In the 71 years that NASCAR has been around, plenty of memorable moments have been produced. Some on camera, some behind the scenes, and some of the most memorable moments were not even on the racetrack. Although a race is typically around 3 hours long, fans of the sport only get to see a small part of what really goes into keeping the cars competitive.
For all of the amazing wins and spectacular comebacks, there have been plenty of embarrassing moments that NASCAR would rather everyone forgot. There have been fights, cheating scandals and overindulgence at parties by drivers and crew members.
These are all equally as fascinating, however, and that’s what this article is about. Celebrating the characters, the cars, the team members and their tactics that have since become legendary tales.
20 Jimmie Johnson's C Pillars
In motorsport, cheating is more commonly seen as ‘innovating’ as teams and drivers look for any loophole to make their lap times faster. Jimmie Johnson knows this too well after his aerodynamically enhanced C pillars were cut out of his Chevrolet and confiscated. Technically, they fell within the design rules, but NASCAR officials didn’t like the way they had been altered.
19 An Unforeseen Ejection
Back in 2007, Michael Waltrip's team angered NASCAR officials so much they were physically kicked out of Daytona International Speedway when they tried to pull a fast one not once, but twice. After a foreign substance was discovered in the intake manifold of Waltrip's Toyota, they allowed the team to replace it, but when the substance was found in the new manifold, the crew chief and MWR director were both booted out and told not to come back.
18 Ford Recycling Division
When Dale Earnhardt looked like he was going to beat Mark Martin to claim a fourth title, Ford came up with a cunning plan. They bought a car from Robert Yates and sneakily repainted it, hoping the faster car would give them an advantage. Martin struggled in a car he was largely unfamiliar with, and Earnhardt finished third to claim the title.
17 Curtis Turner's Failed Union
Curtis Turner was a phenomenal talent who seemed to be able to drive any car fast. In 1961 he attempted to form a professional drivers association in order to try and force NASCAR to provide bigger prize money and better conditions for drivers. NASCAR was more than a bit miffed and banned Turner from the sport for several years.
16 Smokey Yunick's Sleight Of Hand
Smokey Yunick knew how to play the game very well. He had replaced his standard fuel lines with extra-wide lines, in order to hold more fuel between the tank and the engine, slightly increasing his range. During a standard inspection, NASCAR had removed the fuel tank from Smokey's car, citing him for 9 infractions. Smokey replied with “you’d better make it 10”, and drove his car away with the fuel tank still detached.
15 Buck Baker's Midrace Refreshment
Nowadays everyone knows the dangers of drink-driving but when Buck Baker was racing, things were a little more relaxed. Baker had the idea of enjoying an adult beverage while he was racing and rigged it up to flow through his water bag. He didn’t count on the vibrations going through the car as the race progressed though, turning his drink into 100% foam.
14 Safety First
NASCAR drivers are generally fearless, but that doesn’t mean that they wander through life without any worries. Tiger Tom Pistone used to be so scared that he would accidentally drive his car into the lake at Daytona that he used to carry an oxygen tank and life vest in his car every time he raced there.
13 Bill Weber's Disappearing Act
In an organization as large as NASCAR, sometimes people who work as support staff are caught up in controversy as well. Famous NASCAR TV personality and commentator Bill Weber was suddenly fired following a behind-the-scenes argument at a hotel. Amusingly, he didn’t seem to mind, using it as a chance to follow his childhood dream of becoming a professional magician.
12 Tony Stewart's Australian Stand-Off
Tony Stewart is clearly driven by passion. On his days off he travels worldwide looking for new driving opportunities, which led him to the land down under. This also led him into an argument with a track owner from Australia, which Tony decided to settle by decking him with his helmet. The police got involved and Stewart was given a firm reprimand from NASCAR officials.
11 Jeff Gordon's Plans For The Big Apple
Retired driver and hall of famer Jeff Gordon is passionate about getting a racetrack built in New York City and is doing everything he can to make it happen. The current plan is to get a short track built near the Meadowlands in New Jersey and Gordon even promised he would come out of retirement to race there.
10 A Journalist Becomes The Story
Reporter Jenna Fryer set off an online fight when she complained about NASCAR officials leaving the race early, taking a cheeky dig at them by suggesting the real race was to see who could get home first. Some drivers took offense to the comments, not realizing Fryer was taking aim at race officials.
9 David Ragan Loves His Fans
When David Ragan was scheduled to sign autographs but only one fan turned up due to bad weather, his PR agent was on the phone to him, trying to convince him to cancel. Although he was late and stuck in traffic, to his credit he showed up for his one fan, but by the time he arrived, a small crowd had gathered to meet him.
8 Dale Earnhardt Jr's High School Pranks
Jimmie Johnson once recalled a story about how he saved Dale Earnhardt’s life after he got a little too excited at a post-race party. Jr thought it would be hilarious to put as much bubble producing liquid into the hot tub. After the bubbles started to overflow, Dale jumped out of the tub and sprinted to the pool, but slipped and hit his head on the bottom of the pool, splitting it open. Johnson dived in and brought him back to the surface and administered first aid as best he could.
7 Celebrating Diversity
Earlier this year (February, to be exact), for the first time in NASCAR history, the Daytona 500 featured two women tire changes as part of the pit crew. Both women were graduates of the Drive For Diversity program that NASCAR implemented with the aim of providing women more opportunities to participate in motorsport.
6 Constant Rule Changes
The constant rule changes that NASCAR implements can make the sport difficult to follow at times as officials hand out seemingly contradictory penalties from race-to-race. Steve Phelps, who is the president of NASCAR revealed on a podcast that the constant revisions are all designed to make the racing as exciting as possible. They are constantly monitoring fan feedback and implementing their suggestions.
5 New Tracks
Phelps also disclosed that the crew has been working hard behind the scenes to scout out potential locations for new racetracks, once the current contracts expire in 2020. We already know that New York is potentially on the table, but as for the other new race tracks, you’ll have to watch this space.
4 Goodyear's Unseen Dedication
Goodyear is the official tire sponsor of NASCAR but few people appreciate how hard the tire giant has to work to keep the cars moving. Every few days, Goodyear manufactures and delivers 4,000 tires, each custom made. They do this more than 90 times each year in an effort to constantly remind people of the Goodyear brand.
3 Darrell Waltrip's Sneaky Tactic
After discovering that some teams were painted wooden roll bars to keep the weight down, NASCAR started weighing the cars before the race. Darrell Waltrip came up with the idea to fill the frame rails with buckshot that would be released onto the back straight via a small trapdoor when he was on the back straight. Sneaky!
2 Smokey Yunick's Brief Basketball Career
Smokey loved nothing more than to get one over on officials. When NASCAR introduced regulations about the maximum fuel a fuel tank could carry, Yunick got around it by placed a basketball in the tank and inflating it with air. Once the car had been checked and cleared, the basketball was deflated, increasing the capacity of the tank.
1 Country Singer Turned Mechanic
Marty Robbins, who was known for his country and western hits, was also a part-time NASCAR driver back in the 1970s. He stunned everyone at Talladega by hitting top speeds at least 15 mph faster than his closest competitor. It later came out that his secret was to remove the NASCAR-mandated restrictors from his carburetor, in his hotel room prior to the race. He owned up to it, stating that he just wanted to see what it was like to lead the field.
Sources: NASCAR, ABC News, and Driving Line.