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Bruce: Weighing racing careers is serious business
RELATED: Class of 2017 announced " See all the nominees NASCAR's latest group of Hall of Fame inductees has been determined, but as is often the case, there are questions that remain unanswered. The selection of car owners Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks, along with driver Benny Parsons, as four of the five inductees for the Class of 2017 means that 24 of the 25 names on the inaugural list of nominees are now members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The only nominee from that list who has not been chosen for induction is Red Byron, NASCAR's first Modified and Strictly Stock (the forerunner of today's premier series) champion. Eight classes in and Byron, who won two races in just 15 career starts, appears no closer to selection than he did when the original list of nominees was released in July of 2009. Byron, who passed away in 1960, has obviously been seen as worthy of consideration by the Nominating Committee, which meets annually to compile each year's list for consideration by the Voting Panel. While it is not a requirement that those not chosen for induction remain on the list of nominees for the following year, it has often been the case. Should there be a limit to how long a nominee can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot? If a nominee hasn't been selected for induction after, say, 10 years, should his or her name come off the ballot? It doesn't appear likely that there will become an increasingly long list of nominees who continue to be passed over, but the possibility exists. The formation of the Landmark Award, now in it's third year, has eased some of the concern there, although one can be on the ballot for Hall of Fame consideration as well as the Landmark Award. RELATED: Ty said grandfather is 'hero' " Childress, Hendrick, Parks chosen A second concern often voiced involves inducting those who remain active in the sport, particularly car owners. Childress, Hendrick and Jack Roush remain at the helm of their respective organizations. Their careers are not complete. Eligibility guidelines for drivers stipulate that he or she have competed in NASCAR for a minimum of 10 years and have been retired for two years. Additionally, any driver who has competed for 10 years and is 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the previous nominating year is eligible for consideration. Any driver competing for 30 or more years is automatically eligible, regardless of age. For non-drivers, the only requirement is that they have worked in the NASCAR industry for at least 10 years. Anyone who has made significant achievements in NASCAR, regardless of occupation, but did not meet the previously mentioned minimum requirements may also be considered. Should those still involved, in whatever fashion and to whatever extent, be considered when many others who are no longer active have yet to be nominated and/or inducted? Well, would that person be chosen if he or she was no longer active? In most cases, the answer has been yes. What then would be the purpose of delaying the inevitable? Childress, Hendrick or Roush may decide to step aside at some point and turn their organization over to someone else. But what if they don't? What if they remain at the helm until they are physically no longer able to do so? Should they, or anyone else, not be considered simply because they're still living? Fortunately, that is not the case. Should each year's group of nominees be categorized, with at least one driver, one owner, and one crew chief among those going into the Hall? Drivers have been the overwhelming choices in recent years -- nine of the last 10 members inducted have been selected for their accomplishments behind the wheel. The 2017 class favors car owners. RELATED: Martin calls selection 'crown jewel' of his career A crew chief hasn't been inducted since Leonard Wood's selection in 2013. And there are several worthy candidates on the list of nominees, led by Ray Evernham, a three-time champion with driver Jeff Gordon . Waddell Wilson was not only a successful crew chief, but was equally successful as an engine builder. Harry Hyde worked with some of the sport's most talented drivers, including Hall of Fame member Bobby Isaac , Buddy Baker and Tim Richmond and is credited with 55 victories as a crew chief. Yes he was a colorful character. But he was also extremely successful. The most obvious drawback is that such a plan could penalize a deserving candidate or candidates based on nothing more than the number of nominees in a particular category during a given year. The current process is fair and it is deliberate. It is not easy. Spending several hours with many of NASCAR's legends and powerbrokers is a tremendous way to spend an afternoon. But at the end of the day, everyone understands the importance of the process. Each of us is being asked to rate the value of a particular person's career accomplishments. That's a pretty heavy undertaking. And it's something that none of us take lightly. MORE: Cain, Bruce reveal Hall of Fame ballots
