Mississippi Dirt Track Racing the way it used to be !!

 

Lots Of Updates Coming !!

Please keep checking " Latest Updates " in the menu panel on the left. Please Email me at TobbyT@gmail.com if you see any mistakes anywhere on the website. My intent is to document Mississippi Racing History, not rewrite it.

Tobby Taylor

 

Another Mississippi Racing Legend, Ikey Jerome, Passed Away

Written by Mike Kimble

Ikey Jerome passed away June 21, 2022, at the age of 84. He is best remembered for driving Asphalt Super Modifieds.

Ikey began his driving career on dirt in the early 1960’s. He drove Mr. Ben Adam’s #99jr flathead coupe in the Jalopy class at the Jackson Sports Arena. He quickly moved to the Wesson Racing Club’s #99 dirt super modified which he drove at all the dirt tracks in the area.

In 1967 the Wesson Racing Club moved to asphalt, with Ikey as their driver. Ikey quickly became known as a front runner at the asphalt tracks in Laurel, Mobile, and Pensacola.

When Jackson International Speedway opened in Clinton MS, Ikey became a regular at JIS and later at Meyers Speedway in Houston, Texas. Ikey also raced the Wesson Racing Club’s upright #99 and the team’s rear engine super modified #99 at tracks in Baton Rouge and Fort Smith, Ark.

Interesting fact: while he is known to most as “Ikey”, his given name is Allen P. Jerome.

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South Mississippi Legend Sammy Head Passed Away

Written by Jimmy Spears

Mississippi dirt track racing lost one of its own on August 31, 2020. Sammy ‘Sam’ Head passed away at the age of 81 after a short battle with cancer. Sammy started racing in the early 70s. His first car was a 1970 Dodge Super B in an orange and white color scheme and the number 70b (Get it? Dodge Super B.) After that year, the car would change, and the “b” was gone. The orange and white 70 was Sam Head. One could sit and talk for hours with him about his racing adventures. He primarily drove in the late models but did spend some time in a sprint car. Nothing could keep him from that dirt. He would do whatever it took to get that car back on the track.

He also was one that was quick with the humor -- even if it was at his own expense. One year, he decided to paint across the back of his car, “Constipation … Can’t Pass a Thing.”

About the only thing Sam loved more than racing was his family. It was a family with dirt in their blood, well … racing dirt. Sam’s wife Sandra also was quick to jump behind the wheel. Then his son, Ricky, started in the hobby class at age, (cough cough) 15. As the years passed, Sam’s racing family continued to grow. His son-in-law and grandsons would find their way to the dirt. Currently his grandson-in-law is burning up the track.

And while Sammy will no longer be seen around the track, rest assured, his legacy lives on in his friends, his family, the laughs and the dirt tracks he loved so much.

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Mississippi Racing Legend Walter Jefferson "Buck" Ishee Jr. (99 years old) Passed Away on 7 Dec. 2020

Many of the great engineers and innovators of Mississippi Racing History can be found in the background of pictures taken of Mississippi Racing Legends and their race cars. You do not see names like E. A. Enroth, Buddy Taylor, Johnny Baker and Ben Adams on racing advertisements to draw in the race fans to weekend races. But without them, Mississippi race fans would not have seen the outstanding racing we enjoyed through the decades.

Mr. Buck Ishee is one of those men. From behind the scenes, he helped develop many of the early Mississippi Racing Legends. By my records, Mr. Ishee started building dirt track race cars in the early 1950’s. Drivers like Shane Griffin, Lamar Griffin, P.A Luper and Bob Herrin started building their racing reputations driving Buck Ishee cars. The Buck Ishee name became well known throughout Southeastern racing circles for building innovative and reliably fast race cars.

Buck Ishee became one of the few race car builders that made the transition from dirt to asphalt tracks.

In the 1960’s when dirt tracks gave way to asphalt, the Super-Modified took to the new faster racetracks. Car owners again called on Buck Ishee to build their race cars. Super-Modified drivers like Gene Tapia , Bob Herrin and Wayne Niedecken quickly found themselves behind the wheel of an Ishee built machine.

Mississippi racetracks quickly became known for producing quality race programs, large purses, and large crowds. The following words are taken from an article written by Mr. Ed Hinton, Senior Writer covering motorsports for ESPN.com entitled “Little Widow made a big impression:

"To big races, 200- and 300-lappers, would come the hotshots from as far away as Indiana and Texas, hunting easy pickings. But they would always leave badly beaten, amazed by the brilliance of Gulf region mechanics like Buck Ishee, Chicken McComb, Fred Sabbatini … outdriven by Palasini, Cooper, Gene Tapia, Armond Holley, Wayne Niedecken.”

Buck Ishee left his mark on Mississippi Racing and propelled many a driver far beyond their wildest expectations. Mr. Ishee earned his place alongside the other great engineers and innovators that cemented Mississippi as a source for outstanding auto racing.

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Mississippi Racing Historian Ronald Dearman has Passed

On May 3rd, 2020, Mississippi Racing History lost a valuable racing historian and the MissChicken Family lost an incredibly good Friend. Ronald Dearman passed away after suffering from a disabling illness for many years.

