Tuesday, January 26, 2016

(L-R) Jerry Cook is inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame by Robin Pemberton.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images

Jerry Cook was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction on January 23, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Cook made his name in modifieds, winning six NASCAR Modified championships, including four consecutively from 1974-77.

All the while, he was vying with another driver from his hometown of Rome, New York, nine-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans, for supremacy in NASCAR’s open-wheel realm. The rivalry was homegrown -- and intense!

Well, that's very true between me and Richie, we put Rome on the map. Richie lived there, was born there, raised there. I moved there when I met my wife Sue over at the Utica-Rome Speedway, and then we lived there, too, bought a home and had two kids, raised our kids there for 25 years, and of course I was racing and running NASCAR, which Utica-Rome was, and Richie saw that, too, and he thought he wanted a piece of that. So it's when it started between the two of us living in the same town, and of course every race counted for points. Like I said, all the stories you've heard are true, even as crazy as they are, where we tried to outfox each other at different races and what have you.

But he was a tough competitor. He was a winning race car driver, too, you know. We lived two totally different lifestyles, but we were both after the same thing, and when I retired, we were tied at six championships each, and then when he got killed at Martinsville in '85, that was -- I was already working for NASCAR then, and that was the first year, so he won the championship that year because Martinsville was the end of the year.

But we had quite a time, and it was a rivalry second to none for racing, and I don't think it'll ever happen again because of the way things are today, you couldn't do that. But it was a lot of fun when I sit there and think about it, and I even said it today, I don't know how in the world we ever did that much racing. And on top of that, we just kept going. We never got tired, and we didn't know the word quit.

When he was asked about his retirement, Jerry Cook explained:

Retired from driving was what -- well, I had already won the six, and I'd done it a long time, and was starting to look for something else to do. Talked about running a speed shop or building cars, and I really didn't want to do that, and when I got the offer from the France family, I said, now there's something I can do and I know what I'm doing, and that's -- one thing led to another, and I felt like if I could get through a year of that, I'd be okay, and I did get through that year. That's one thing that led to another.

There's never been anything in my whole life that had a structured plan to it. Things just happened and sort of happened for the best for me, and I'm tickled to death about that, especially winding up here like this.

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