Chat with Ed Hinton
Hinton recently took a look at the connection between moonshine and NASCAR.
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Hinton Archive: Columns
Ed Hinton (2:01 PM)
Hi, everybody. What's on your mind? Looks like moonshine is, with today's column. same here. I'm also pondering the Mauricia Grant lawsuit settlement. We'll get to moonshine in just a minute, but first some other questions that came in early.
BJ (Des Moines, IA)
Which combination would you rather have? Gordon/Everham of the 1990's, or Johnson/Knaus of today?
Ed Hinton (2:03 PM)
Mike, after a decade of prognosticating about Junior in Cup, the honest answer is, I just don't know. One would hope that a second year with Hendrick will at least get Junior into the multiple wins column. And, he showed enough consistency to make the Chase this time. Should repeat that next year. The question is, how will the 88 team fare in the Chase once it gets in? That's always the question.
Ed Hinton (2:04 PM)
Woops, I just answered a question about whether Dale Jr. was going to be a factor and will post that question now. then i'll answer the evernham vs knaus question.
do you think dale jr is gonna be a big factor in the 09 season?
Ed Hinton (2:05 PM)
Mike, See the answer I posted above. I'm a techno-idiot, and got the questions posted out of sync. But you'll see the answer. Now on to the Evernham vs. Knaus in my next answer.
Ed Hinton (2:07 PM)
I'd take the Johnson-Knaus combo of today over the Gordon-Evernham duo of the 90s, mainly because Knaus seems more settled into his job. Evernham always seemed restive and ambitious to me in the '90s. So it wasn't much of a surprise when he began to flirt with Dodge. I think Knaus is more stable with Hendrick, meaning years more dynasty. But Rick Hendrick himself made a joke at Homestead about their having to keep an eye on Chad daily, so Rick may know something about Chad's ambition that I don't. My bet is that Knaus is there for several more years, though.
justin (hillsborough nc )
hey ed.. whre do u see scott riggs driving in 09 do u see him in cup in 41 or where ..or do u see nationwide or posssibly in trucks with some good competative teams....thanks and merry CHRISTmas
Ed Hinton (2:09 PM)
I'm hearing around the hunting clubs that Bobby Labonte may end up with Ganassi, so that might affect Riggs' chances there. Everything seems fluid. In Nationwide and Trucks, Scott enters a very volatile pool of drivers right now. The trouble is finding money to run additional Nationwide and Truck teams. He who brings the bucks will get the rides. Going to be a tough year for drivers without solid, multi-year deals.
So just how disappointed were you to find out moonshine was vodka?
Ed Hinton (2:11 PM)
Very disappointed. I thought sure it had a real "corn" taste, like some sort of godawful bourbon. But looking back, I should have known that such a flavor would not as easily be masked by the cherries in cherry bounce, or the peaches in peach brandy
Ed, I have to say, you've blown my mind. Moonshine = vodka? My world has been turned upside down.
Ed Hinton (2:12 PM)
Isn't it awful? Robert Mitchum was hauling vodka in Thunder Road. Junior Johnson was hauling vodka when the feds hired Curtis Turner to try to catch him. Curtis had hauled some -- well -- vodka in his time, too.
What made you decide to look into the moonshine connection?
Ed Hinton (2:14 PM)
Will, actually I've been looking into the moonshine connection for all 35 years I've been covering NASCAR. Doubt I've ever written about Junior Johnson without referring to him as "moonshine runner turned racer." Moonshiners were the first nascar drivers, and so I've always been fascinated with the roguish nature of the crime that birthed the sport.
Did you find out how the moonshine created these days compares to the moonshine created in the back woods?
Ed Hinton (2:17 PM)
Junior's legal moonshine, distilled legally in a pristine facility, is far higher quality than original moonshine. Actually, other moonshine that's still been made in recent decades -- mainly out of loyalty to tradition rather than for profit -- has been much cleaner and purer than, say, 50 years ago. People make it for fun now. Decades ago it was all for profit, so in some areas contained poisonous lead salts because it was run through heater radiators, etc. When I was a kid in Mississippi, the feds busted the largest still ever. It had a 55,000 gallon cooker. Nasty stuff. Rats and dead dogs thrown into the mash to hasten fermentation, etc.
