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“The car is illegal”: HMS legend remembers Rick Hendrick’s banned “T-Rex” idea

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NASCAR officials and the team often argue over the legality of the race cars. The rule of delivering a race-legal car has been pushed to its limits time and time again, but nothing comes close to what Hendrick Motorsports attempted to achieve with its bold invention called the T-Rex. Although the car was banned from racing after the 1977 All-Star Race, it was certainly a marvel of engineering that Ray Evernham and his team delivered.

Taking a walk down memory lane, Evernham shared key insights into the ambitious project and how NASCAR ultimately declared the car illegal despite passing inspection. Speaking to Kevin Harvick on the Happy Hour podcast, Evernham also shared key details about building the race car, which helped Jeff Gordon rake in a sweet $1,000,000 in prize money.

Evernham explains how Mr H's ambitious project came to fruition

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On the podcast, the Hall of Famer explained that the car was Rick Hendrick's idea. According to him, all he had to do was convey his ideas to Cech Gardy, who was then working as a manufacturer. Before the All-Star Race in Charlotte, Evernham made drastic changes to the No. 24 car. He made important changes to the chassis and added a large anti-roll bar, which gave the car an aerodynamic advantage.

Thanks to the ambitious ideas of Ray Evernham and the team, Gordon was able to achieve victory in Charlotte. Due to the successful run, there was a cheering atmosphere in the HMS camp, but this soon came to an end. Evernhamd remembers: “We go up and toast everyone, and when we come back, Buster Alton says, “Mr. “France wants to see you.” I think, okay.”

He expected to have a beer with the owner of NASCAR, but instead he rushed to call his boss. “I go in there and he's sitting there and he says, “See that phone right there.” I said yes, sir. He said you had to pick it up, call your boss and tell him the car is illegal. I said no, it's not illegal, it passed inspection and the inspectors were looking at it all the time. And then he says it won't be tomorrow and that was the end of T-Rex.

However, this wasn't the only case where NASCAR had to step in and keep an eye on extreme race car inventions.

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Sam Hornish Jr.'s Penske car brought back T-Rex memories at the 2008 All-Star Race

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Like the T-Rex, the car with starting number 77 was far from a conventional racing car. It had an unconventional design that was beyond anyone's wild imagination at the time. The car's rear body was angled and faced the outside wall, giving it a significant edge in the corners. Needless to say, the car was fast due to its unique design, but unfortunately the car suffered a similar fate to the T-Rex and was banned by NASCAR.

It may seem like Hornish Jr. and his team pushed the envelope with the design of the race car, but they were just building on the current trend. “You know, we may have pushed the boundaries a little further than some of the other people. This is something we saw other people do at the beginning of the year and we decided to try it out and actually, you know, there were people who did it throughout the year.Hornish Jr. explained.

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It's fair to say that fans of the golden era witnessed not only the sport's best racing, but also its best inventions. Considering how controlled and measured everything is in the modern age of racing, a project like T-Rex is off limits for most teams.

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