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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


Second Modified Driver To Earn NASCAR’s Top Honor

A contributor to the displays and content of the NASCAR Hall of Fame since before its doors opened, Jerry Cook now has a spot reserved as member.

NASCAR revealed on Wednesday the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Cook was among the five selected from a pool of 20 nominees to receive the sport’s highest honor. Upon induction next January, he’ll be one of just 35 members of NASCAR’s all-time elite.

“I’ve been involved with the NASCAR Hall of Fame ever since it was a patch of dirt, and I’ve helped with getting a lot of the stuff for the displays inside,” Cook said. “It’s going to feel real good to be a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and not just a visitor or contributor.”

It took some patience for Cook to hear his name called. He first appeared on the nominee list for the Hall’s second ballot, but it took until the seventh class to receive the honor. All the while he continued to serve as a contributor and ambassador.

“I’ve been on the nominee list for a few years now, and I’ve come really close the last three years,” Cook said. “To finally get there is the tops for me.”

Cook found his success racing in the NASCAR Modified Division, the forerunner to the modern day NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which traces its roots to the very first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1948 on the beach and road course of Daytona Beach, Florida. Cook compiled six NASCAR Modified national titles as he barnstormed up and down the East Coast chasing wins and points. He compiled 342 checkered flags in 1,474 starts.

“In my world with all of the racing I did, it wasn’t [NASCAR Sprint] Cup racing, it was short track racing,” Cook said. “Between all of the championship, race wins, track titles, state titles – you name it – this here is like the top of the world with a bow on it.”

What gives even further credence to Cook’s accomplishments was that he did it all in the same era as the late Richie Evans, who was the only non-premier series driver prior to Cook to receive NASCAR Hall of Fame selection. Amazingly, both Cook and Evans hail from the same hometown in upstate New York.

That’s right. Two of the first 35 members elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame come from Rome, New York, population 34,950.

Cook and Evans, forever linked in racing history, combined to win the last 14 consecutive NASCAR Modified Division national championships from 1971-84. Cook’s came in 1971-72 and `74-77.

When Evans earned the inaugural Whelen Modified Tour title in 1985 prior to his passing, the previously-retired Cook was serving as the tour’s director.

A rivalry has never achieved a more elite level in NASCAR modifieds either before or since.

“We’ve now finished off the battle of Rome,” said Cook, who still works for NASCAR in the competition department. “For me and Richie to both be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it kind of tops it off.”

Cook, who was elected one month shy of turning 72, recognized the honor as being special for NASCAR’s regional touring and weekly series as well.

“I’ve wanted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame since it opened up, but this is also great for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and all of the touring series,” Cook said. “That’s one big thing for me is that I got there through the tours, not through Cup.”

Cook also recognized that this accomplishment wasn’t his alone. With his wife, kids and grandkids by his side Wednesday, he also reverently recognized his sponsor.

“The sponsorship I had with Hollebrand Trucking carried me through all of those years,” Cook said. “That’s what made it possible for me to accomplish all of the championships was that relationship with Hollebrand.”

Next year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, and will be broadcast on NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, live from Charlotte, N.C. Cook will be inducted alongside Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner.
Source: Jason Cunningham / NASCAR
: May 20, 2015

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