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Smokey Yunick: The Best Damn Mechanic NASCAR Didn't Nominate For The HoF

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Part 1:

The second group of nominees were announced for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and I was asked what I thought about Smokey Yunick not being on that list.  I am more than certain that it will be quite some time before Smokey graces a pillar in the Hall of Fame. Smokey Yunick, who wrote his sort-of edited, hard nosed, cuss filled autobiography at 75 (and a half) and was a hard nosed, brilliant, amazing engineer before car builders were called anything more than mechanics. He also was a fighter pilot, an inventor,  ... the list just goes on, really.  Smokey won’t admit that he was a cheater, and to be fair, he might honestly be the whole definition of “it ain’t cheating unless they catch you” or,  "it ain’t cheating until you’ve done it, NASCAR gets mad at you, and by the next race it is in the rule book".  Most of the tech inspection processes that you’ll see today are directly related to Smokey’s attempts to “get around” what NASCAR felt stock meant.  

Smokey was introduced, formally, into NASCAR racing when Marshall Teague offered him $200.00 to build an engine for Herb Thomas’ Hudson.  Smokey worked with Herb Thomas from 1951 through 1954.  He went on to engineer cars for some of the best drivers in NASCAR history like my favourite, Fireball Roberts.  Smokey left NASCAR in 1970, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he felt NASCAR was disregarding the safety of the drivers in favor of creating a spectacle sport.

He has a whole chapter in his one book called  “What Did You Invent Smokey?”  This list is beyond impressive. Smokey Yunick invented or improved upon more engine technology than most of the car manufacturers at the time.  The list starts out with bearings, pistons, combustion chambers, intake manifolds, oil, oil filters, carburetors, wind tunnel testing, brakes, tires, and ends with nine patents for inventions like the hot vapor engine, which you can find in the Smithsonian.

Well, this is all fine and interesting Melissa, you might be saying.  But didn’t Smokey get kicked out of racing for cheating?  Isn’t your favorite picture of him the one where he’s “hiding” behind the garage watching one of his cars on the track?  What about the time when NASCAR got so mad that his car got better fuel mileage than any other car so they took the whole fuel tank away and he still drove the car away from inspection?  How about more next week?

OK but u

ntil then check out:

Or read either: "Best Damn Garage in Town: My Life & Adventures" or "Best Damn Garage in Town: The World According to Smokey"

Fair warning, these are a real racer’s stories. There’s sex and booze and dirty words all over the place, and not one single apology for it. A great read, like sitting down with the best Uncle ever.