Raymond Lee Fox, Sr.
Lee Fox, Sr.
made many significant contributions to auto racing during his career,
and what a career it was. Fox was a major player, not for just a few
years, but for an entire generation. From then on, he earned a
reputation as a master builder of both cars and engines, an outstanding
crew chief and someone willing to give a young driver a chance.
in Pelham, New Hampshire, but Fox left
the cold New England Mass. winters in early 1946 and took a job with
various automotive shops including Studebaker, before going with Robert
fish of Fish Carburetor in Daytona. After driving
Modifieds in Florida and
for five years against such notables as
Glenn "Fireball" Roberts and Marshall Teague, Ray discovered his true
talent � building cars and fast engines.
He built and raced
with Fireball Roberts and Larry Flynn of Holly Hill in winning
Modifieds, most notably the Fish Carburetor 'M' cars.
one of the amazing Fox stories was about the '55
Daytona Beach race. The night before, Ray built an
engine for Fireball's 1955 M-1 Buick Century
owned by John Fish. "I started at 8:00 p.m.
and finished at 4:00 a.m., " recalls Ray. Roberts started fourth and led
every lap of the 160-mile event. He cruised under the checkered flag one
minute and 14 seconds ahead of Tim Flock, the only other driver on the
NASCAR disqualified the car 24
hours after the race because the push rods had been shortened 30/100ths
of an inch. Flock, who had been disqualified the year before under the
same rule, won the race by default. Neither Fireball Roberts nor Ray Fox
ever forgot the crushing loss. To this day, it is the last race to be
taken away from the winner. All others haves fines and points loss now.
hired Ray and Herb Thomas. "He hired us because we were the only ones
who could outrun his cars," remembers Ray. With Ray's mechanical
expertise and the driving skills of Buck Baker, Herb Thomas, Tim Flock,
and Speedy Thompson, Kiekhaefer's cars won 22 of the first 26 races, and
Ray was named Mechanic of the Year. Ray opened his own engine shop the
In 1960 John Masoni asked
Ray to build a car for the Daytona 500. In another last-minute effort,
he built the car in seven days and put Junior Johnson behind the wheel.
"We had a smaller engine than the Pontiacs, but as the race went on we
just kept getting better and better. That car really drafted well, and
Junior did a great job. It really amazed us," says Ray.
David Pearson won
three races in his rookie year in a Ray Fox Pontiac.
Junior Johnson, Marvin
Panch, and Jim Paschal drove for Ray in 1961, but when the Charlotte
World 600 rolled around he was without a driver. Bud Moore and Joe
Littlejohn recommended a young driver from Spartanburg � David Pearson.
David started third, but took the lead in the first lap, led most of the
day, and won the race. Ray and David went on to win the Firecracker 250
at Daytona and the Dixie 400 at Atlanta � the first grand slam before
there was a grand slam.
Ray became a car owner in
1962, and over the next eight seasons his cars won 18 poles and 14 races
in 172 starts. It is said that in 1963 alone Ford Motor Company spent
over 1 million dollars trying to catch Ray's No. 3 white Chevy. Over the
next few years Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Earl Balmer, Fred Lorenzen, Cale
Yarborough, Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts and LeeRoy Yarbrough drove Ray's cars.
In 1965 LeeRoy drove Ray's
Dodge Coronet to a new world speed record for closed courses. The
Coronet was powered by a 426-cubic-inch Hemi-Charger engine with
four-port Hilborne fuel injection and a 617 GMC blower. Before the test
run the crew gave LeeRoy a bathtub stopper in case the car was too fast.
LeeRoy put the stopper on his key chain, but forgot to use it when he
ran the second lap at a record-breaking 181.818 mph. He was gaining
speed for the third lap when NASCAR officials saw smoke and gave him the
black flag. The crew later found a quarter-inch machine bolt in the
right front tire.
late 1960's, Fox acquired Holman-Moody's old Airport shop in Charlotte
and moved his family to North Carolina for a while.
Ray retired in 1972 and
founded a racing dynasty when he turned the business over to his son,
Raymond Lee Fox, Jr. His grandson, Raymond Lee Fox III, is a member of
the Robert Yates team.
NASCAR asked Ray to return
a few years later, and the man who once built fast engines began
inspecting engines. He retired again in 1996 and now devotes his time
and talent to serving as president of The Living Legends.
Ray is a member of the
National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, the Western Auto
Mechanics Hall of Fame, the Oceanside Rotary Hall of Fame, and the
Jacksonville (Fla) Raceway hall of Fame, and was inducted into the
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003. He lives in Daytona and
is President of the Living Legends of Auto Racing (see picture below).
