Booker T. Jones
Driver
Class of 2003

     As an African-American, Booker Jones realized that breaking into racing would be tough, but he didn’t realize how tough.  Finally, when he was unable to persuade anyone to let him drive for them, he tried his hand at building his own car.  After his first race, at Miller’s Falls, Mass., Booker knew that competing in a racecar was something he wanted to do.  In those early years, he found that drivers deliberately tried to wreck him.  His answer was to build stronger cars that could stand up to the punishment, and, when he was pushed, he pushed back.   He slowly gained a reputation as a racer to be respected.

     Booker was one of the original low-buck back yard racers but competing against big dollar teams and names like Geoff Bodine, Richie Evans, Bugs Stevens, and Ron Bouchard, Booker proved that he could be consistently competitive.  With the help of a handful of good friends, including Ray Anderson, Rick McNally, and Bruce Bentley, the cars and motors that Booker put together at his Springfield auto repair shop ran up front with the high dollar teams.

     While Booker won’t be remembered for many wins or championships, he will be remembered for his generosity and a sincere willingness to help out his fellow competitors Late in the 1967 season, Pete Hamilton was barely leading the NASCAR National Sportsman point championship and his car was unable to compete in an important race. Without hesitation, Booker offered the #27 and Pete garnered enough points that allowed him to be the champion.

     Booker followed the career Wendell Scott, a fellow African American who drove a Grand National car.  One of Booker’s biggest disappointments was that he was racing at Utica-Rome one night, and missed Scott, who came looking for Booker to warm up his Grand National car at the Thompson Speedway.

    Bones Bourcier recently paid tribute to Booker in the February 2003 issue of Speedway Illustrated: “He drove NASCAR modifieds around the Northeast for what seemed like a hundred years, and yet when he died this past July at the age of 74, it was not his racing you remembered. It was his friendly smile, his big right hand shaking yours. He was everybody’s buddy.”

     Breaking into racing is never easy, but Booker Jones overcame tough odds to persevere as one of the few African Americans in racing.  We welcome him into the NEAR Hall of Fame.

 


Booker T. Jones.



Noted Racing Journalist and Author Bones Bourcier presents Booker's award to the Jones family.