Bobby Isaac joins NASCAR Hall of Fame Class 2016
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame In a different era, in which stock cars driven to and past their limits didn't break with frequency, there's no telling how many races or championships Bobby Isaac might have won. Isaac , the 1970 NASCAR premier series champion, won 37 of his 309 starts. But he was a DNF -- did not finish -- 129 times. His 49 poles rank 10th all-time, with 19 -- a still-standing, single-season mark -- coming in 1969. Only 38 drivers have won 19 or more poles in a career. Nobody ever had to tell Isaac to "stand on it." " Bobby was a never-give-up kind of guy," said Buddy Parrott, a member of Isaac's No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge crew and a 49-time winner as a premier series crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip among others. " Bobby had no fear." Isaac's accomplishments are such that he'll join the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Terry Labonte , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Their induction will take place Jan. 22 in Charlotte, N.C. The ceremonies will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET by NBCSN. Isaac , born on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina in 1932, saw his first stock car race at nearby Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and at age 17 bought a 1937 Ford and put roll bars in it. He flipped the car on the race's second lap but that didn’t dampen his desire. Working at a variety of low-paying jobs, Isaac began racing the NASCAR late model sportsman circuit. He survived but sometimes just barely. "One time I drove 200 miles to drive a fellow's modified car with $4 in my pocket," he once said. "I figured that I'd have enough to buy gas and get down there and eat a hot dog before the race. The gas was $3 but I had to put two quarts of oil in my car so I was broke when I left town. When the feature started my stomach was not only growling but I didn’t have enough gas to get back home. "I drove that car as hard as I could and won. I had to win." Isaac , described by some as "mercurial," went sportsman racing fulltime in 1958, driving for Ralph Earnhardt. He won 28 feature events, competing against the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and David Pearson. Isaac , at age 28, competed in his first premier series event in 1961. Driving a Dodge for Ray Nichels, he won his first race in 1964 -- a 50-lap Daytona 500 qualifier in which he edged Jimmy Pardue in a photo finish after Richard Petty ran out of fuel. With factory-supported teams jumping in and out of the sport in the mid-1960s, Isaac went from top ride to no seat at all. His fortunes changed in 1968 when he was hired by Indiana insurance magnate Nord Krauskopf and paired with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, whose larger than life persona was captured as Harry Hogg in the film "Days of Thunder." Over the course of five seasons, 1968 to 1972, the trio's "Poppy Red" Dodges won 36 times -- 17 alone in 1969 when Isaac won 17 times in 50 starts. Bedeviled by 19 failures to finish, Isaac wound up sixth in the championship standings. Isaac "only" won 11 times in his championship season, but the DNFs were reduced to just nine. The K&K team is remembered best for its winged Dodge Charger Daytona, the needle-nosed, high rear-wing version of the standard Charger. Remarkably, Isaac visited Victory Lane only once in that model, at Texas World Speedway in 1969, his 20th career win and first on a superspeedway. "We won a lot of short-races, but we couldn't pull it all together on the big tracks until the last race of the season," said Isaac in Greg Fielden's book "NASCAR: The Complete History." "Winning the championship gave me personal satisfaction, but I'd rank it second to the Texas win. "The way I look at it, it took me seven years to win a superspeedway race and only three years to win the championship." In September 1971 the team took its winged car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah where Isaac set 28 speed records, including a 217.368 mph "flying kilometer" mark. "That car weighed 3,900 pounds and it had 650 horses in the motor," Hyde told Car and Driver's Bob Zeller in May 2002. "And when Bobby set it sideways, it looked like a hydroplane on water. He came by at 200 mph broadside with a big rooster tail of salt comin' out the back." Driving part-time schedules for a number of owners, Isaac ran his last premier series race in 1976. He returned to Hickory Motor Speedway the following year where, on Aug. 14, he pulled out of a sportsman race feeling ill and was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to heart failure at age 45. Isaac was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1998, NASCAR honored him as one of its 50 Greatest Drivers of all time. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.
