Thursday Trivia


Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! 
This week’s question: What did Smokey Yunick do to give his car the edge in distance for the 1968 NASCAR series that didn’t actually break a single rule in the rule book? 
If you think you know the answer, make the jump—or for those of you on mobile, just scroll on down—and see if you’re right.
Finding an advantage in racing when the rule books try and level the playing field is a challenge. That however, has not kept competitors from trying to find that edge.
One of the most notorious rule benders (and breakers) was self-taught engineer, race car builder, and owner of the self-proclaimed “Best Damn Garage in Town,” Smokey Yunick. Sporting his signature cowboy hat with up-swept brim and ever-present pipe clenched between his teeth, Yunick became an iconic fixture in the early days of NASCAR. His skill at coaxing every last drop of power out of an engine gained Yunick praise from his drivers, and two championships over the course of his career.
It wasn’t just his skill at engineering and building racers that gained Yunick his notoriety, he also exhibited an eagerness for finding ways around the rules. We had previously talked about Yunick’s aerodynamically massaged ’66 Chevelle that NASCAR honchos banned before it could even get on the track, but that wasn’t Yunick’s grandest scheme at rule bending.

From Popular Mechanics:

…Yunick was perhaps best known for interpreting what the rule book said—or, perhaps, didn’t say. For example: In 1968, he said NASCAR specified how big a fuel tank could be, but he noticed no one said how big the fuel line could be. Instead of a half-inch fuel line, Yunick created a two-inch fuel line that was 11 feet long, and held five gallons of gas. Cheating? Not really, since nowhere did it say you couldn’t do that.

I have a good friend who was in the Air Force for a number of years and he told me that in the military, it’s always preferable to say it will never happen again than to ask for permission in the first place. Like my friend, Smokey Yunick was an aviator, having survived over 50 missions piloting B17 bombers over Europe. I wonder if that’s where he cultured his rule bending ethos? 
Image: Motorsports Hall of Fame

21 Comments

        1. It is currently out of print and a little pricey, but worth it. https://www.amazon.com/Smokey-Yunicks-Complete-Volumes-bitches/dp/B00Y6QUYLO/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496417402&sr=1-5&keywords=smokey+yunick
          I started reading it years ago, got though about 2-1/3 volumes. Still need to finish the last one.
          He literally flew around the world during WWII, started in North Africa/Europe, got transferred to India/Pacific and then home to the West coast. While stationed in Italy, he flew his bomber to North Africa for a month or so to have an affair with a nurse there. Finally came back with no consequences.

        1. Didn’t Smokey cheat with that as well? I remember there being some story about that.

          1. I remember one story about carefully steering an official to compare a car in the parking lot that he also owned!

          2. That car had also been massaged (frenched bumpers, flush glass, etc) just like the racer.

          3. I think it was something about Smokey borrowing the templates and then changing everything that the templates didn’t measure.

  1. “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper
    A quote from Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, a pioneer in computer programming. She has both a Navy destroyer and a Cray supercomputer named after her.
    For all that, it’s one of my least favorite quotes ever, since it’s frequently used as a justification for doing something obnoxious. The reasoning there places the burden of asking for an apology on the injured party, and relieves the offender of responsibility. A fine tactic when dealing with Byzantine military bureaucracy, but a cowardly cop out in real life.

  2. Didn’t Yunick put an air bladder (ballon) in a large gas tank, inflated it so during tech inspection the tank held the legal quanity of gas, then defalted the bladder before the race so that the tank could hold several more gallons of fuel? Illegal and I can’t recall if he got away with it.

    1. The basketball in the fuel tank was blatant cheating. The larger fuel line was creative interpretation of the rules. I’m enthralled with Smokey Yunick’s shenanigans, but am always more impressed with how he gained advantage while adhering to the letter of the rules than I am when he straight up cheated.

      1. Like how there was a rule preventing moving the engine in the chassis, to get the CoG closer to the inside of the turn, but nothing about moving the body on the chassis!

        1. Just that they had some sort of inflatable bladder in the tank to stretch refuelling range, blown up by the driver via a tube after the race to bring the tank to legal size.

  3. I’m reminded of Tyrrell in 1984 topping up their water injection tanks with lead shot so the car didn’t finish the race underweight…

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