Top-5s: 75 things for NASCAR’s 75th anniversary

We’re closing in on the ultimate handful of weeks of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Collection season, the inventory automotive collection’ seventy fifth anniversary marketing campaign. To rejoice, every week via the tip of the season, Ryan McGee is presenting his prime 5 favourite issues in regards to the sport.

Prime 5 best-looking vehicles? Test. Prime 5 hardest drivers? We have it. Prime 5 mustaches? There will be just one, so perhaps not.

With out additional ado, our 75 favourite issues about NASCAR, celebrating 75 years of inventory automotive racing.

Earlier installments: Hardest drivers | Best races | Greatest title fights | Greatest-looking vehicles | Worst-looking vehicles

5 greatest cheaters

We’re not fairly to the midway level of our collection of NASCAR 75 top-five biggest lists, however we are able to see the crossed flags off within the distance … or wait … is {that a} black flag telling us to drag into the pits and serve a penalty? As a result of after taking a look at drivers, races and vehicles, it is time to flip the microscope on those that labored tirelessly to enter these drivers and vehicles into races by sneaking issues previous NASCAR tech inspectors. The crew chiefs and engineers who lived their racing lives within the grey space of the rulebook.

Yeah, I will say it. Cheaters. However once I say “cheaters,” perceive what the paddock already does, which you can’t apply a stick-and-ball definition of “cheater” (see: Patriots, Astros, and so on.) to a racer.

The best NASCAR groups and mechanics put on that title as a badge of honor. Certain, getting caught would possibly result in fines and penalties and embarrassment, however these are all short-term. The storage glory comes within the winks and nods and pats on the again from rivals as they are saying, “Dude, option to push the boundaries. I want I had considered that!”

So, seize a bottle of tire softener and a can of nitrous disguised as a fireplace extinguisher and skim forward as we current our top-five biggest cheaters in NASCAR historical past.

Honorable point out: Glenn Dunnaway

Poor Dunnaway went from historic hero to timeless goat within the matter of 1 postrace inspection — the very first postrace inspection in NASCAR Cup Collection historical past.

It was June 19, 1949, and the 1-year-old sanctioning physique was holding the primary Strictly Inventory occasion, the collection that turned what we now know as Cup, on a three-quarter-mile filth observe situated simply throughout the street from the present location of the huge worldwide airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dunnaway, of close by Gastonia, received the occasion by a full three laps, however inspectors dominated that his 1947 Ford was working illegally spaced rear springs, also called “moonshiner springs,” that violated the principles of being a straight-off-the-street inventory automotive.

Dunnaway and automotive proprietor Hubert Westmoreland — who had certainly made a moonshine run in that very automotive the night time earlier than — had been stripped of the victory, and it was given to Jim Roper, whose title stays etched within the NASCAR historical past books as its first Cup Collection winner. For all the story, together with the lawsuit that adopted, learn this piece from 2019, the seventieth anniversary of the race.

5. Chad Knaus

The oldest saying in NASCAR goes: “In case you ain’t dishonest, you ain’t profitable.” The NASCAR Corridor of Fame is filled with racers who lived by that mantra, together with the crew chief who was elected to the Corridor earlier this month.

Knaus, who received 81 races and 7 championships atop Jimmie Johnson’s pit field was (and nonetheless is) infamous for outworking and outsmarting his competitors on the observe and the tech inspectors within the storage. There’s a advantageous line between innovation and rule breaking, and Knaus straddled that grey space like a Flying Wallenda tightroping throughout the Grand Canyon.

Nonetheless, he was suspended 4 occasions for 4 very completely different guidelines violations (he received again a type of by way of enchantment) and was hit with a pair of $100,000 fines. In typical Knaus style, his group responded to essentially the most notorious of these violations — busted for making an unlawful adjustment to the rear window throughout 2006 Daytona 500 qualifying — by profitable that 500 in addition to two of the primary three races whereas he was sitting again on the Hendrick Motorsports store.

4. Ray Evernham

In case you had been questioning from whom Knaus discovered his playbook … effectively, right here you go. Evernham rewrote extra pages of the NASCAR rulebook than the individuals who really wrote it.

No joke, when he turned the crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports wunderkind Jeff Gordon in 1992, that rulebook wasn’t thicker than a pamphlet with a staple holding it collectively. A decade and a half later, when he completed his tenure as a group proprietor, that guide was thick and sure prefer it was prepared for a shelf at Barnes & Noble.

