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.
…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?