Are there still a lot of moonshine makers out there?
Ed Hinton (2:19 PM)
Not a lot. I hear -- just hear -- there are a handful in North Georgia with tiny stills who make it for fun, and as gifts to friends. Then occasionally you hear the same thing about a few traditionalists in the foothills of North Carolina.
Ralph (New Jersey)
why has moonshine always looked on as illegal?
Ed Hinton (2:21 PM)
It was because the distillers wouldn't pay federal tax on the liquor they made. They felt it was a farm product, not a luxury. The tradition goes all the way back to the "Whiskey Rebellion" in 1792. The feds always wanted their cut, and the moonshiners thought that was unfair.
Ted (New Jersey)
The question is, how many of the NASCAR drivers still drink moonshine?
Ed Hinton (2:22 PM)
Larry, the larger question is how many nascar drivers still drink at all -- and the answer is, very few. A light beer here and there. Jeff Gordon likes his wine. Not much hard liquor touched. Maybe some have tasted Junior's Midnight Moon just to get an idea of the taste.
ARe the stories about drivers out running the law in cars filled with moonshine as a precursor to NASCAR just legends or is there some truth to it?
Ed Hinton (2:26 PM)
There's lots of truth. Junior Johnson ran liquor from the 1940s into the '50s and was never caught on the road. revenuers tackled him at his father's still one night when he'd gone down to stoke it. But they never caught him in a car. Curtis turner ran moonshine. Lee Petty always denied it. But the late Bob Welborn, an avowed former shine runner, used to crack about whether Lee Petty ever ran shine. "All I know is," Welborn would say, "I used to take 50 gallons a week over to his house." Then Welborn would shrug and say, "I don't know -- maybe he drank it himself." The greatest moonshiner ever was Lloyd Seay in Georgia. Before there was even a NASCAR, Seay won three straight national stock car races in a two-week period. then he drove home to Dawsonville, Ga., and was shot and killed by a cousin in an argument over a load of sugar for making moonshine. Seay was 21 when he died in 1941. He would almost certainly have been nascar's first rock star.
When do teams get back into the garages? They have a short enough offseason as it is, I'm sure they want to squeeze as much down time as they can out of it.
Ed Hinton (2:28 PM)
Most will go back right after Christmas. Some are working right now, as we speak, and won't be off until this weekend. They get about a week off in the engine and body departments. To me, that's too brutal. They should get at least a month off. I'm for a shorter season that ends by Halloween and doesn't start till february.
Internet Tough Guy (Cyberspace)
Moonshine is for pansies. I love kicking the crap out of people who drink that swill.
Ed Hinton (2:31 PM)
Just had to answer that one. You must not know the shine drinkers I've known. When I was a kid, there was a guy who'd guzzle out of a shine bottle and then pick up the back end of a Chevelle all by himself. Then he'd take on all comers to fight. Finally got sent to Angola for car theft. Then stabbed another prisoner with a fork and wound up doing life in Looziana's toughest prison. Guess you haven't run into him. But, Tough Guy, maybe I missed your irony. Maybe you love whipping vodka drinkers.
How close to the $225 million do you think that suit was settled for?
Ed Hinton (2:32 PM)
Not even close. This is just a guess -- people haven'treturned my calls -- but I'm thinking low in the seven figures, maximum.
I had a few shots of moonshine once and i woke up in heaven
Ed Hinton (2:33 PM)
I had a few shots of peach brandy -- 150 proof -- once, and woke up in the other place. stayed there for a day.
Ed Hinton (2:33 PM)
How will this economy hit NASCAR?
Ed Hinton (2:35 PM)
It's already hit hard. Hundreds of jobs lost in the Charlotte area, maybe as many as 1,000 by the time the situation bottoms out. Automaker troubles may translate to no more support money from Detroit to NASCAR. But NASCAR has survived such situations before, and will again. If anything, maybe the economic crash will turn nascar back toward its leaner, meaner, free-spirited past.
gone in second round (Pittsburg)
Jess Gordon best driver of all time?...if not where do you rank him?