Because the No. 24 Chevy piled up wins and championships, Evernham and Gordon had been so dominant that their competitors began incessantly violating the unwritten don’t-air-dirty-laundry-in-public code and accused Evernham of dishonest with every thing from suspension elements to “unique metals” to Jack Roush’s epic 1998 tirade on tire soaking, aka “Tiregate.”

Evernham’s Mona Lisa was the “T-Rex” Chevy particularly constructed to push the boundaries of the rulebook grey areas that was rolled out for the 1997 NASCAR All-Star Race. Gordon crushed the sphere. Afterward, NASCAR was so befuddled by the one way or the other technically authorized automotive that it advised Evernham to by no means deliver it again to the racetrack once more.

3. Michael Waltrip Racing

First off, there was by no means a group of dudes working in a single race store this century that you’d have quite had beers with. Secondly, MWR received seven races and 14 poles throughout roughly 14 seasons in Cup, throughout which additionally they acted as Toyota’s first flagship program.

Sadly, that tenure began with a weird controversy throughout 2007 Daytona 500 qualifying when the MWR vehicles had been caught with an unlawful additive hidden within the gasoline traces. The “rocket juice” was so blatant you could possibly scent it because the Camrys rolled by within the storage after their qualifying runs. Later that 12 months, Roush (I sense a theme right here) accused MWR of stealing sway bars from his storage.

Then MWR was successfully ended at Richmond in 2013, when Clint Bowyer spun his automotive on goal and Brian Vickers was advised to pit, all to control the result of the regular-season finale and assist teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the Chase postseason discipline. The fallout was essentially the most embarrassing in-race incident in NASCAR historical past and resulted in a report $300,000 advantageous, the elimination of Truex from the Chase and an exit stage left by sponsor NAPA. Lower than two years later, MWR was out of enterprise.

2. Gary Nelson

Talking of the Waltrips, here is a man who was calling the pictures for Darrell Waltrip’s first large Cup wins at DiGard Racing and received Daytona 500s with Geoff Bodine and Bobby Allison, in addition to the 1983 title with Allison.

He additionally turned identified for his not-so-legal improvements. These included the transfer referred to as “bombs away,” when Nelson would fill the automotive’s roll cage with ball bearings and buckshot so his vehicles would make minimal weight throughout inspection, however through the race he would sign his driver to drag a hidden lever, opening a trapdoor and dumping the 300 kilos of metallic balls into the infield grass. Recalled Nelson’s final group boss, Felix Sabates: “I might see folks after a race at Martinsville strolling via the grass and tripping over these little balls, pondering, ‘The place the hell did these come from?!'”

How nice was Nelson at bending guidelines? When legendary NASCAR technical director Dick Beaty retired in 1993, he employed Nelson as his alternative as a result of “Gary was the man who drove me nuts, however he additionally is aware of how everybody else drove me nuts, too.”

1. Smokey Yunick

Y’all can debate all day and night time about whether or not we get among the No. 1s on these NASCAR 75 lists appropriate, however not this one. Henry “Smokey” Yunick is the best mechanic who ever constructed a race automotive, and his vehicles handled rulebooks like they had been merely an inventory of ideas.

Yunick as soon as introduced a Chevelle to the racetrack that was constructed to seven-eighths scale to slide via the air sooner. He stuffed roll cages with additional gasoline. He inflated a basketball in an outsized gasoline tank to make it appear authorized when examined, then deflated it to make room for extra fuel through the race.

Indignant officers as soon as pulled one in all his vehicles aside, together with yanking the gasoline cell out of the automotive utterly and setting it on the bottom, and handed him an inventory of 9 objects he wanted to repair earlier than he might race. He handed the record again, saying, “That needs to be 10 issues,” and was one way or the other nonetheless capable of crank it up and drive away. When those self same officers later cornered him, demanding to understand how he was capable of cheat on gasoline, he famously replied, “I do not know what you are speaking about, but when I did, I would not let you know.”

Yunick additionally holds 11 patents, together with an early model of the SAFER barrier, and received 57 NASCAR races and two Cup Collection championships as a crew chief and/or proprietor, plus the 1960 Indy 500. And but, how a lot does Smokey’s title nonetheless rankle the feathers of NASCAR officers? He has been elected to almost two dozen motorsports halls of fame however has but to even be nominated for the NASCAR Corridor.

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