NASCAR: Where's Smokey? A Glaring Omission from the NASCAR Hall of Fame Roster
It goes without saying that to get into a hall of fame one must have been successful in their trade, made contributions to their trade or both. There are countless aviation halls of fame, a military intelligence hall of fame, even a “Magic: The Gathering” Hall of Fame. But the hall of fame that we’re more concerned with is the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Since opening in 2010, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has inducted many great personalities in the sport. Individuals with the names of Petty, Earnhardt, France, Waltrip, Johnson (Junior, not Jimmie), Pearson, and so on, are enshrined in the halls where they have no doubt reached immortality in the sport that they loved.
However, there is one individual that NASCAR has yet to induct. This man built the car that won the 1959 Daytona Beach Race with Paul Goldsmith driving. He built championship-winning Hudsons for Herb Thomas. He won the Daytona 500 as a car owner in 1961 and 1962, and once built a stocker that could run without a fuel tank.
NASCAR, when are you going to place Smokey Yunick in the Hall of Fame?
Yunick was a colorful character in motorsports history. Aside from the success he found in NASCAR, Smokey was also an inventor. He designed the first SAFER barrier by using old tires between sheets of plywood, although NASCAR didn’t take to this idea.
Yunick developed air jacks that could be used during pit stops, but NASCAR didn’t adopt this idea as well. He also designed such items as a rubber fuel tank, a pressure vent and an internal combustion engine.
Although Smokey often drew the ire of NASCAR’s inspectors, he was NASCAR’s Mechanic of the Year twice. His innovative approach to the gray areas in NASCAR’s rule book led to many of the rules we see today, such as the dimensions of a stock car having to fit within a required template.
He had built a Chevelle for Curtis Turner to drive. Although initially appearing stock, the vehicle’s roof and windows had been lowered for an aerodynamic advantage over the competition. He had also added two inches to the bumper of the car to increase downforce. Other modifications to the car included moving the body back a couple of inches and moving the wheel wells to fit the contours of the body as well as installing a small rear roof spoiler.
Smokey was a racer at heart, a pioneer for this sport we know and love. His contributions to the world of motorsports were numerous, and his colorful antics should make him a prime candidate for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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