The promotional possibilities are enormous:

"Petty Rides Laughing Gas to Victory."

"Laughing Gas - A Little Squirt'll Do it."

And it will. The addition of a small amount of nitrous oxide into the regular fuel gives a car a spectacular burst of speed. Many drivers have used it, the latest apparently being A.J.Foyt and Darrell Waltrip, but no one advertise it for the excellent reason that it is against the rules.

Would a good ol'boy cheat? Has it been a bit nippy in Washington lately? A year ago Foyt and Waltrip were caught using nitrous oxide during qualiying for the Daytona 500. This week nearly a third of the field in Saturday's 300-mile rce for late-model sportman cars was caught making illegal front-body work modificaition during the prerace inspection.

"The rule of thumb," said one veteran driver, "is to do a whole lot of illegal things, so even if they catch a lot of them you're still at least a little bit ahead."

In the early years of NASCAR, the late '40s and early '50s, much of the cheating ws done simply to make the crs safe at racing speeds. Now . . .

"The most ingenious scheme I've ever found," said Bill Gazaway, Grand National competition director, Grand National competition director, "was a second carburetor under the manifold. A lot of resourcefulness went into that."

If most everyone else among pit row is willing to call a cheater a cheater. Gazaway is not.

"That's such a harsh word," he said. "Maybe (we have) some fudgers, but not cheaters."

The winner today, Cale Yarborough, once had a serious offer to try out with the Redskins but declined "because I already was pretty deep into racing. I think I made the right decision."