Its roots may be Southern but the branches spread out across America.
Just good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm
Beats all you’ve ever saw,
Been in trouble with law
Since the day they was born
Dukes of Hazzard theme song
Bo and Luke were fun-loving, kind-hearted mountain kids sentenced to probation for transportation of unlicensed spirits. The long-running baby boomer television show based on the movie Moonrunners co-starred a 1969 Dodge Charger named “General Lee” that led corrupt local cops and other bandits in wild chase scenes.
What does this have to do with the most watched sport on American television, second only to pro football? It’s a direct descendant.
Stock car racing began during Prohibition when drivers ran bootleg whiskey, mainly in Appalachia, using souped-up smaller cars to leave the police eating dust. When Prohibition ended, it was the same old road story, this time outracing revenue agents. When not trying to beat the authorities, these good ol’ boys (and girls) would try to beat each other.
NASCAR emerged when visionary Bill France organized major racing groups into the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and began official competitions in the 1950s, mainly in the South but also in “Yankee” Pennsylvania and New York. The sport would explode when baby boomers began following it.
Most early contests were on dirt roads, driving stock (out of the showroom) cars with amateur modifications – a far cry from Northern “rich-kids” open cockpit, specialty-crafted missiles that defined the Indy 500 and European sport.
The modifications quickly turned professional with Dale Earnhardt, Richard Perry, Jeff Gordon, Carl Yarbrough as pop culture celebrities. Stock car racing became a national phenomenon and movie theme in the 1980s.
Who are the fans? “Rednecks?” The base exploded from its rural Southern base. Half the followers don’t reside in the old Confederacy. Many are white collar baby boomers. When politicians speak of “NASCAR Dads,” it’s a mainstream voter.
A man’s game? Women make up forty per cent of television viewers. Evidence suggests they’re real fans, not just “standing by their man.”
Women are behind the wheel, as well. Danica Patrick is the best known of the current 19 NASCAR female drivers.
Speed Racer coloring book
Part of the public attraction is a perception that its stars are different than the rich pampered “brats” in football, baseball and basketball. They retain their image as good ole’ boys and gals, however many millions they roll up.
› The Dukes of Hazzard theme song was a #1 hit on Billboard Magazine Hot Country Singles chart in 1980, sung by Waylon Jennings who cultivated an “outlaw image.”
› Watch Waylon wail it: Click on Dukes of Hazzard Theme Song
› At least one “General Lee” would usually be destroyed per filming. In the 7 year span of The Dukes of Hazzard, 309 different “star” cars were used.
Baby Boomers by the Numbers
Percent of total roads paved in the U.S.