These Are The Wildest Cheats, Tricks And Gimmicks In NASCAR History

Gif: <a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:NASCAR / YouTube;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">NASCAR / YouTube</a>

The NASCAR Cup Series was founded on the belief that fudging rules and laws was the best way to find success, and that mindset translated from the pre-NASCAR bootlegging days all the way through to today. It’s tradition to exploit the gray areas in the rulebook to come up with something faster and wilder than ever before. Today, we’re celebrating that history by looking back at some of the wildest cheats, gimmicks, tricks, and hacks ever seen in NASCAR.

The Yellow Banana

Junior Johnson is easily one of the most notorious cheaters in NASCAR history, but one of my favorites was his “Yellow Banana.” That was the nickname given to the heavily modified 1966 Ford Galaxie raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway. If you look at the car, you can see it has a distinct wiggly shape; the front fenders slope downward, the tail was raised, the roofline was lowered and the side windows were narrowed to the point that driver Fred Lorenzen could barely squeeze into the cockpit. The car very obviously defied the spirit of NASCAR’s regulations, but the series allowed it to race anyway. Lorenzen made it all the way to the lead of the race before he crashed out on lap 139. The car never raced again.

Smokey Yunick’s “7/8 Scale” Chevelle

Another icon of the stock car cheating game is ol’ Smokey Yunick. He was one of those people who had a massively creative brain, one that could look at a NASCAR rulebook, find all of the loopholes and then design a car around it.


This car, a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle, was so stunningly quick that NASCAR officials knew something was up. Because Yunick has become something of a race-car folk hero, you’ve probably heard that this Chevelle was actually built so that it was a 7/8 scale model of the real thing — and because there were no Chevys competing in NASCAR that year, it was hard to spot.

Sadly, that’s not quite true; the Chevelle is the proper size, but it did feature a ton of other modifications that made it special. The front bumper was set back to improve aerodynamics, the glass was replaced by the much lighter Lexan, and the frame rails were allegedly designed to be an auxiliary fuel tank. NASCAR inspected the car before it ever got a chance to race, and it failed tech.

Yunick’s Gas Line Gas Tank

There’s another great Yunick story out there, too: when he inspected the rulebook, he noticed that there were rules dictating the size of a stock car’s fuel tank, but not its fuel line. It was the perfect loophole that allowed Yunick to design an 11-foot fuel line that was about two inches in diameter. That way, the fuel line itself could hold plenty of extra gas, and the car would have to make fewer pit stops.

Michael Waltrip’s Jet Fuel

At the 2007 Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip was found to have added jet fuel to his car. Basically, officials discovered an “illegal substance” in the intake manifold, then found that it would burn hotter than regular gasoline, thus allowing Waltrip’s No. 55 Toyota to make more horsepower. All three cars on the Michael Waltrip Racing team were penalized, and the team’s crew chief and director were thrown out of the race.

Richard Petty’s Wax Cylinders And Wonky Tires

After the 1983 Miller High Life 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Richard Petty was fined $35,000 and docked 104 points for two neat cheats he used in an attempt to get closer to his 200th win. According to Greg Fielden in Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, brother Maurice Petty confessed that he wedged wax into the engine cylinders; the cylinders would appear to be the proper size when going through tech, but as the engine heated up, the wax would melt, and power could increase. The only reason anyone found out about those cylinders was because an official had noticed that the left-side tires were just a little too big.

Richard Petty’s Textured Roof

At the 1968 Daytona 500, Richard Petty debuted a special textured roof. Rumors spread that the roof was made of vinyl; instead, the roof was covered in textured black paint. There were plenty of pockets in the roof that were supposed to catch air and move it along more efficiently. There are some questions about the legitimacy of the story; some believe it was Petty’s way of covering up the fact that the car’s sheet metal had been acid dipped to lighten it. During the race, the roof began to separate from the rest of the car.

Carl Long’s Too-Long Engine

Carl Long remains the NASCAR driver to have received the biggest fine in the sport’s history. During the All-Star race in 2009, inspectors discovered that Long’s engine was 0.17 cubic inches too big to compete; NASCAR called an over-sized engine one of the most egregious rules violations and suspended Long for a record 12 weeks (which was later reduced to eight weeks) and fined his crew chief Charles Swing $200,000. It was a massive fine for anyone, but especially for a low-budget team.

