International Motorsports Hall of Fame member Ray Fox (Class of 2003), a noted engine builder, car owner and crew chief, died Sunday. He was 98.
A New England native who saw his first automobile race at a 2-mile board track at Rockingham Park near Salem, New Hampshire, he relocated to Daytona Beach, FL, to work as an auto mechanic following service in the U.S. Army in World War II.
The legendary wrench man had a great influence on many drivers, who would go on to become both members of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame as well as the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
His engine won the 1955 Daytona Road & Beach Course race for Fireball Roberts, but the win was disqualified for modified pushrods. A year later, Fox was named mechanic of the year after winning 22 of the first 26 races of the season for owner Carl Kiekhaefer.
In 1960, Fox worked with two of the best ever. His Chevrolet won the Daytona 500 with Junior Johnson behind the wheel, and he also won three times with that season’s rookie of the year—David Pearson, who would go on to win 105 career races.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Pearson said. “He’s the one that gave me the start.”
In 1962, Fox became a car owner, winning 14 races and 16 poles in 200 starts. Johnson won nine times for him, and Buck Baker won twice, claiming the 1964 Southern 500. Other NASCAR Hall of Famers to compete for Fox included Fred Lorenzen and Cale Yarborough.
He was a car owner in the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race ever at Talladega Superspeedway and finished second with driver Jim Vandiver.
After retiring in the early 1970s, Fox returned to the garage as NASCAR’s engine inspector from 1990 to 1996.
NASCAR issued the following statement:
“Ray Fox was one of the individuals who helped form the foundation of our sport, with a personality that was every bit as important as his on-track accomplishments.
“His place in our record book is secure, but no one should ever view Ray Fox solely in terms of statistics. A resident of Daytona Beach, Florida, he was a hometown hero of sorts, serving as an ambassador for NASCAR in the community where the sport began. Most importantly, he was a friend to us all.
“Several years ago, he said he could still build a competitive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series engine, if asked. If he had indeed been asked, in all likelihood, he would’ve delivered.
“Of course, Ray Fox had already delivered, with accomplishments and memories that will forever serve NASCAR well.”