NASCAR's Very Sophisticated Good Old Boys

Daytona Beach, Florida in February is known for it’s world famous SPEED WEEK, with a series of races that initiates the years professional “Stock Car Racing Season.” Several racing teams “crew chiefs” were suspended for trying to gain a competitve edge by trying to game NASCAR’s strict rulebook that is meant to ensure each racing team has a fair chance at the “Finish Line”, was the most talked about subject in the area’s many restaurants.

Daytona Beach is located on the Atlantic Coast, the far eastern edge of a patchwork of cities and counties that make up “Central Florida.” Orlando, which is Central Florida’s Keystone City, and where most visitors to the area end up staying, because every hotel and motel in Daytona Beach is booked solid in January and February leading up to SPEED WEEK.

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, legend has it that the backroads of the south were used by transporters of “White Lightning” , whiskey made in unlicensed (and most importantly-untaxed) stills in the backwoods under the light of the moon (thus the name “Moonshine Whiskey”) to deliver their illicit product to their customers, bars in the cities and roadhouses on the edge of towns.

The cars used as “tankers” were mostly late forties Ford models because they were powered by the legendary “Flat Head V8”, the hood symbol reminecent of a cattle brand in the American “Old West”: a numeral “8” nestled in the elongated arms of a capital letter “V”. That particular Ford engine was favored because of many years service as a truck engine left thousands of them to be used to power ” racecars (cars “stripped-down” of the back seat, insulation in the doors and radios to save weight) that met-up on deserted back roads for challenge races.

An innovative mechanic figured out that adding another “carburetor” (the first fuel injection on a production car didn’t occur until 1957) would enable the flathead Ford V8 to intake more fuel and oxygen per engine revolution thus increasing the power transmitted through the drivetrain to the rear wheels, multplying the amount of work done: making the lightened street racer go faster, or a moonshine tanker to carry a hundred gallons of liquid gold at a higher speed around the mountain roads, faster than the “Revenuers” family sedans (Federal Government agents seeking to tax the alcohol and put the distillers and drivers in federal prison.)

So the era of the homemade Hotrod was born. As the mechanics became more adept at modifying the engines with parts from other makes of cars they started fabricating major components of the fuel and exhaust systems from “scratch” and an industry developed around their garages.

When an unused horse track was rented, admission could be charged and Sunday afternoons would be forever filled with roaring exhausts as various variations of “Flat Track ” racing evolved. From this humble beginning the modern NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series developed over the next three decades into an industry that spans our nation and creates employment, directly and indirectly for hundreds of thousands of north Americans, at the automobile manufacturer’s assembly plants and at independent suppliers of everthing from fuel cells to brake pads.

Speed Week in Daytona Beach, Florida requires two months of intenseive preparation for the Daytona 500 Mile Race at the Daytona International Speedway. The racecars must be setup and the suspensions tuned for the particular conditions that triple-digit-speeds require on the banked turns of the Super Speedway, so as the weeks go by of testing the cars and modifying them to improve the results on the track there is time for after hours comparing of notes at Daytona Beach’s many restaurants.

Some nights the notes compared are grace notes of the flavors and aromas of the wines produced by NASCAR driver’s and racing team owner’s. The southeastern United States population has been known to prefer beer and bourbon, but more NASCAR fans are making different choices, a big influence:

Richard Childress is one of the winningest NASCAR racing team owners. His current cars: Numbers 2, 21, 29 and 31 are being run in the tradition of Dale Earnhardt’s car, number 3 who drove for Childress for many winning seasons, and the RCR Racing Collector’s Edition of wines bear those numbers on their labels

Now his Childress Vineyards is the at the entrance to the Yadkin Valley Viticultural Area, North Carolina’s federally recognized region for the development of a wine industry in the southeastern United States. The varieties of grapes that are being developed are chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, merlot, cabernet savignon, cabernet franc and Syrah.

As you can see those varities originated in the widely distributed winegrowing regions of europe so the viticulturist at Childress Vineyards is expermenting with the various vines to determine what grapes will yield the best wine when grown in the humid climate of North Carolina.

Richard Childress Racing’s 29 Chevrolet driven by Kevin Harvick won the 2007 Daytona 500 mile race with a run from the pack to pass front runner Mark Martin in the 01 Chevrolet. Kevin Harvick started the race from the number 34 position and he managed to drive through a series of multiple wrecks and yellow flags to be in position to make the break for the photo finish win.

Randy Lynch owns a race car team, The Bennet Lane Race Team. That is named after the winery he bought in Calistoga, California which is located in the traditional wine growing region The Napa Valley. The Bennet Lane Maximus Cabernet has flavors and aromas of blackberry. The Napa Valley has a hundred years of experience growing wines and the Univerisity of California at Davis has a department that Randy Lynch can contact for information on growing the Cabernet grapes that the section of valley that Bennet Lane is located in is best suited to producing fine Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Randy Lewis another former NASCAR driver and his Lewis Cellers are also located in the Napa Valley and produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines.

As NASCAR drivers have achieved success on the racing circuit and the money invoved has grown over the years, especially with the NEXTELL Cup Series generating more interest in NASCAR racing among Americans, there will be more drivers investing in businesses not usually associated with stockcar racing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.