When Jerry Cook finally reached the top of the NASCAR Modified circuit after nine years of racing, he decided to stick around for a while. In fact, from 1971 through 1977, Cook won the Modified championship every year except one. He finished in the top three of the final standings each season from 1969 to 1982.
Overall, Cook picked up 342 victories in 1,474 starts during his 20-year Modified career, meaning he took the checkered flag approximately once every four times he raced. He finished in the top-five in 64.7 percent of his starts, and was in the top-10 85 percent of the time. He logged more than 76,000 racing miles, and won $1,146,220 in prize money.
Because of his remarkable run of racing consistency, Cook has been named to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame induction class of 2009, to be held Thursday April 23 at the SPEED Dome adjacent to Talladega Superspeedway. Joining Cook in this year’s class are J.C. Agajanian, Donnie Allison, Bud Moore and Raymond Parks.
Cook, 65, already has been named one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history, and he was placed No. 3 on NASCAR’s list of the all-time, top-10 Modified drivers. But he said his inclusion into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame represents one of the best moments of his professional life.
“It’s a great, great honor,” Cook said. “I’m in many other Hall of Fames, but this one is truly international. To be inducted and associated with people all over the world, there’s nothing greater than that. This is absolutely the very top.
“I’ve been on that list of nominees for awhile. Every year I’d look at that list and think that there wasn’t anybody on it who wasn’t deserving. I thought if I never get inducted, at least I was on the list of nominees. When I got that call saying I was in, I figured I might as well go home, because it wasn’t going to get any better than this today.”
Cook was born in Lockport, N.Y., in 1943 and eventually moved to Rome, N.Y., which became ground zero for Modified racing in the New England states. Cook and Rome native Richie Evans combined to win 15 Modified titles, and they kept the championship in Rome for 14 consecutive years.
“Just winning that thing once is pretty tough,” said Cook, who was runner-up for the title in 1969 and 1970 before breaking through with his first championship in 1971. “It took a lot of preparation. We spent a lot of time in the garage before we went to the track. We wanted to make sure the car was ready to race and it wouldn’t fall apart.”
Since retiring from racing after the 1982 season, in which he finished third in the Modified standings, Cook immediately began working as an official with NASCAR.
Over the years, Cook helped create the modern NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series in 1985 and the NASCAR North Series (now called the East Series) in 1987, and he drafted the first set of rules for the NASCAR Truck Series in the mid-1990s.
Cook currently lives in Mooresville, N.C., and serves as competition administrator. His primary responsibility is to publish all the NASCAR rule books for the various racing series.
“I’m involved in everything from the Cup to the Modifieds, right on down to the weekly series,” Cook said. “I’ve always had a good relationship with NASCAR and gotten along with the people who run it.
“I quit racing one day, and the next day I went to work for NASCAR. It was that quick of a deal. I guess it worked out, because that was 26 years ago, and I’m still here.”
About the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. Each year, the annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is held on the grounds of the museum to honor those men and women chosen for induction from among the greatest names in all of motorsports.
The 2009 ceremony will be held April 23rd, at the SPEED Channel Dome, adjacent to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Individual tickets for the evening are $125 and a table of eight may be reserved for $1,000. Tickets and tables are available by calling 1-256-362-5002 or logging on to www.racetickets.com.