2011 NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Dolliver was never known to
the national racing community, but he was one of the shiniest gems
ever to come out of the Merrimack Valley and certainly one of the
Jerry was born in 1929 in Melrose, Mass., and as a young man, set up
automotive shop in Kingston, N.H. He never ventured far. Instead,
he was always there, steady as the morning sun, always warming
customers with a smile. His Sunoco pumps were the epicenter of town
talk for decades.
Jerry's racing was the same: nearby, competent, reliable,
fan-friendly. It all started in a hulking wire-wheeled ice machine
in 1949, and just five years later, he defeated Ollie Silva and
Oscar Ridlon's finest to become Champion at The Pines Speedway.
Eight championships were to follow, along with scores of victories
at more than 15 New England venues. There were cutdowns, modifieds,
supermodifieds, sprinters, and midgets.
Probably Jerry's most telling accomplishment, though, was his
unparalled success with one engine - a flathead built by Hall of
Famer Bill Welch. Ever so smoothly, Jerry coaxed that old-time
power plant along to over 100 feature wins, right when the vastly
lighter and more powerful overheads were sweeping the pit area.
Jerry's non-stop smile and gentlemanly nature lent him great
popularity and respect. But under the surface, his life was not
He suffered terribly painful and lifelong complications from an
explosion in his garage in the fifties. It shattered Jerry, along
with his neighbors' windows.
Ten years later, a team of Dartmouth surgeons operated to repair a
defective heart valve, significantly and permanently diminishing his
energy level. It was a struggle to function normally, let alone
bring up a family and toss around open-competition race cars.
Twenty-five years and hundreds of races later, on September 1, 1991,
Jerry warmed up Skip Armstrong's at Star Speedway. He was
exhausted. He emerged slowly from the car and sat down immediately
on the edge of the trailer. Then he slumped over.
The unassuming gentleman from nearby Kingston, who had lived and
raced with such grace and civility, quietly slipped away.