Most race fans have all heard the term, “It’s only cheating if you get caught,” or the ever popular saying, “There are grey areas that certain crew chiefs have found, and that’s why they are able to win,” at one time or another.
Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson were the innovators when the time came to see who could pass NASCAR’s tech inspection, without getting caught bending the rules, in order to give them an advantage over the rest of the drivers.
Yunick was best-known as a mechanic, builder, and crew chief during the early years of NASCAR, and he was always one step ahead of the inspectors.
Yunick would really trick something up that was fairly easy for the inspectors to find.
And while they were busy patting themselves on the back for having "caught" the wily innovator, they would completely overlook the real work he'd done deeper within the car.
The changes he'd made in those less obvious "grey areas" were the ones that would win him the race.
Yunick once said, “I'd been reading the rule book to see what it said. And all along what I should have been doing was finding out what it didn't say.”
Johnson, on the other hand, was best known for his driving skills, which he honed on the back roads in the rural South while running moonshine during his early years.
It was because of Johnson that NASCAR mandated the teams to run their exhaust to the side of the car from the engine.
NASCAR found out Johnson ran his exhaust out the back of the car because the hot dirty air would affect the way the car behind him ran.
The inspection process is broken down into a multiple of groups that focuses on different components of the race car.
During this process, inspectors will check the car’s body, mandated safety features, undercarriage/chassis, engine, full cell, height, weight, and measurements to ensure they meet NASCAR requirements as set forth in the rulebook.
About half of NASCAR's 70-page rulebook focuses on precise technical guidelines for car construction.
And any fan with a garage pass can get an up-close look at the inspection process, since the procedure is not done inside some hidden away tech station.
Watching a car go through tech inspection not only enhances the NASCAR experience, but it can also serve as a very educational experience, with the inspectors willing to answer any questions you may have.
Tech inspection is used to make sure each team is within the perimeters to keep a team from having a competitive edge, and it is also used to make sure the cars are safe to drive at the high racing speeds.