A moment with Smokey Yunick

Here’s a well-circulated photo from the GM media archives featuring Smokey Yunick on the pit wall at the 1962 Daytona 500. It might be worth another look.



The black-and-white image is a bit grainy (probably shot with Kodak Tri-X) and Smokey’s attention appears to be directed down toward the entrance of pit road, rather than on the job he is performing, so it’s possible we could overlook what he’s up to. Hmm, maybe we should zoom in and take a closer look.

Well, how about that. Smokey’s got his oxy-acetylene torch adjusted for a nice neutral flame, and he’s heating up two one-quart cans of oil to about medium well—no doubt for a certain black-and-gold ’62 Pontiac driven by Fireball Roberts that is scheduled to arrive in front of him on pit road any second now.

Back in those days, NASCAR stockers still ran production-style wet-sump oil systems, not the advanced dry-sump setups with reserve tank capacity they use today. Smokey is heating the oil a) so it will flow out of the cans and into the engine faster, and b) there won’t be even a momentary interruption in lubrication due to low oil temperature.

Let it never be said that Smokey Yunick didn’t give a considerable amount of thought to most everything he did.

The record will show that Yunick’s Pontiac, driven by Roberts, won the ’62 Daytona 500 at an average speed of 152.529 mph. The margin of victory was 27 seconds over Richard Petty, the only other car on the same lap. Our photo shows a few more items of interest: ¬†For example, the blackboard with pit instructions for the driver. Naturally, this was still some years before two-way radio systems were commonplace in NASCAR.