Legends Above: Marvin Panch, Ray Fox, 'Mad' Marion MacDonald, TBA
Legends of Auto Racing, Daytona Beach
Ray Fox, President
Board of Directors
Of note: Nascar
legendary scorer Joe Epton, lower right
Below: Fox, Bobby Allison,
Fox Related Stories
Legendary builder Ray Fox, with the help of fellow Daytona Beach, Fla.,
stock car innovator Smokey Yunick, debuted Chevrolet's "mystery engine," a
427-cubic inch engine that would replace the 409-cubic inch engine
previously used and often called a "boat anchor" because of its weight.
The new powerplant had other manufacturers worried, and for good reason.
Junior Johnson, driving Fox's 1963 Chevrolet, became a common fixture on the
front row most race weekends.
But as is often been the case when durability is sacrificed for speed,
there came more problems. In most cases the car would finish in the top five
or break while trying.
In 1961, Pearson entered 19 of the season�s 52 events driving his #67
Chevrolet, Tony Lavati�s #66 Pontiac, and John Masoni�s #3 Pontiac. Behind
the wheel of Masoni�s Pontiac, Pearson won the World 600 at Charlotte, the
Firecracker 250 at Daytona, and the Dixie 400 at Atlanta. Pearson qualified
on the pole in the #3 Pontiac for the National 400 at Charlotte, but
finished 21st after having a fuel pump failure.
In 1962, Pearson competed in 12 events,
driving Ray Fox�s #3 and #39 Pontiacs
In 1959, nobody had heard of drafting. Johnson said he discovered it
totally by accident in 1960. Johnson and crew chief Ray Fox were
about 22 mph slower than the top cars in the field. They kept trying to find
more speed but were failing.
While out on the track testing adjustments, a faster car passed Johnson.
As it happened, Johnson ducked in behind the faster car's bumper. He soon
realized he was able to keep up with the faster car, lap after lap.
''I figured out drafting dragged me along,'' Johnson said.
He went back to the garage. Fox thought he had found the extra
horsepower. Johnson didn't tell him of his slipstream discovery, in which he
only needed to run about two-thirds throttle when he was drafting. It saved
gas mileage and wear on a motor that really wasn't supposed to last 500
''When the race started, I started thumbing rides all day long,'' Johnson
``When the race was over with, I happened to be in right place to win
the story . . . .
As the start of the 1960 season neared,
Junior Johnson had no ride. Then
came a call from Ray Fox, a highly respected car builder/engineer/crew
chief based in Daytona Beach, Fla. He had a Chevy with sponsorship from John Masoni
through the Daytona Beach Kennel Club, the greyhound racing track he
owned near the first turn of the sprawling speedway. Fox needed a driver.
Was Junior interested? "I liked Ray, so I told him I'd come down and see
what we could do," says Junior. "It appeared that Pontiac had the best race
car, and several good drivers were in 'em, including Fireball (Roberts) and
Paul Goldsmith. I knew it was going to be a challenge."
As he expected, the Pontiacs were up to 30 mph faster than Junior in
practice. And they stayed faster in time trials ... Junior hinted for Fox to
get another driver. However, Fox demurred, vowing to improve his car's
speed. After a series of adjustments, Junior decided to try and run along
with a top Pontiac in practice. "Cotton Owens came by and I got behind him.
Right on his rear bumper. And I stayed right there! We came back to the
garage and Cotton walked over to me. 'Boy, you've sure got that thing to
running,' Cotton said. What he didn't know was that I had discovered the
aerodynamic draft at Daytona." ... "Once the race started, I got to the
Pontiacs ahead of me as fast as I could," continued Junior. "From then on I
did everything the Pontiac drivers did. If they pitted, I pitted." ...
Various problems began taking a toll on the Pontiacs ... Only the Pontiac of
Bobby Johns remained competitive, and Junior had track position on him.
However, the lapped Pontiac of Jack Smith gave Johns a tow and he passed
Junior for the lead on the 170th lap of the race's 200. "Then, coming off
the second turn with 10 laps to go ... the back glass popped out of Bobby's
car and flew into the air. I think our speed and the traffic circumstances
combined to create a vacuum that sucked that back glass right out." ...
Junior swept to the checkered flag 23 seconds ahead of Johns, who recovered
to finish as the runner-up. The immensely popular victory was the biggest of
Junior's great 50 win career.
February 26, 1965,
teamed up with Dodge and legendary engine builder and car owner Ray Fox to
set a new record at Daytona International Speedway. Driving a No. 3 Dodge
Coronet with a supercharged and fuel-injected 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine,
Yarbrough circled the fabled track at 181.818 mph. The pole winner for the
Daytona 500 two weeks earlier had lapped the track 10 miles an hour slower
at 171.151 mph.
Fox says Yarbrough could have set a faster time but track officials
black-flagged him when they thought he blew the engine. Yarbrough shut it
off between the third and fourth turn and coasted through the timing lights
when he said the record. What the officials actually saw, says Fox, was tire
Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets
Copyright � 2003-2004
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
05/01/05 10:31:40 -0400.
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