It's History, Like It or Not
Recently I was researching some information for an article I have been working on and one of the things that for some reason, really stood out to me was NASCAR and how Moonshine played a part in the formation of it. I know in the past few years the powers-that-be at NASCAR have tried desperately to sanitize the history of the sport, like with the 3 part mini-series they put out last year, “The History of Speed”, on CMT. Honestly, it was pitiful; it portrayed drivers as a bunch of “hillbilly rednecks” and nothing could have been farther from the truth.
When you look back at the start of NASCAR you can’t overlook one name… Raymond Parks. This name pops up anywhere you look when it comes to the early days and how NASCAR got started. And you can’t talk about Raymond Parks without talking about moonshine and two of his nephews, Lloyd Seay, and Roy Hall.
Lloyd had started driving and hauling shine at the early age of 14, just trying to make a few bucks, much like many of the moonshine haulers of the day. It was a way of making money to feed their families; it wasn’t started as a way to just go fast, it was income, and in the hills of North Georgia income was hard to come by.
Lloyd Seay was long known for his driving talent at an early age, A Georgia deputy described Seay, "He was without a doubt the best automobile driver of this time. He was absolutely fearless, and an excellent driver on those dusty, dirt roads. I caught him eight times and had to shoot his tires off every time.” it was a way of life, and most importantly, an income.
His cousin Roy Hall, who many say was the subject of the Jim Croce song “Rapid Roy, that Stock Car Boy” was a good looking young man who didn’t know fear. It was often said “he didn’t know what a brake was” in his hauling days. Roy dropped out of school at 10 and moved to Atlanta to help out his uncle, but soon paired up with Raymond Parks, running errands and soon hauling shine.
Raymond Parks owned lots of vending machines in the Atlanta area along with liquor stores and that was one of his many sources of income. Raymond Parks was always dressed to the nines, a true gentleman’s gentleman. It was Mr. Parks who often provided loans of cash to Big Bill France to fund the payouts for the races he was holding. NASCAR would not be what it is today without the legendary Raymond Parks.
1938 was a magical year, because it saw the formation of one of the first true teams in stock car racing, pairing Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay in cars owned by Raymond Parks and prepared by Red Vogt. Lloyd won his first race at Lakewood Speedway in ‘38 and it was the start of something big. At only 18-years old, he went on to win a 150 mile race at Lakewood later that year.
In 1941 Lloyd was one of “the” drivers in stock cars. Going to Daytona and running on the Beach Course he flipped his car twice in the July race there and still finished 4th. Then he headed for High Point, NC where he won, and then headed to Lakewood Speedway for the big Labor Day race there. Getting to Lakewood late, missing qualifying put him starting shotgun on the field, and 35 laps later he took the lead and battled another racing legend, Bob Flock before taking the win collecting $450.
He had just won 3 races in 15 days, but the Lakewood race would be his last. His young career cut short after being shot and killed by Woodrow Anderson after a disagreement over sugar used to make moonshine. Anderson also shot Jim Seay but he wasn’t mortally wounded and lived to tell the story. September 22, 1941 the life of a pure racer was cut short just 3 months from his 22nd birthday, over the very thing that helped boost him to prominence, moonshine. So yes, contrary to what NASCAR wants you to believe, moonshine played a huge part in the beginning. A very large part.
The beginning years were tough for France, doing everything he could to draw racers together to form a series that would propel many of them to glory, in various ways. France had a dream, and he chased it with a passion and desire that caused it to succeed. France relied on drivers and men like Parks to make it go, and go it did.
NASCAR was built on the backs of lots of legends of racing, over the years, and it pains me that they refuse to accept their own roots. NASCAR should embrace those days, and give those drivers and men the proper place they deserve in the history of the sport.
Over the years NASCAR has done all it could to distance itself from those legends of the sport, and it’s a shame. Ignoring history will not make it go away, so why not embrace it, and accept it for what it is? Only the powers-that-be can answer that. I for one, know that I will continue to preserve and promote the true history of auto racing the best I can, because it is this great and interesting history that makes the sport what it is today.