The Chrome Horn News

12/29/2008

NASCAR LEGEND PEE WEE JONES IS REMEMBERED

   He looked out over the crowd at the historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem earlier last summer, and pondered his thoughts.
   Did he wish to be out there? Pee Wee Jones, former six time Bowman Gray Stadium Modified Champ, would give you a sheepish grin and say "no and if I were younger, I would still say no."
   Pee Wee passed away peacefully on Christmas eve at his home in Clemmons NC at the age of 80.
   Pee Wee, born Phillip Sylvester Jones, was a legend in the world of NASCAR. He was one of the original members of NASCAR when it was founded in 1949 by big Bill France. He began his career running weekly races at the Stadium running for France and the late J. Alvin Hawkins who promoted the events.
   Pee Wee racked up 28 victories at the Stadium until he retired in 1972. One record still stands today, 5 consecutive track championships which will be hard to beat since the competition at the Stadium is so keen.
   Pee Wee traveled up and down the eastern seaboard running in a bunch of modified events including the old Langhorne Speedway against other famous competitors such as Dutch Hoag, Richie Evans and Jerry Cook. But Pee Wee always considered Bowman Gray his hometown track. He even ran in the old convertible series that ran only a short time.
   Pee Wee retired from Modern Chevrolet in Winston Salem as a fleet manager. It was Pee Wee that was credited with getting Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, another Winston Salem entity, its fleet of Chevrolet vans. Pee Wee would say that was the highlight of his job at the Chevrolet dealership. However being a race driver and working for Chevrolet, Pee Wee was given the task of testing a Chevrolet Corvette for the company.
   Pee Wee didn't like to talk much about racing or his accomplishments of life. He would rather talk about his grandchildren or other parts of life.
   He would say in an interview last summer that he didn't fear anybody he raced with at the stadium but he did have a concern for two time track champion, Max Berrier.
   "Max would bump you one time to let you know he was there. If he bumped you again then that meant to get out of the way. And if you got bumped again, you found yourself spinning" he said smiling.
   Pee Wee would tell you that he absolutely loved running over at the stadium but had no regrets of getting out. It was just a matter of timing when he was competing. When he got out of racing was when NASCAR was beginning to take off and make a name for itself when RJ Reynolds, another Winston Salem product, took off and got into racing.
   Pee Wee had thought that racing got too big for him when Reynolds got involved. He had made his mark in racing and wanted to stay closer to home. "It was okay for a single man if you liked being on the road a lot" he said.
   Another sheepish grin came from Pee Wee when asked about his fondest memories of the famed 1/4 mile track.
   "Back then they ran a 400 lap race each year (Carolina 400) and we didn't have all this preparing our bodies like they do now. I rested as much as I could that week. I won the pole for that race and layed down on the grass while the boys pushed the car out. The announcer ( then Lewis Compton) was teasing me about that and I was just a resting. Then the race starts and I lasted a whole 4 laps and the darned transmission comes out."
   Pee Wee also liked to talk about flying, which was a big deal back in the 60's. He would tell you that he was no Curtis Turner, a well known NASCAR driver that owned a plane and liked to play with the plane and land on highways.
   "We were flying down to Darlington for a race (not with Turner) and I had to go to the bathroom. So we landed in this mans field and then took right off again. When a man has to go, he has to go."
   Pee Wee was somewhat amazed when he saw the stadiums changes last season when they built a new field house. However he was quick to tell you that the track itself really hadn't changed much since he was racing there.
   Pee Wee was a family man and liked to talk to family, fans, and his personal friends. When his health allowed him, he would stop by Pulliams Bar-B-Que and talk racing to some of the other ole-timers that competed at the stadium. Names like Harry Leake, Carl Burris, E J Brewer, Perk Brown, Toots Jenkins, Bob Welborne, all would come up. You could tell Pee Wee liked to talk racing.
   Customers coming in would always ask about Pee Wee if he wasn't there. In fact a lot of memorabilia about Pee Wee is in that historic restaurant.
   While Pee Wee was a legend, he also made an impact in a persons life. One is modified and former USAR ProCup driver Mike Herman Jr.
   "It was Pee Wee that helped make me move up to the modifieds. It was almost as if he were my other father. He had this huge impression in my mind as a driver and an off track friend", he said.
   Moreover, before he made the move over to modifieds and still competing in Pro-Cup, Herman made a visit to the stadium and competed in a legends race in which he won. He dedicated that win to Pee Wee for teaching him how to get around the track.
   Funeral Services were held this past Sunday. At the eulogy a member of the Old Timers Club held a checkered flag and waved it in his honor because his life is done here. It filled tears in the whole audience. Even Mike, his son said that was hard to swallow.
   Pee Wee may have pondered his thoughts earlier this summer as he looked out over the crowd at the stadium. He knew racing has changed and he would tell you that he didn't miss racing. However if you looked in his basement of his home, one might find the 36 Chevrolet coupe numbered 24 sitting under a tarp. Maybe that's why he had that grin.
   Pee Wee Jones is a legend and was a true racer that will long be remembered.

 THE END

Source: Skip Wall
Posted: December 29, 2008

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