to a fabled old NASCAR track. I don't come from Dixie but I've heard of the magic. We stop and ask a guy driving a beer truck how to get there - he knows exactly where to go which is fitting.
Wilkes County equals 'shine country. The former capital of bootleg whisky. We head out to the shuttered North Wilkesboro Speedway, meeting Paul Call who has been minding the place since it lost the Winston Cup dates back in 1996. Life hasn't been kind to the Speedway since. Grass is growing up through the track, NASCAR has turned its back.
All the NASCAR old-timers are grieving that it should be this way. Big money talks while the exploits of Junior Johnson fade into the past. We carry on to Kannapolis, home of the Earnhardt clan. We bump into Guy Furr over dinner who hands me a business card saying "retired bootlegger." He spent his youth running whisky from the mountains to the piedmont. We agree to meet next day where he kindly gives me a book entitled "Return to Thunder Road" and a DVD about the bootleg days, which establishes the connection between bootleg whisky and the early days of NASCAR.
Later in the tour we are at "The Rock" - North Carolina Speedway at Rockingham - a more modern facility which is still facing the kiss of death. NASCAR has carelessly discarded the past. The future is thereby cheapened.

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