Notable NASCAR Cheating Scandals

Updated on February 19, 2020
Junior Johnson had some cheating scandals but mostly didn't get caught.
Junior Johnson had some cheating scandals but mostly didn't get caught. | Source

There's an old saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Though the original source of this saying is hard to attribute, it has been used in many sporting situations to justify actions—most prominently, perhaps, in the world of NASCAR racing. While current drivers such as Jimmie Johnson have raised suspicions, there are plenty of examples in the NASCAR world of people stretching the rules just a bit.

Clint Bowyer

At the 2013 Richmond race, the last one before the chase, Clint Bowyer, with no chance at the chase himself, mysteriously spun out, causing a late caution that then knocked other drivers including Jeff Gordon out of a Chase spot and put his teammate, Martin Truex Jr. in.

After reviewing the footage, NASCAR decided Bowyer had spun out on purpose and took the spot away from Truex Jr. They gave it back to Newman, who would have won the spot if the caution had not occurred.

Junior Johnson

Junior was famous for saying that it wasn’t exactly “cheatin’” that he was doing, it was just “creatin’” Junior as one of the early racers in the sport believed in creativity when it came to modifications of his car. He even cut down and rebuilt one of his cars, the yellow banana, in order to improve aerodynamics.

Junior was not caught for all the modifications he made. But he was caught for some. A few notable ones include a four-race suspension for using a bigger engine in 1991. In 1996 he received a fine for not having welded the intake manifold.

Junior, however, came from the old school of racing, getting his start as a moonshine runner for his father. Modifications were part of the game for him.

But as NASCAR tightened the rules, the cheating scandals became more prominent and, necessarily, more sneaky.

Richard Petty

At a 1983 race in Charlotte, Richard Petty’s winning car did not pass its post-race inspection. The engine was found to be too big, and the team was accused of using the wrong tires on the left side of the car.

The modifications to the engine included adding wax to the cylinders which melted during the race.

The scandal was blamed on Petty’s brother, but there was some question as to whether Petty actually had knowledge of the modifications or not.

Michael Waltrip

In what was called one of the biggest cheating scandals in modern NASCAR racing history, Michael Waltrip’s team was penalized after inspection showed a fuel additive, which sources say had the properties of jet fuel, in the car.

The scandal happened in 2007. Though other teams since then have been penalized for creative fuel additives to their cars, this seems to mark a turning point in NASCAR.

Up until then many of the scandals and illegal modifications, from outsider’s perspectives at least, did not receive attention or received slap-on-the-wrist penalties. But the new rules worked to insure uniformity and standards, placing less emphasis on talent in the garage and more on the talent on the track.

Michael Waltrip's team was caught using illegal fuel additives, rumored to be jet fuel.
Michael Waltrip's team was caught using illegal fuel additives, rumored to be jet fuel. | Source

Mark Martin

In 1990, after winning in Richmond, Martin’s car was disqualified because of a carburetor spacer that was a half inch too high.

Martin expressed frustration with the ruling which cost him points and ultimately the championship at the end of the year.

The infraction, Martin and his team contended, did not give him an unfair advantage in the win. Ultimately he lost sponsors and ranking from what he considered a minor slip up.

Jeff Gordon

One of the most famous and puzzling incidents happened with a car named the T-Rex, which Jeff Gordon drove to victory in 1997.

The car, sponsored by the sequel to Jurassic Park, was built from the ground up, reportedly, painstakingly following NASCAR rules but trying to improve on all the problem areas.

The car was described as “wicked” fast and in the one and only race that it was ever in, the car cruised to an easy victory.

In interviews, Gordon said that the car hugged the track in a way that he had never experienced.

The reaction within NASCAR was a bit problematic. Team owners realized that a whole new race car had been built. They were upset by the fact that in order to compete, they too would have to build all new race cars.

So, after post-race inspection, the team was told that they could keep their win but were to never bring the race car back to race, and it never did.

After inspections of Gordon’s car, NASCAR added new rules that made the new car illegal to race anyway.

Is Cheating Just a Part of the Sport?

At the start of NASCAR, at its inception, modifications of stock cars were the name of the game. The ones who were more creative and better at finding the right balance between engines, aerodynamics, intake—these were the ones that won.

But the desire for uniformity seemed to supersede the promotion of creativity.

Or does it?

What about modern NASCAR racing? Is there still “creativity” going on that is just hidden from the inspections and sanctioning bodies? What kind of cheating will be revealed after the fact?

Are creative modifications just a part of NASCAR?
Are creative modifications just a part of NASCAR? | Source

When you have fast drivers such a Jimmie Johnson, who can consistently move from the back to the front, are they just that much better or has Chad Knauss found ways to be creative either within the restrictive rules or is very good at hiding?

In NASCAR’s desire to create a more level playing field and more consistent sporting experience for drivers and fans, cheating scandals and hidden modifications are still there. Sometimes they are found and sometimes they are not.

While much of each race depends on both talent and luck, there is also sometimes that hidden, extra boost that brings the winning driver to victory.

It seems to be as much a part of the sport as sponsors, and that is not likely to change.

Do you think that there is still a lot of cheating and illegal modifications in NASCAR?

See results

Jeff Gordon's T Rex Car: The Car That Was Too Good!

What is your favorite modification or cheating scandal? How do you feel about NASCAR's rules?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Kevin Kelly 

      2 years ago

      NASCAR needs to let these guys "run what they brung" with SAFTEY being the only thing NASCAR should involve themselves with. All you have to do is look at the sport and what it has become. You mentioned the 'Jurassic' car that Hendrick Motorsports built. That was the highpoint for NASCAR in popularity - EVER!! The France Family has totally screwed this thing up - to expensive for the Teams??? How about too expensive for the Fans to attend?

      If they really want to fix NASCAR the place to start is the cars themselves. 'SAFE - UP' cars right off the showroom floor: Challengers - Camaro's - Mustangs, etc. Race on Sunday (win) sell on Monday. I hope this gets to someone's brain!

    • profile image

      3the best 

      2 years ago

      Add What do you need to know about cheating just ask Rick Hendrick. Cheating on the 24 and 48 cars is legendary..... neither driver would be champion without the best of the best cars they drive...JJ and Jeff without the 48 and 24 would not be championsComment...

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      3 years ago from Florida

      I haven't heard that one before. He certainly has been doing well since the return from his injury.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Is Kyle Busch using some kind of additives to his fuel.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      LC, this was really interesting. There would always be a cheating scandal in any type of sport these days. Voted up!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      cool video i love it


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)