Bobby Isaac takes different path to NASCAR Hall
RELATED: See the rings, jackets for the Class of 2016 Of the five newest members inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the career of the late Bobby Isaac was perhaps the most unusual. Isaac was inducted Saturday, along with fellow drivers Terry Labonte , Jerry Cook, Curtis Turner and track owner Bruton Smith. Isaac , who died in 1977 after suffering a heart attack, won the NASCAR premier series championship in 1970, driving for team owner Nord Krauskopf and with the help of noted crew chief Harry Hyde. It was a perfect combination of talent and ingenuity -- the team won 31 races during a three-year span from 1968-70. Isaac wound up with 37 victories in a career that spanned just 15 years at the top level. He won 49 poles, a mark that today remains 10th best for the series. WATCH THE SPEECHES: Isaac's family " Jerry Cook " Curtis Turner's daughter " Bruton Smith " Labonte's speech According to reports, he also abruptly quit racing for a time when, in the middle of an event, he heard a voice tell him to get out of the car. It's an often-told story, particularly when NASCAR's top series prepares to head to Talladega Superspeedway , site of Isaac's early departure. "Well, obviously I wasn't there with him in the car when that happened," Patsy Isaac , who was married to the driver at the time, said Saturday following his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "But I will tell you that as soon as he got out of the car and was able to get to a telephone, because we didn't have cell phones then, he called me and he repeated to me exactly what happened to him in the car. "And he said, a voice told him that he needed to get out of the car, and so he radioed to (owner) Bud Moore. He said, 'find somebody to fill in the car. I've got to get out.'" The race was the Talladega 500, the 20th stop of the '73 season and the second of two annual races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Isaac was three years removed from his championship, and had been hired to drive owner Moore's No. 15 Ford. He had finished second to Richard Petty in that year's Daytona 500 , and placed in the top 10 in five other races. The race seemed cursed from the outset -- fellow Catawba County native Larry Smith was killed when his Mercury struck the wall barely 15 laps into the event. With the race nearly halfway complete, Isaac pulled into the pits during a caution period and unexpectedly climbed out of the car. Coo Coo Marlin, father of two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin, relieved Isaac and eventually finished 13th. Dick Brooks won the race. It was the only premier series victory of Brooks’ career. "I don't know what that experience was," Patsy Isaac said of her husband's incident. "I don't know if he felt it, it was an intuition or if it was actually a verbal voice. I don't know that, but I know that it impacted him enough that he was not going to stay in the race car." What she does know, though, is what she told Isaac when he called. "I said, 'come home.' That was fine with me," she said. "He had always said that it was not because someone had gotten killed earlier in the race, and that person was from Catawba County, and he knew them. That's all I can tell you is what he told me." Isaac attempted to resume his racing career the following year although he made just 19 premier series starts during the next three seasons. Eventually, he turned his attention to the local short tracks where he had begun his racing career. On August 13, 1977, he was competing in a Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory Speedway when he pulled into the pits, climbed from his car and collapsed. Transported to a local hospital, Isaac , 45, died the following morning.
Isaac ’s family inducts him into the Hall of Fame
Bobby Isaac's wife and son help induct the 1970 premier series champion into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
NASCAR Hall of Fame, Class of 2016
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Bobby Isaac
His uncanny skill at qualifying a race car proves that. His 49 career poles ranks tied for eighth all time.
Consistency, humility carry Terry Labonte into Hall
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Some label Terry Labonte the NASCAR premier series' least flamboyant champion. Perhaps it just seemed that way, when measuring Labonte alongside such colorful contemporaries as NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. His calm, quiet demeanor at least partially explains why Labonte became known as "The Iceman." The Corpus Christi, Texas driver may not have personified flash, but Labonte got the job done. Labonte won his first of two championships in 1984 and figuratively fell off the radar for a dozen years before resurfacing to claim a second title driving for Hendrick Motorsports . MORE ON 2016 CLASS: Jerry Cook " Bobby Isaac " Bruton Smith " Curtis Turner His 22 premier series victories don't accurately measure the breadth of Labonte's career. Consistency is a much better measure: 17 different seasons among the top 10 in the championship standings along with 361 top-10 finishes, the latter ranking 10th all-time. Labonte also won in the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the International Race of Champions (IROC) and shared the GTO class-winning entry in the 1984 24 Hours of Daytona. Rick Hendrick believed Labonte's attitude -- which often put others first -- may have kept him from winning more frequently. "Terry could've accomplished even more in his career had he been a little more selfish," Hendrick told The Associated Press in 2006. "But there's not a selfish bone in his body. He's a great talent, but he's just a great human being. "He'll always do what's best for the team, even if it puts him in an awkward spot." Labonte will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina on Jan. 22, along with the other four members of the Class of 2016: Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Ceremonies will be broadcast live on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET. Born Nov. 16, 1956 and raised in south Texas, Terrance Lee Labonte was introduced to racing by his father, who worked on race cars for friends. He was a quarter-midget champion by age nine and won stock car titles in Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio from 1975 to 1977. Labonte met Louisiana oilman and sports car racer