Thursday, December 04, 2008

NASCAR influence on La Carrera Panamericana

It's interesting how many famous drivers from NASCAR competed in La Carrera Panamericana not to mention how many cars were prepared or owned by some of the biggest names in racing history. As a matter of fact NASCAR shares a lot of it beginnings in Mexico going back almost 60 years. A lot of these names will not to be recognized by many of todays younger crowd but there are a few of us old timers who do. Hershel McGriff, Bill France, Curtis Turner, Marshall Teague, Clay Smith, Johnny Mantz, Bill Stroppe, Chuck Stevenson, Walt Faulkner, Bob Korf, Ray Crawford, and Jack McGrath are just a few. Have you ever heard of Nascar driver Tim Flock whose good luck charm was a real live monkey by the name of Jocko Flocko who used to ride as co-piloto? It's true.

Jocko Flocko was a Rhesus monkey and remains the only known "co-driver" in NASCAR history. On May 16, 1953, Jocko helped Tim win the Grand National race at Hickory, N.C. - becoming the only winning monkey to date. Unfortunately, Jocko was forced to retire from "driving" duties two weeks later in Raleigh, N.C.. Too bad, Jocko was one of the cutest co-pilotos around.

Here is a photo taken on May 30, 1953 when the one-mile superspeedway in Raleigh, N.C., joined NASCAR and presented a Memorial Day 300-miler. Fonty Flock came from the 43rd starting position to win. Tim Flock fell to third in the final laps when he pitted to remove monkey copilot Jocko Flocko from his car.

Driving a 1953 Lincoln that competed in the annual Carrera Panamericana, Tom Cherry whips a quick lap at Daytona. Cherry finished ninth in what turned out to be his only start in NASCAR's premier stock car racing series. Two different numbers were painted on the durable Lincoln -- the #120 that it had in the grueling race over the rugged Mexican terrain, and the #38 that it officially carried in the NASCAR Grand National event.

Here is a first hand account as Tim Flock recalls the incident that caused Jockos early retirement. "I actually raced with a monkey, which I named Jocko Flocko, for eight races in 1953. It started as a publicity stunt, and we gave him his own driving uniform and a specially designed seat. Back then the cars had a trap door that we could pull open with a chain to check our tire wear. Well, during the Raleigh 300, Jocko got loose from his seat and stuck his head through the trap door, and he went berserk! Listen, it was hard enough to drive those heavy old cars back then under normal circumstances, but with a crazed monkey clawing you at the same time, it becomes nearly impossible! I had to come into the pits to put him out and ended up third. The pit stop cost me second place and a $600.00 difference in my paycheck. Jocko was retired immediately. I had to get that monkey off my back!"


Heyns57 said...

Thanks for the NASCAR connection, Gary. Big Bill France and Curtis Turner crashed their Nash Ambassador in 1950. In 1951, France tried to prevent NASCAR drivers from competing in the La Carrera Panamericana. Marshal Teague went against France's orders, and finished sixth in class in Mexico. Subsequently, Teague was dropped from the final NASCAR points for the 1951 season. Teague paid a $600 fine to be reinstated in NASCAR for 1952. The rift between Teague and France lasted until the day Teague died testing an Indy car at Daytona in 1959.

Gary Faules said...

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