The Quick Bio
Ray Fox (left) poses with...
Ray Fox (left) poses with David Pearson and their race-prepped 1962 Pontiac. Fox-built engines powered Pearson to three wins in 1961.
Born: May 28, 1917
Hometown: Pelham, NH
Wife: Patti Fox (deceased)
Children: Ray Jr. (deceased)
Ray Fox and Smokey Yunick were so much alike it was unbelievable. They lived in the same city, and to say they disliked each other was an understatement.
Although their dislike was tempered greatly by respect because they were both superb engine builders. In fact, at one time I doubt that there were any two people that could get more horsepower out of an engine.
February 26, 1965, Ray Fox...
February 26, 1965, Ray Fox (left) talks with LeeRoy Yarbrough (center) and George Hurst (right). Yarbrough had just set a new world speed record for closed courses at Daytona International Speedway driving a Ray Fox-prepared 426 Hemi-powered 1965 Dodge Coronet.
Fox and Yunick had a long-running feud, and they somehow decided to end it by letting each other's son work for the other one. Smokey Jr. would work for Fox, and Ray Jr. would go to work in Smokey's shop. And that was so funny because they fought with each other all the time but both managed to teach each other's kids quite a bit. I remember asking Fox one time, "Where's Raymond Jr.?" And he said, "He's over at Smokey's." So I asked Fox if he had him out stealing secrets or something, and he answered, "No, we've decided to trade sons." And I thought that was one of the more interesting things I've ever heard in my years of racing.
I had occasion to help Fox pair up with Buddy Baker when I was with Firestone. David Pearson had left Fox, and he was looking for a driver. And Buddy was driving, frankly, junk. But there was something in Buddy that I saw that I liked, and Fox did too.
Well, Ray knew that a substantial part of his income was going to have to come from tire testing. This was back in the day when there were two tire companies in the series, and they tested at the track before every major race. And we paid teams to do the testing for us. So a smart car owner could basically fund his operation if he did enough tire testing.
More than 50 years after they...
More than 50 years after they first met, Fox and Pearson are still friends.
I think this is 1965 or 1966, and it's the early days of superspeedway racing. We thought we knew what we were doing, but we didn't. Fox knew we wanted Baker to help us with the tire testing and they got together. At that time speeds had jumped up significantly in the last couple of years, I'm talking 20 miles an hour at some tracks, and the cars were 4,000 pounds, so we were stressing the tires significantly.
But after thinking about it, I realize Buddy Baker and Ray Fox racing together was going to be a real odd couple. Because Fox had a totally explosive temper that could blow roofs off of motels. And Buddy was about the same way, but I thought they might get along.
I remember one tire test at Daytona we were all at. Now this was back in the day when you could only have one car on the track, so you had to do some crazy things to subject the tires to the same punishment you'd get in a draft. Like loosening the car up or putting a bigger carburetor on it.
Ray Fox laughs at his 90th...
Ray Fox laughs at his 90th birthday party given by NASCAR in 2006. Many of Fox’s friends, family, and former drivers attended.
So I asked Fox, "What's the biggest carburetor you've got?" And he looked at me like I'd asked him to go into the gold mine and show me where the vein was. Well, finally he went and brought a carburetor out that you could swim in, it was so big.
Well, we put that big carburetor on, and Baker got in the car and ran without knowing what we'd done. He ended up going around Daytona at almost 200 miles an hour which was significantly faster than qualifying speeds at that time.
I can remember guys in those days would come back in after making a lap at Daytona and being absolutely scared white. But Baker was fearless, and when I told him how fast he went he said, "No I didn't." I told him it was the truth and what we had done with the carburetor, and he said, "Well, it didn't feel like it. Tell Ray to go get a bigger carburetor."
Well, Fox heard that and he got mad as hell because that was the biggest carburetor he had and he couldn't stand to let Baker win!
Did You Know?
This replica of the Ray Fox-built...
This replica of the Ray Fox-built Pontiac driven by David Pearson is on display in the Living Legends Museum in Daytona. If you’re ever in Daytona, you need to pay a visit; more information on the musuem can be found at www.livinglegendsofautoracing.com.
• Built the Car Fireball Roberts Used to Lead Every Lap and Win the 1955 Race on the Daytona Beach Course, but Was Disqualified for Shortened Pushrods
• 1956 Mechanic of the Year
• As Carl Kiekhaefer's Chief Mechanic in 1956, Won 22 of the Season's First 26 Races With Drivers Buck Baker, Speedy Thompson, Tim Flock, and Herb Thomas
• Built the 1959 Chevrolet Junior Johnson used to Win the 1960 Daytona 500
• As a Car Owner, Fox Accumulated/Won 14 races and 18 Poles in Only Eight Years
• Fox's Driver List Includes David Pearson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Earl Balmer, Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough, Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts, and Leeroy Yarbrough
• In 1965 Leeroy Yarbrough Drove Ray's Dodge Coronet to a New World Speed Record for Closed Courses of 181.818mph. The Coronet Was Powered by a 426-Cubic-Inch Hemi-Charger Engine with Four-Port Hilborne Fuel Injection and a 617 Gmc Blower. He was Gaining Speed for the Third Lap When NASCAR Officials Saw Smoke and Gave Him the Black Flag. The Crew Later Found a 1?4-Inch Machine Bolt in the Right Front Tire
• Ray Retired from Racing in 1972
• Came Out of Retirement in 1990 to Become a NASCAR Inspector
• Retired a Second Time in 1996
• Member of the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame
• Inducted Into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003
• President of the Living Legends of Auto Racing
• Is 94 and still lives in Daytona Beach, FL