Editorial

Cheating: An Inside look at NASCAR
by David Cipolloni
 December 28, 2004

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Updated for 2004, includes 72 more pages
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The subject of cheating has long been a dirty little secret in NASCAR Nextel (formerly Winston) Cup racing. The long standing tradition of cheating has created an aura around the series, lending speculation on who could be doing what in the race to the checkered flag.

Crossing the line between rule interpretation, and flat-out rule breaking, has been the job of NASCAR inspectors since the early days of the 1950’s, when there was little science involved in the process of branding one a cheater.

The updated version of Tom Jensen’s book now covers NASCAR from the early days of inception, known as the bootleg days, to the early part of the 2004 season. The new edition of Cheating includes 72 more pages, 16 pages of color photographs, and a total of 67 color and black-and-white images.

The inside look that Jensen provides of this often sensitive topic moves his book to the top of the “must read” list for any NASCAR fan. Some of his discoveries will confirm rumors that have circulated for years, others will simply amaze the reader, as the true ingenuity of these car builders comes to light.

From 1949, when William “Big Bill” France hosted his first National Association for Stock Car and Automobile Racing event, to the 2004 season, France’s goal was to have close, competitive racing all the time. Learn about the twists and turns in the long road to achieve that goal. Discover if France was playing by his own rules, and how he was able to build the empire that is the NASCAR Nextel Cup series today.

The book reveals the very secrets that fans yearn to know, like who put water and lead in wheels and tires, in order to provide an advantage once they were swapped during an early pit stop. Or, who was it that was utilizing hidden bottles of nitrous oxide during the 1970’s? Maybe the fact that a method of supercharging was utilized during this period, and was virtually undetectable, might arouse some desire to crack the pages of Cheating.

All the big names of racing are highlighted in the book, along with some forgotten names, like Elmer Carl Kiekhaefer of Mercury Outboard Motor fame, that will rush back from memory as their lifestyles and antics are reviewed in the 300 pages of the book. There is no beating around the bush by Jensen, the tricks of the trade are clearly highlighted, and the perpetrators easily identified. It was, after all, the cheaters that wrote the rules, as NASCAR uncovered the violations and prohibited them clearly in every updated version of the rulebook.

Regardless how you slice and dice it, the roots of NASCAR are enchanting and at times ruthless, as were many of the racing series of yesteryear. NASCAR sprouted from its roots as a truly American series, and has grown into a financial powerhouse primarily on the backs of the American enthusiast.

The struggle, and often ruthless tactics, involved in the growth of NASCAR, closely mirror the overall struggle and growth of the United States, which lends to the appeal of the sport today.

Who do you think might have made the following quote in the second chapter of the book? “If in 1947 I killed a guy in Daytona, unless he had five eyewitnesses, they wouldn’t have bothered me”.

This type of attitude was all too commonplace in the early days of NASCAR, leaving little surprise when some amazing secrets of cheating are revealed by Tom Jensen in his latest edition of Cheating, an inside look at the bad things good NASCAR Nextel Cup racers do in the pursuit of speed. 

Comments can be sent to the author at feedback@autoracing1.com.

 

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