Well, Herb Thomas won the race in my Chevrolet. The Firestone people came to me with photographers for pictures. I told them they'd given me such a rough time that I wasn't going to pose for any pictures. They said the entry blank specified that I had to. So I went to my personal car, put on a pair of bib overalls, and tied a red bandana around my neck. I painted two front teeth black with shoe polish, put on a floppy straw hat and told the Firestone people I was ready to take pictures.

Iron Fist
In the early '50s at a short track, Herb Thomas drove my Hudson Hornet to a runaway victory. Lee Petty finished second and Curtis Turner third. Turner charged that the scoring was crooked, and he and Petty argued. After the race, we were in the Hudson dealer's garage. The argument got heated, and Lee finally swung at Turner. Just behind where Curtis was standing was a wall made of plywood with a bunch of hooks on it. A piece of iron that weighed 65-70 pounds was hanging on a hook that was 7-8 feet off the floor. When Lee swung, Turner ducked, and Lee's fist hit the wall. The hook holding the piece of iron collapsed and a piece of iron hit Turner in the head, knocking him unconscious. While we were dumping water on him trying to revive him, he woke up and said, "Damn, Smoke, that SOB can hit."

Famous Gas Line
This story has been told countless times, but not very accurately. I don't know whether it's worth wrecking the myth that surrounds it. Most versions have me driving my '66 Chevelle race car out of Daytona Speedway while the gas tank was laying on the ground. There was an argument over fuel, and I did drive the car from the track to my garage with no gas tank. Whether or not I had a gas tank didn't matter, because that car had an illegal 11-foot fuel line with a 2-inch hole in it that held 6 gallons of gasoline. I could have driven to Jacksonville 90 miles away with the fuel in the line. The incident prompted NASCAR to change the fuel line opening to 3/8 inch.

Another Gasser
Two weeks before the '66 Firecracker 4000 at Daytona, Bill France Sr. stopped by my house and asked why I hadn't entered a car in the race. I told him I would never run another race car with a steel fuel cell, that I had Firestone make for me a 22-gallon rubber cell and would run it or not race in NASCAR again. (Fireball Roberts, Yunick's close friend and former driver, was mortally burned after his metal gas tank erupted in a crash at Charlotte in 1964.)

France said OK, he would have the chief technical inspector change the rule. I said that wasn't enough. I told him to put up an 8x12-foot sign in the inspection area that read, "The first 10 cars will have their gas tanks removed for measurement and observation after the race." Finally, he said it was a done deal.

I took my Chevelle to the track for Curtis Turner to drive. The sign wasn't on the wall. I went to France's office and told him if he didn't put the sign up, I was leaving the track-so he put it up.

The race started-Turner got the lead and had to stop for fuel. The other fast cars kept on trucking, and we dropped to 13th. I knew they had 28-gallon tanks. Turner charged back to finish fourth. Sam McQuagg won the race in Ray Nichels' Dodge. I went back to the inspection area, and the sign was gone. I told the technical inspector the gas tanks were supposed to be inspected. At that point, guys who had finished in front of us offered me $2,000-5,000 to shut up about pulling gas tanks. I refused on both counts. After threatening to whip the chief inspector, I went to France again. He said Chrysler had already approved the newspaper and magazine ads, that the wire services had the story and he couldn't change anything. I told him that's what I expected.