The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR (or, how a Bunch of Good Ol' Boys Built a Billion-dollar Industry Out of Wrecking Cars)

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Simon & Schuster, 2001 - Sports & Recreation - 331 pages
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More than half a century ago in the mountain country of the Southeast a uniquely American phenomenon had an unlikely birth. In tricked-out rides on backwater roads, hard-driving good ol' boys trucked barrels of illegal whiskey through the foothills of Appalachia, eluding at every turn the federal agents arrayed against them. For these men, their cars were not merely sources of pride -- they were instruments of survival. Once the loads had been hauled and the moonshine delivered, they did what young men who love their cars have always done: they raced 'em. Kicking up dirt at makeshift tracks throughout the South, they wrecked and rumbled their way into the forefront of American sports. The National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing is their legacy, and in T"he Wildest Ride," Joe Menzer expertly chronicles NASCAR's evolution from the dubious pastime of moonshine runners to a billion-dollar industry, strapping readers into the driver's seat for a run through stock-car racing history.

"The Wildest Ride" tells the story of NASCAR's remarkable rise under the auspices of Big Bill France from rogue outfit to corporate darling -- equal parts Southern grit and Madison Avenue spectacle -- whose television rights recently sold for an astronomical $2.8 billion. Menzer also profiles the many superstar drivers who have dominated the sport, men as unpredictable as they are fearless, including:

  • Junior Johnson, who honed his skills outrunning the feds in North Carolina and later helped broker the deal with tobacco conglomerate R.J. Reynolds that forever altered NASCAR's fate.
  • Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly, irrepressible wild men whose cars were almost as fast as their women.
  • Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison, who, along with Bobby's brother Davey, ended a hotly contested race at Daytona by trading punches in the infield.
  • "The Silver Fox," David Pearson, and "The King," Richard Petty, two legends whose bitter rivalry culminated in the most memorable finish in NASCAR history.
  • "The Intimidator," Dale Earnhardt, whose ferocious driving made him NASCAR's signature personality -- and whose tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500 was mourned by millions.

    Menzer expertly maneuvers through the tight corners and wide-open straightaways of NASCAR's history, examining the circuit's attempt to distance itself from its "redneck racin'" past without compromising its country roots. Simultaneously rollicking and intimate, rowdy and insightful, "The Wildest Ride" is a thorough and unfailingly honest account of NASCAR's amazing rise to prominence.

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    THE WILDEST RIDE: A History of NASCAR (or, How a Bunch of Good Ol' Boys Built a Billion-Dollar Industry Out of Wrecking Cars

    User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

    The chronological progression of stock car racing and its governing body, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), is examined in this anecdote-filled yet reflective account ... Read full review

    The wildest ride: a history of NASCAR (or, how a bunch of good ol' boys built a billion-dollar industry out of wrecking cars)

    User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

    There have been a number of NASCAR (North American Stock Car) histories and tell-alls over the years, but, refreshingly, Menzer sticks to history, mining the facts of the series and its rise to ... Read full review


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    About the author (2001)

    Joe Menzer is a sportswriter for The Winston-Salem Journal. His articles have appeared in The Sporting News, Inside Sports, Hoop Magazine, and Basketball Weekly. He is the author of Four Corners: How UNC, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest Made North Carolina the Center of the Basketball Universe. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife and children.

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