When Gary Nelson hung up his crew chief clipboard to become NASCAR's top rules enforcer in the mid-1990's, his former competitors were up in arms.
"It's like letting one of the inmates run the asylum," said Darrell Waltrip.
Nelson had made his name as a “grey area master” with DiGard Racing and Bobby Allison in the early 1980's and working with Geoff Bodine and DW at Hendrick Motorsports.
During Allison's 1983 title run, NASCAR was so sure that Nelson was hiding extra fuel somewhere in Allison's car that it was torn apart twice during the season. Nothing was found.
He also made history with Greg Sacks at Dayona on July 4, 1985 while he was working with DiGard racing and Bobby Allison. DiGard, then owned by Bill Gardner, had decided to add a second research and development car for the race to help primary driver and 1983 points champion Bobby Allison and instead the team pulled off the win. See Story
Nelson is also given credit for one of the most infamous inventions in NASCAR history -- a device that emptied lead buckshot hidden inside the roll cage when the driver pulled a lever inside the cockpit, thus lightening the weight of a car during a race.
It is a story that has become legendary, even outside of the garage. His driver in that adventure was Darrell Waltrip. See Story
During a recent online chat session, the validity of the "bombs away" story was asked by a fan to Nelson himself.
His response? "My memory is becoming fuzzy on that. Next question."