NASCAR Hall Of Fame Highlights Sport’s Roots
Inaugural Inductee Junior Johnson donated a unique contribution to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the 150,000-square-foot interactive, entertainment attraction that opened in May 2010 in Charlotte.
Johnson, almost as famous for running moonshine as his racing career, provided the NASCAR Hall of Fame a full-size, authentic moonshine still that is displayed in the pre-NASCAR Theater of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The still, which was built by Johnson, is identical to the stills used by Johnson and his family in years past.
“The still represents many facets of the sport for the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” said Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “It helps show a key aspect of the true roots of stock car racing and NASCAR, and it displays the authenticity of the NASCAR Hall of Fame telling the breadth and depth of NASCAR’s past and present. We look forward to showing fans and non-fans all aspects of the sport, from its fascinating beginnings to the sophisticated technology used by teams today. NASCAR has thousands of vibrant stories to share, and this story is at the heart of the sport’s folklore.”
NASCAR Hall of Fame Moonshine Still
Telling these stories was a massive undertaking for the NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit team. Historian Buz McKim wass charged with uncovering hidden treasures of the sport for display in the facility, which houses more than 40,000 square feet of exhibits and has more than 50 interactive displays. Even as the exhibits were being prepared for display, more great stories were being created.
“As we prepared the artifacts for display, some presented unexpected challenges,” said McKim. “That was the case with the still. I called Junior to ask how to connect a couple of the parts of the still, and he just said he would drive down and help out. Sure enough, two hours later, Junior arrives with wrenches in hand and starts installing the still himself and offering direction to our exhibit fabrication team. Those are some of the cool moments of this job that really make you appreciate the people of this sport. Junior is a class act.”
Aside from cars and a transporter, the moonshine still is one of the largest historic items in the building. It is constructed of wood, metal and copper and features a cooker, two boilers, a dry barrel, a flake stand, condenser and strainer. The artifact will be on display in the Pre-NASCAR Theater, which tells the story of what led to the formation of NASCAR. It also highlights the history of the automobile prior to the 1948 inception of NASCAR. The Theater is on the fourth floor of the facility in Heritage Speedway, the artifact-rich area of the venue that focuses on the history of the sport.
A North Carolina native, Johnson made his first moonshine run at the age of 14. After years in the family business, he was convicted in 1956 on a charge of producing illegal liquor. He served 11 months in federal prison and years later was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan. It was the decades of running moonshine that led to Johnson’s career as a race-car driver, along with many other famous names in the sport.
Despite the colorful upbringing, it was Johnson’s illustrious racing career that earned him a place in history as one of NASCAR’s five Inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees. He won the second Daytona 500 in 1960 and was credited for the discovery of drafting on superspeedways. He won 50 races at NASCAR’s premier level before becoming a car owner. His success continued as an owner where his drivers won 132 races and six championships. Johnson also was responsible for connecting R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company executives with Bill France Jr., which led to the 33-year partnership of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, predecessor to today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
added: March 11, 2010
updated: May 12, 2010
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