The sport’s tradition is laced with stories of moonshine drivers.
Tyler Whetstone/USA Today Network – Tennessee
On his fourth birthday, Blake Jones received a go-cart from his father. By the time he turned 5, he was already racing it at Dumplin Valley Raceway in Kodak. It’s been in his blood ever since.
After a two-year absence, Jones returned to the track last weekend in the Iowa 250 to make his second career Xfinity Series start. He also serves as the head distiller of Tennessee XXX Moonshine, the brand spread across the hood of his No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro.
As Jones makes the transition from the moonshine business back to behind the wheel of a stock car, he realizes that it’s going to take a full commitment.
“Racing has always been what I wanted to do,” Jones said. “Everything else I’ve done leads back to racing. It takes 110 percent of your time. You’ve got to eat it, sleep it, breathe it and dream it. I’m getting to do what I love, so that makes it special.”
Leading the charge at Tennessee XXX Moonshine has made him appreciate racing much more. The distillery has two locations, one in Wears Valley and its newest building is in Pigeon Forge, the go-to spot for tourists.
At some point, every flavor of liquor has to pass through Jones for approval before it hits the shelves. As far as the process goes, everything that comes off the steel is made 100 proof, whether they put it in their flavors or whether they bottle it as straight moonshine or corn whisky.
Blake Jones is excited to be making the switch from his current full-time job as head distiller at Tennessee XXX Moonshine, located in Sevierville, Tenn., to getting back behind the wheel of a stock car competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. (Photo: Michael Curtis, Knoxville News Sentinel)
Although he’ll be taking a break from his duties in East Tennessee, his favorite part of the moonshine business is his relationship with his customers.”
“The Moonshiners TV show sparked a lot of people’s interest in how moonshine is made,” Jones said on his interaction with customers. “We do free distillery tours so when we get to take somebody through that’s really interested in how moonshine is made, just that connection is really special and fun.”
Jones will compete on Saturday in the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway and next weekend at Daytona International Speedway in the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250.
His Xfinity Series debut came in 2016 at Kentucky Speedway. In the same year, he won the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200, the brightest moment of his career. However, Jones placed 27th out of 40 racers in Iowa last weekend.
“I think it went rather well,” Jones said of his performance. “We completed all of the laps, which was our main goal. We’ll try to make some improvements in Chicago to come out with a better finish.”
The speed and adrenaline rush of competing is his favorite part of racing. He even compared it to the likes of a drug, “Once you’ve had it, you can’t get away from it.”
For the first time, Jones feels a sense of clarity because he appears to be where he belongs.
“The biggest thing is to never give up,” Jones said. “We’ve been beaten down a lot. Had a lot of doors close, but a lot of doors always seem to open back. I’m a firm believer that God will never put a dream in your heart that he doesn’t give you the tools you need to fulfill it. Always keep your faith and you’ll be there one day.”