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NASCAR Racing History Burns in Daytona Beach

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 26, 2011

photo credit:  Daytona Beach Fire Department
photo credit: Daytona Beach Fire Department

A major piece of NASCAR racing history went up in flames Monday night. The legendary "Best Damn Garage in Town" burned to the ground in Daytona Beach, FL.

Race car builder and master mechanic, Smokey Yunick, was a tough-talking character recognized by his white uniform, cowboy-style hat and cigar or pipe.

Yunick worked with the automotive industry and was deeply involved with the design, development and testing of the small-block Chevrolet engine.

It was but one of his many innovative projects that ranged to safe walls made of plywood and tires that NASCAR did not use.

The mechanical genius and NASCAR crew chief spotted Daytona Beach during training flights over the coast of Florida. Yunick piloted a B-17 in excess of 50 missions over Europe during WWII.

The garage was opened in 1947 and operated until 1987. Yunick was a master of working in the grey area when it came to rules.

Some of his best known drivers included Curtis Turner, Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts and Herb Thomas. He had the first team to win the Daytona 500 twice.

"Smokey's Garage" in Daytona Beach started as a laundromat and expanded to an automotive complex as Yunick became involved in automobile racing along with his original truck repair business.

Though Yunick left NASCAR in 1970, he remained innovative. Solar panels were installed on the roof of his garage back in 1974.

Firefighters did not attempt to save the building. The tin roof and possible hazardous materials like tires, asbestos and oil products presented too much danger.

Yunick never wanted his garage to be a shrine and wanted the shop contents auctioned off to those who needed it after his death.

The landmark garage along with the Streamline Motel where NASCAR was born were both significant parts of NASCAR history.

Monday night we lost one of those pieces when the site known as the "Best Damn Garage in Town" was destroyed by flames.

Henry "Smokey" Yunick died May 9, 2001 at the age of 77.

Note: Some information is courtesy of The Daytona Beach News Journal.

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