Ed Hinton (2:35 PM)
I'd rank him in my top five for sure. Best ever, to me? David Pearson without a doubt. Richard Petty agrees Pearson was the best ever.
Rats and dead dogs into the cooker? Are you serious? That's nasty. No wonder moonshine has such a bad reputation. That stuff must have tasted like, well, dead dogs and rats.
Ed Hinton (2:37 PM)
Rotgut moonshine all tasted about like gasoline or kerosene, according to those I know who tried it. Whatever was thrown into the mash was distilled into such a high alcohol content that all you could taste was alcohol, with an oily aftertaste.
Ed Hinton (2:38 PM)
Now you know why the older journalists and older fans are always grumbling that it ain't what it used to be.
Moonshine is vodka? NASCAR drivers that don't drink? Ed, you're really destroying my world here.
Ed Hinton (2:38 PM)
Woops. Answered before posting. See above answer to this quesiton.
Will we see some races without a full field next year?
Ed Hinton (2:40 PM)
I suspect we will. Big races such as the Daytona 500 will have full fields. But some places, such as Pocono or Dover, might fall short by a few cars. Doesn't bother me a bit, though. I've always thought 43 were too many. You can have an excellent race with 30 cars, and I doubt we'll see fewer than 35 anywhere this seasons.
Forget Jeff, how about Jimmie? has he replaced Jeff as the best driver of his generation?
Ed Hinton (2:42 PM)
grnts lawyer just called. hold
Ed Hinton (2:47 PM)
on phone with grant lawyer please hold
Ed Hinton (2:51 PM)
sorry, folks. Benedict Morelli just phone me back. He wouldn't budge on how much the settlement is for, though.
People are worried about teams in NASCAR, but perhaps that's not such a bad thing. Maybe we shouldn't have so many teams and not have 43 car fields. What do you think?
Ed Hinton (2:52 PM)
I agree with you, Roger. I think NASCAr could use a little scaling down, and getting back to basics.
Do you feel like NASCAR's image has taken a little hit the last year or two? For a few years, all I ever heard was how the sport was the fastest growing sport out there, with greater TV ratings, etc. Now, it seems like it's plateaued a bit.
Ed Hinton (2:54 PM)
I think NASCAR was too ambitious in selling itself as a growth sport in the '90s. That caused outside expectations to rise too high, and now Wall Street and other factions are disappointed. NASCAR grew in the '90s but not wildly. It tapered off in the early 2000s but not badly. Now it's slumping in attendance and sponsorship due to the economy. But this doesn't mean downfall of a sport. It just means, as you say, a plateau for a while.
Hornish Jr winning it next year? what are the odds?
Ed Hinton (2:55 PM)
Fairly slim, I'd say. With Newman gone to Stewart, Hornish won't have that close, experienced teammate to teach him more NASCAR. And NASCAR is no easy challenge for the open wheel guys, as we've seen this year.
TJ (Austin, TX)
how much harder will it be for teams that are starting out, like Tony STewart, considering the current economic climit?
Ed Hinton (2:57 PM)
Tony's already got a pretty good start on his sponsorships. But it's going to be harder on all teams that are not Hendrick, Roush or Gibbs -- with established sponsorships. Even the big ones are looking for money to fund Nationwide and Truck efforts. But I think Stewart is in better shape than most non-Big Three teams.
Craig (Cupertino, CA)
Every year my brother and I go to a race. We usually do Vegas, Fontana and even Chicago. Where should we go this year. Keep in mind it's like a mini weekend vacation for us.
Ed Hinton (2:59 PM)
I might suggest a restrictor-plate race if you haven't seen one live. Maybe Talladega or Daytona. If you don't want to deal with the Daytona 500, the 400-miler in July might be an option.
Will Kyle Busch make the chase next year?
Ed Hinton (3:00 PM)
I would think so. That team matured an awful lot with the high and low they had this year. Steve Addington has the makings of a great crew chief. He should keep 'em more consistent next year.
Steve Wayne (Eatontown)
I Love Nascar!
Ed Hinton (3:01 PM)
Steve, That's the first message from a NASCAR fan I've had in a long time that didn't complain about some aspect of the sport. So it's a great way to wind up this chat. Thank you, and happy holidays to all.