The 20 Most Secretly Brilliant Stupid Criminals

#19. A Moonshine Runner Becomes NASCAR Star

Like disco, moonshine is one of those products that made a whole lot of sense during a very specific period of time, and then hung around once it no longer made sense because people remembered when it used to be a good idea. Junior Johnson grew up in North Carolina after prohibition had been lifted, but before people realized that being a drug dealer isn't profitable when the drug you sell is legal.

He made a name for himself in the thankless task of crap-tasting alcohol delivery truck driver. And he took this ridiculous, dying job extremely seriously. He is credited as never having been caught while making a delivery, probably thanks to his ability to jump rivers by ramping off bales of hay.

Oh, and he invented the "bootleg turn," which is a move that has been used in every car chase in the history of ever.


Some people voted to call it the "twirling Johnson" but were overruled.

He would also deck out his car with fake police lights and a siren, which he would turn on when approaching road blocks so the police would mistake him for one of their own and let him pass. He was eventually caught working on his father's moonshine still and arrested, serving 11 months of a two-year sentence.

Unfortunately, companies like Wild Turkey and Vodka brand Vodka were soon boxing moonshiners out of the "cheap and wildly unpleasant liquor" market. Johnson soon found himself with a job description that essentially amounted to "real life Dukes of Hazzard" before anyone knew why they should be impressed by that.

The Secretly Brilliant:

Junior became a NASCAR driver and wound up becoming one of the first real superstars of the sport. He competed in 313 races over the course of 13 years, winning 50 of them and finishing in the top 10 of the rest, presumably imagining red and blue lights chasing him the whole time.


"Wait, I don't have to have 13 cases of liquor in the back?"

Junior retired and is currently the third winningest NASCAR driver there is, with 139 victories to his name. So, smuggling booze earned him less than a year in jail, a profitable career as a race-car driver, an even more profitable career as an owner and a 278-acre estate. Please note these results are not typical for most celebrity drug smugglers.

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