It has been a long climb for NASCAR. The sport's beginnings were in bootlegging. One of its finest drivers, fiercest competitors, and most successful owners learned his craft hauling moonshine on the back roads of North Carolina. They never caught Junior Johnson on the road, but they did nail him at his daddy's still and he went off to the crossbar hotel for a stretch. Afterwards, he came back and made an honest living on tracks like Darlington and Rockingham and Daytona and was celebrated by Tom Wolf in a memorable Esquire article.

In those days, stock car racing was an outlaw sport and that was essential to its character and appeal. So it is a measure of how much things have changed that one of the tax breaks grafted onto the fiscal cliff legislation was for NASCAR so it could more rapidly depreciate the construction costs of new tacks.

The argument is that amusement parks get this break, so why not NASCAR and, anyway, it's only $70 million which is chicken feed when you are already in the hole for $16 trillion. But it is sad for a couple of reasons. Traditionalist believe that the gaudy new tracks are one of many elements leaching the soul out of racing. And, they argue, it was a better world when the government was the enemy of the boys who could do a bootlegger's turn. And now, they are collaborators.

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