Bobby Allison’s Missing Bumper

At the 1982 Daytona 500, Bobby Allison “accidentally” lost his bumper. The piece of the car peeled off after a small tap from Cale Yarborough, and several cars ran over the bumper or were caught up in a wreck because someone else ran it over.

Free of his bumper, Allison was suddenly a whole lot quicker, and it brought Allison to his second Daytona 500 win. For years, fans have wondered if the bumper was intended to fall off; Yarborough’s crew chief certainly seemed to think so, intimating that the bumper was either fitted with hollow bolts or a thin wire that only barely attached the component to the car. Allison, for his own part, denies the claim — but the circumstances were certainly quite suspicious.

Chad Knaus’ Track Bar Adjuster

Jimmie Johnson took his first of five consecutive Cup Series wins at the 2006 Daytona 500 and passed post-race inspection... until it became clear that crew chief Chad Knaus had developed a track bar adjuster that could also adjust the rear window for better air flow. Johnson got to keep the win, but Knaus was suspended for a month.

Speaking of the Johnson-Knaus duo, here’s another great moment. Before a race, Knaus instructs Johnson to break the rear end of the car if he were to take victory, since that rear end was a little cheated up.

Glenn Dunaway’s Bootlegging Modifications

NASCAR’s origins are in bootlegging, which was inherently an act designed to fudge the rules of the road. It should come as no surprise then that the winner of very first NASCAR Strictly Stock race, Glenn Dunaway, was disqualified for using illegal “bootlegger rear springs” on his Ford.

It was a pretty impressive win; Dunaway won the race three laps ahead of his closest competition, and after the race, an investigator found that the winner had spread the rear springs. Dunaway was disqualified — but not before he tried to grab his prize money.

There was a bright side here for NASCAR, though; after Dunaway’s car owner tried to sue for $10,000, a court threw out the lawsuit under the belief that NASCAR had the right to sanction its races how it saw fit. Series founder Bill France was pleased to know he could rule his own domain.

Nitrous At The 1976 Daytona 500

The 1976 Daytona 500 is generally remembered for the incredible late-race battle and crash between David Pearson and Richard Petty, but it also included one of the wildest scandals in the event’s history. The top three qualifiers for the race — A. J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip, and Dave Marcis — were all disqualified! Foyt and Waltrip had been caught using nitrous oxide for a little extra speed boost, while Marcis had used a movable device inside his grille to block air.

Jeff Gordon’s T-Rex

Jeff Gordon’s T-Rex car earned its name from its Jurassic Park sponsorship, but it’s memorable for a whole different reason. Hendrick essentially created the ultimate race car by running through the rulebook with a fine-tooth comb and sourcing ideas from everyone on the team. Crew chief Ray Evernham topped it all off with a wacky setup that resulted in a massively quick race car.

The T-Rex dominated all the way to victory lane at the 1997 All-Star race. Despite the fact that it was theoretically totally legal, NASCAR still banned the high-performance machine in order to prevent Gordon from dominating any more than he already was.

Junior Johnson’s Rearward Exhaust

In NASCAR, side-placed exhausts are common. Junior Johnson, though, decided to do something a little different at the 1969 Firecracker 400; he and Herb Nab redirected the exhaust to the rear of the car. Not only did that net a few additional horsepower, but the hot, dirty air rocketing from the rear end prevented other cars from getting too close to driver Leeroy Yarbrough. It was a great feat until NASCAR decided to ban the rearward exhausts going forward.

The Hail Melon

This wasn’t so much of a cheat as it was a little trick, but the Hail Melon might just be one of the visually coolest moments of NASCAR Cup Series history.

Driver Ross Chastain, desperate to improve his on-track position on the final lap at Martinsville Speedway in order to advance to the Championship 4, drove his No. 1 machine right into the wall and floored it. The video game-esque move meant he flew by Denny Hamlin, who otherwise would have taken that championship contention slot. Chastain flew from 10th place to fifth. The move was quickly banned after.

For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.