Sunday, January 31, 2021

Review of "Cheating"

A book with this title could apply to any sport, but this one is about NASCAR and some of the things drivers and crews do to gain an advantage.  With the Daytona 500 coming in two weeks, I want to read more NASCAR related items and this is one.  Here is my review of "Cheating"


“Cheating: The Bad Things Good Stock Car Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed” by Tom Jensen


Auto Racing, professional, NASCAR, History

Publish date:

March 24, 2012 (electronic version – original publication 2002)


254 pages


4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)


No matter the sport, competitors are always looking for that extra edge that may make the difference between winning and losing.  During the entire history of NASCAR, that has been taken at times to the extremes.  Whether it is the driver, the crew chief, the team owner or the mechanics themselves, there have been some legendary bending or outright breaking of the rules. These have been put together in this very entertaining and informative book by Tom Jensen.

The aspect of cheating, or at least trying to determine how much one can get away with before being caught by NASCAR inspectors, has been around as long as the sport itself.  In fact, Jensen writes about the very first race in NASCAR’s premier series.  It took place in 1949 in the newly created “Strictly Stock” division (which is today’s Cup Series) and how the winner, Glenn Dunnaway, was disqualified for having illegal “bootlegger springs”.  These were simply springs that distributed the weight of the car better on turns, something bootleggers used in the days of Prohibition. It fits nicely with the early history of NASCAR and its connection to bootlegging. Readers will get a fascinating look at how bending and/or breaking the rules were a rich part of the early history of the sport and will learn a lot about that era.

However, cheating and the stories of the attempts of doing so are not limited to just the genesis of NASCAR. Each decade up to the 2001 Daytona 500 is covered in the book, each with its own interesting history of what was done, how some drivers and crews were caught, and how NASCAR officials are trying to keep one step ahead of the mechanics and crews of the cars who are always looking for that edge.  There are many aspects of the cars that can be tweaked to do this, but Jensen concentrates on three main areas that are always under scrutiny: weight, aerodynamics and tires.  

Everything from the simple (simply switching left side tires to the right), the obvious (some spoilers are very clearly illegal), the “ignorant” (bumpers or car parts that oops, fell off on the track to make the car lighter) to the repeats (for example, there are many stories about making fuel tanks lighter by using lighter metals) is covered in the book.  While it has been nearly 20 years since the book was first produced, it is still an excellent read for all race fans.  If one wants to read about one of the more colorful sides of the sport, and there are plenty, this is a book to add to one’s collection.

Book Format Read:

E-book (Kindle)                                                                                                                             

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