HOLLY HILL – The NASCAR racing community is perennially on the fence about the legacy of racing legend Smokey Yunick. The impact of Yunick on the sport in its earliest days is undeniable; as a mechanic he won the 1961 and 1962 Daytona 500s. His importance to Volusia County is also unmistakable: the site of Yunick’s ‘Best Damn Garage in Town’ is nothing short of iconic. But all that said, NASCAR’s leaders and insiders have still yet to enshrine him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, alongside peers such as Dale Inman and Bud Moore.
There’s not much that can be done about this in Charlotte earlier than the NASCAR guard decides to forgive Yunick’s ‘creative engineering’ and turbulent relationship with the rulebook. But at the local level, lovers of Volusia County’s racing heritage are stepping up in the meantime.
Steve Miller is a board member of the Motor Racing Heritage Association, a group of historians focused on keeping the area’s storied ties to stock car racing alive and well. Along with car show mogul Tony Cassata, Miller has worked to establish a memorial at the site of Yunick’s historic garage, located right at the border of Daytona Beach and Holly Hill.
Yunick, who passed away in 2001, was adamant that the ‘Best Damn Garage in Town’ not be memorialized, Miller said. The shop burned down in April 2011, and the site has remained a vacant lot ever since. But now, thanks to the work of Miller and Cassata, a stone plaque sits informing passers-by of the history that took place just feet away.
The plaque was created in California and the stone in Georgia, before the finished product was built and installed by the Orlando-based Stokes Monument Company. It’s located just next to Riverside Park of Holly Hill, under a canopy of shrub trees and palmettos. Viewers of the plaque face the lot where Yunick’s garage was once located.
The plaque was installed on February 20th, just a day after the 2023 Daytona 500. Rather than trying to hold an event as many were leaving town, Miller says a formal unveiling is planned for August 24th, days before the 2023 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Many from the racing world and the Holly Hill government are expected to attend.
In the meantime the Motor Racing Heritage Association is operating a fundraising booth at a car show at Holly Hill City Hall, hopefully to recant some of the funds used to install the memorial.