Billy Hagan, who fielded the NASCAR premier series team that carried Skip Manning to the rookie of the year title in 1976. Labonte joined the Stratagraph Racing team for the final five races of 1978 and became Hagan's permanent driver the following season in which he finished 10th but lost rookie of the year honors to Earnhardt. Labonte notched his first premier series victory in the 1980 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . With sponsorship from Piedmont Airlines, Labonte, Hagan and NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman captured the 1984 championship with victories at Bristol Motor Speedway and the Riverside (California) International Raceway road course. Success, however, was fleeting. "We weren't supposed to win it and we didn't know what to do with it," said Inman, who left the team to rejoin Richard Petty. Labonte agreed, reminiscing after his second title, "I thought it was a pretty neat deal and we'd win it the next year. Next year took a long time coming." Labonte departed the Hagan outfit for Junior Johnson's Budweiser team, then went to Precision Performance followed by a second stint with Stratagraph. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1994. "I looked at his statistics early in his career and I couldn't believe how well he'd run with the equipment he was in," Hendrick later told The Associated Press. Labonte responded by winning the 1996 championship, edging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 37 points. His younger brother, Bobby , won the season-ending NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the two celebrated together. Bobby Labonte became a NASCAR premier series champion himself in 2000, making the pair the first brothers to win a title in the top division. Terry Labonte continued fulltime with the Hendrick team through the 2004 season, winning for the final time at Darlington in 2003. He continued to race on a part-time basis, calling it an 890-race career at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 19, 2014. Labonte has said his two favorite victories were those in his home state -- at Texas Motor Speedway . But he may be better-remembered for a pair of slam-bang races at Bristol battling the late Earnhardt. In 1995, Labonte won a final-lap duel despite a shove by Earnhardt that sent his car into the wall. Fast-forward to 1999, when Earnhardt spun and wrecked Labonte on the final lap and famously said in Victory Lane, he was "just trying to rattle his cage." The driver -- and his fans -- were livid, but Labonte admitted 15 years later in a Popular Speed Magazine interview that he was at least partially to blame for the ruckus. "If I had gotten into the corner at a better angle then he wouldn't have got the chance to hit me. But I was passing him low and couldn't carry the speed into the corner and he took advantage of it," Labonte said. "I don't think he really intended to wreck me. He wanted to move me out of the way. That was his only shot. I had four new tires and he didn't. "It was just one of those deals." Labonte is a member of the National Quarter Midget Hall of Fame and in 1998 was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.
Kyle Busch wins NMPA Driver of the Year Award
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch , who rallied from injuries sustained in a season-opening crash to capture the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, has been named the 2015 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award. Busch, 30, suffered a broken right leg and left foot in a crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway last February. After missing the season’s first 11 points races, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota returned with a vengeance. He won four of five races, including three straight, during the summer to qualify for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup . In the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway , Busch beat 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick to win the race and earn his first Sprint Cup championship. In addition to Homestead, Busch also scored wins at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Kentucky Speedway , New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway . It was his first Brickyard 400 title and the fourth for Joe Gibbs Racing . He finished the season with 12 top-five and 16 top-10 results. "I just want to thank the National Motorsports Press Association for voting me as the Richard Petty Driver of the Year," said Busch. "Last year was the most challenging, yet rewarding year of my career. While this honor has my name on it, I don't think it would have possible without the hard work and dedication from everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing , Toyota and TRD. "On the personal side, I can't thank the doctors and everyone at OrthoCarolina enough for helping me get back into racing shape, but also my wife Samantha and my entire family for all they did to get me back on my feet. Just looking at the list of past winners, it’s a tremendous honor to have my name mentioned along with many other great champions of our sport." In addition to his Sprint Cup success, Busch, a team owner in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, also scored six wins in the XFINITY Series and two in the Truck Series. Others receiving votes were Jeff Gordon ( Hendrick Motorsports ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ). Busch was presented the award Jan. 17 during the NMPA's annual convention in Concord, N.C. The Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award has been presented each year since 1969 and is determined by a vote of the NMPA membership. It is named in honor of Petty, a seven-time champion and the all-time win leader in NASCAR with 200 career premier series victories. Richard Petty Driver of the Year Recipients 2015, Kyle Busch ; 2014, Kevin Harvick ; 2013, Jimmie Johnson ; 2012, Brad Keselowski ; 2011, Tony Stewart ; 2010, Jimmie Johnson ; 2009, Jimmie Johnson ; 2008, Carl Edwards ; 2007, Jimmie Johnson ; 2006, Jimmie Johnson ; 2005, Tony Stewart ; 2004, Jimmie Johnson ; 2003, Ryan Newman ; 2002, Tony Stewart ; 2001, Kevin Harvick ; 2000, Bobby Labonte ; 1999, Dale Jarrett; 1998, Jeff Gordon ; 1997, Dale Jarrett; 1996, Terry Labonte ; 1995, Jeff Gordon ; 1994, Dale Earnhardt; 1993, Rusty Wallace; 1992, Davey Allison; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990, Dale Earnhardt; 1989, Mark Martin ; 1988, Rusty Wallace; 1987, Dale Earnhardt; 1986, Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt; 1985, Bill Elliott ; 1984, Terry Labonte ; 1983, Bobby Allison; 1982, Darrell Waltrip; 1981, Darrell Waltrip; 1980, Dale Earnhardt; 1979, Cale Yarborough; 1978, Cale Yarborough; 1977, Cale Yarborough; 1976, Darrell Waltrip; 1975, Richard Petty; 1974, Richard Petty; 1973, David Pearson; 1972, Bobby Allison; 1971, Bobby Allison; 1970, Bobby Isaac ; 1969, LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Hall of Fame induction ceremony postponed due to weather
