Sui Generis: Smokey Yunick

I bet you didn’t know his first name was Henry, but if you’re a car enthusiast you’re probably familiar with “Smokey” Yunick. He ran the “best damn garage in town” in America’s racing capital, Daytona Beach, Florida and his influence on motorsports and car culture in general cannot be overstated. As we pointed out in our post on the “Duntov Mule” Corvette, the first V8 engine in a Corvette was installed and tuned by Yunick. That little factoid pales, though, in comparison to his other accomplishments (listed below the jump). He tuned cars for NASCAR greats Herb Thomas and Fireball Roberts. Cars he prepared won 4 of the first 8 major races at Daytona and he had a total of 39 wins in NASCAR’s top series, including two Grand National championships, the equivalent of today’s Sprint Cup. He also prepared Jim Rathman’s winning car for the 1960 Indy 500. Acknowledged as one of racing’s most creative rule readers, some of Yunick’s cheats were legendary, but also reflective of his creativity and genius. He’s alleged to have said that it wasn’t cheating if the rules didn’t say you couldn’t do it. I’d say that he was a colorful character but I’m not sure if Pantone has enough color chips to fully characterize the man – Yunick was an American original. This video was shot on Yunick’s entry into the Daytona Rotary Club’s Stock Car Hall of Fame, and you might want to turn down the sound if you’re watching at work. Yunick’s vocabulary was as colorful as his character. It’s not well known, but before he became famous as a mechanic, Yunick was a war hero. He spent five years in the Army Air Corps, serving in combat over North Africa, Europe, flying a variety of planes, including “flying the hump” over Asia with the Flying Tigers. I love his politically incorrect description of that interruption in his career, “I had a little interruption when they had an argument with some sneaky Jap and some German asshole.”

Highlights


Grew up on a farm in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania
Flew B-17s for the Army Air Force in WWII
Flew for the Flying Tigers
Driver, mechanic, crew chief for stock cars in 1950s and 1960s
Won two Grand National (Winston Cup today) Championships
Won Indy in 1960
Worked in Ecuador for 30 years in oil drilling and gold mining
Wrote for Popular Science and Circle Track magazines


Accreditations

Founding Member and Director of Embry-Riddle University
Honorary Doctorate in Aeronautical Engineering, Embry-Riddle Engineering
Professor Emeritus, Daytona Beach Community College
S.C.O.R.E Judge, for three years, one of ten judges picked to
examine annual alternate energy expo submissions from American
colleges and universities, related to alternate energy
Member of Society of Automotive Engineers

Patents & Inventions

Variable Ratio Power Steering
Hot Vapor Engine
Silent Tire
Smoketron Engine Testing Device
Movable Race Track Crash Barrier
Oil filling through oil filter
Extended Tip Spark Plug
Power brakes from residual power steering pressure
Water bypass system for “V” engines
Reverse cooling system
Centrifuge Type Oil Refinery (Ecuador)


Awards

Two Time NASCAR Mechanic of the Year
Mechanical Achievements Awards – Indianapolis Motor Speedway &
Ontario Motor Speedway
Engineering Award – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Inventor of the Year – 1983
Presents the Annual Smokey Yunick Lifetime Achievement Award
at Charlotte Motor Speedway


Hall of Fame Inductions

National Racing Hall of Fame
International MotorSports Hall of Fame
Legends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame
Stock Car Racing, Daytona Hall of Fame
Darlington Motor Speedway Hall of Fame
Legends of Performance – Chevrolet Hall of Fame
TRW Mechanic Hall of Fame
Living Legends of Auto Racing – 1997
Stock Car Racing Magazine Hall of Fame
Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame
Voted #7 on list of Top 10 athletes of the Century by Winston Salem Journal, Oct. 1999
University of Central Florida, President’s Medallion Society
Rotary Club of Oceanside – Daytona Beach

Race Record

1951-1954 – 39 Grand National Wins after 1954
won Raleigh – August 20, 1955
won Darlington – 1955
won Palm Beach – December 11, 1955
won Wilson, N.C. – March 18, 1956
won Langhorne – September 23, 1956
won Greensboro – April 28, 1957
won Lancaster S.C. – June 1, 1957
won Raleigh – July 4, 1957
won Daytona Beach – February, 1958
won Atlanta – July 4, 1959
won Daytona Beach – February 12, 1960
won Atlanta – July 31, 1960
won Daytona Beach – February 24, 1961
won Daytona Beach – February 26, 1961
won Daytona Beach – February 10, 1962
won Daytona Beach – February 16, 1962
won Daytona Beach – February 18, 1962
won Daytona Beach – February 22, 1963
39 + 18 = 57 Stock Car/Grand National races
one Indy race win – 1960

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