RELATED: Official NASCAR release on postponement Wintry weather postponed Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony, pushing the Class of 2016's enshrinement to Saturday afternoon. The Hall's seventh class -- Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac , Terry Labonte , Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner -- will be inducted at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The event will be broadcast live on NBCSN and NBC Live Extra, with radio coverage from MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Plans to hold the induction as scheduled were in place until Friday morning, but accumulations of snow and ice that made travel around the Charlotte, North Carolina area treacherous forced the postponement. The NASCAR Hall of Fame planned an early closing Friday at 2 p.m. ET with Hall of Famer autograph sessions canceled. Saturday's altered schedule will kick off with a 1 p.m. ET luncheon. With winter precipitation expected to continue overnight Friday and into the morning hours, the NASCAR Hall of Fame also canceled Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day. Autograph sessions and driver meet-and-greets were canceled. According to a release provided by the venue, the Hall is exploring options to accommodate fans who obtained autograph session tickets, with a decision to be announced later next week. The Hall announced reduced hours Saturday from noon-5 p.m. ET with free admission. The postponement means a mere one-day delay for five stock-car legends. Modified stalwart Cook, early star Isaac , two-time premier series champ Labonte, speedway mogul Smith and the hard-charging Turner will have their names called Saturday, bringing the NASCAR Hall of Fame's list of inductees to a total of 35. RELATED: For more updates see Official NASCAR release
Modified great Jerry Cook to go in NASCAR Hall of Fame
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame Jerry Cook never intended to support his family driving a modified stock car. It kind of snuck up on the young resident of Rome, New York. Cook, who built his first modified at the age of 13, took the wheel by happenstance, when his hired driver wrecked two of the race cars he owned. That was in 1963, well before Cook won his first of six NASCAR modified championships. But Cook soon discovered he had a knack for winning races – and finishing well enough to cash a decent check when he didn't. "Every time I reached into my pocket, it had money in it," Cook would say later. "So I kept racing." And indeed Cook did – all the way into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, into which he’ll be inducted Jan. 22 as part of the Class of 2016 that also includes Bobby Isaac , Terry Labonte , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Induction ceremonies will be live on NBCSN, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Cook won modified championships in 1971-72 and 1974-77. Before retiring at the conclusion of the 1982 season, Cook also posted six championship points finishes of second and two of third. He won 342 NASCAR modified races in 1,474 career starts – and countless other non-sanctioned events. Cook finished among the top 10 an amazing 85% of the time. Cook joins fellow Roman and career-long modified racing rival Richie Evans in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The late Evans, a nine-time NASCAR modified champion, was inducted in 2012 as the first Hall member whose career wasn't connected to NASCAR's premier series. Cook is the second. "We've now finished off the battle of Rome," said Cook. "For me and Ritchie to both be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it kind of tops it off." Cook and Evans made upstate New York the epicenter of NASCAR modified racing in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Each driver had his legion of fans – vociferous on behalf of the merits of their favorite charioteer. Cook and Evans were respectful of each other and friends off the track, yet as different as night and day. Evans was the flamboyant one, famous for living life to its fullest with rock and roll music as the race shop's background noise. A writer calling Cook’s home, however, would find the telephone answered by the driver’s wife, Sue, who would refer him to the backyard garage where preparing or repairing Cook's red cars was quietly taking place. Ray Evernham, a former modified driver, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship crew chief and television analyst had this to say about Cook: "Jerry was not a guy who raced on the edge. Jerry won his share no doubt. But if he didn't win, he was still going to be in the top five." In some years, Cook's team would run nearly 100 races, at up to 19 tracks of all sizes, shapes and surfaces from New England to Virginia. Some of Cook's signature wins took place outside New York and New England. Cook’s first major victory was the 1969 Dogwood 500 at Martinsville Speedway . He won a trio of 200-lap races at the tough, Bowman-Gray Stadium (in North Carolina) quarter mile between 1977 and 1980. The closest Cook came to the NASCAR premier series was a Daytona 500 qualifying race in 1973. His car's engine blew seven laps from the end. Cook, with a wife and two children, took a look at what non-factory-supported drivers were winning and decided to stay in the modifieds. "So that's why I stuck with what I did best," he said. Cook retired after winning the Spencer Speedway championship in 1982. For more than 30 years he was a key member of NASCAR's competition department and was instrumental in the formation of the current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Cook, 72, was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. He is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame and New York Stock Car Hall of Fame.