Ronald was a big fan of dirt track racing in the 1950’s and 60’s. When the dirt tracks gave way to asphalt tracks in the 1970’s and 80’s, he was there also. In the mid 1960’s he was lucky enough to buy a race car that was built by a legendary Mississippi racecar builder. His life would never be the same. Ronald took that old car and build the 6”Pac”. He sent me a letter many years ago. If you CLICK HERE you can read the story of the 6Pac in his own words. Along the way he made a lot of friends like Lawrence “Roundman” Chambliss and Freddy Frayer. I’m sure they are all in Heaven right now telling some wild stories.

When his illness got him down, Ronald found strength in building model race cars. These cars were recreated with love from his memories of racing over the many decades. His model cars, tow trucks and trailers were all painstakingly made. Many required four or more model kits just to get the major parts. What he could not find, he made. Then he would chop and channel a bodies, make the roll cages and somehow match the paint to make the perfect replica. He amazed many knowledgeable people from NASCAR Promoters, Car Owners and Drivers with the quality of details he built in his models. He could not keep up with the many request he had to make replica race cars.

Ronald’s brother, Dan Dearman, used his skills to build model size historic Mississippi racetracks to help Ronald display the cars. With Dan’s help, Ronald was able to display his models at many racing events that included Mississippi Racing Extravaganzas, Old Timer’s Racing Reunions and Hattiesburg Speedway. Ronald was recognized at the 2020 Mississippi Racing Vehicle Extravaganza for his contributions to the racing community.

Ronald Dearman was a Mississippi Racing Historian and contributed a lot to this website. Most of all… He Was My Friend. I will deeply miss him…

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Freddy Fryar passes away at 86

Freddy Fryar, one of the most loved drivers ever to race on a Mississippi track died on 29 April,2020 at his home in Cassville, Missouri. Freddy was not a Mississippian, but he fit right in with his welcoming personality and warm smile. He was one of the “Fan Favorites” at Jackson International Speedway.

Freddy won more Stock Car races at Jackson International Speedway then you could shake a stick at. If there was a big race at JIS, you could bet Freddy would be there with a fast car and the know-how to win.

At JIS, Freddy won the MASCAR Pepsi 200 in 1971 and 1973, the NASCAR Grand American Coke-Cola 150 in 1981, the All Pro Stock Car Skoal 200 in 1982 and 1985 and the All Pro National Pickup Truck 50 in 1984.

Freddy Fryar won over 800 feature races in his nearly 40 years of racing. He was loved by many race fans and an inspiration to many drivers. Freddy will be missed but his legacy will live on in Mississippi Racing History.

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Ralph L. McKlemurry passes away at 87

Ralph L. McKlemurry was a force to be reckoned with on a racetrack. According to my records, Ralph started racing in the early 1950’s and quickly became well-known for his driving, mechanical and innovative skills. He was a true pioneer in the sport of auto racing.

Here is a link to Ralph's Obituary from Hartman-Jones Funeral Home in McComb MS

 

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Sorry to report the passing of Charles Clifton "Rat" Lane

Rat Lane was a Fan Favorite at Jackson International Speed. He passed away on March 20th, 2019 in North Carolina. The link below is to his obituary. Please take a look and show your love. Charles Clifton "Rat" Lane

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Jackson Internation Speedway Sets the Standard for NASCAR

Mack Gillis was the track promoter for Jackson International Speedway in the 1970's and 80's. He told me a story that I just have to share.

Jackson International Speedway was the Fastest Half-Mile Track in the World. These extremely high speeds required an outstanding safety crew. Mike Eaves, Robert Eaves, Cecil Taylor and John Freeman stepped up to tackle this demanding job. This may sound simple, but after a wreck or a blown engine, the lives of drivers depended on them getting the mess cleaned up and make the track safe. If this wasn't enough pressure, the fans and the race officials wanted to get back to racing as quickly as possible.

In true southern style, Robert Eaves knew there had to be a better way. He designed and built a homemade device that could be attached to the back of his pickup truck. This new attachment could quickly put down speedy-dry, which freed others to clear the track of debris.

In 1979 NASCAR came to Jackson International Speedway to sponsor several NASCAR races. After one of these races, this picture of John Freeman spreading Speedy-Dry at JIS was published in the NASCAR magazine. Mack said his phone started ringing off the hook. Turns out the NASCAR track owners had never seen anything like it and wanted to know where they could get one.

Now you know another first for Mississippi. The NASCAR clean up trucks got its start right here at Jackson International Speedway in Clinton Mississippi.

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Another Mississippi Racing Legend is Gone

I was informed today (Jan. 8, 2017) that Ellis Palasini has passed away.

 

As told by Mike Kimble: The #V8 means one thing – Ellis Palasini. One of the very best to ever drive the open wheel modified or supermodified class. In 1967, Ellis earned a USAC License (Indy License) and is the only Mississippian to ever qualify to drive in the Indianapolis 500. He was a consistent winner on dirt as well as asphalt. Even after moving to the “big time” of asphalt supermodified racing in Memphis, Pensacola, and Mobile, Ellis was the superstar driver who would run asphalt one night and the next night show up at Jackson Sports Arena to race on dirt. One of Ellis’ most memorial wins was at Jackson Sports Arena. Half way through a big July 4 th feature race, he lost his left front wheel on the ¼ mile dirt track. The race went on without a caution. Ellis drove the V-8 on three wheels and win the race by throwing the car into the turns (sparks flying at every corner as the axel hit the ground) and carrying the naked left front corner down the straights.

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YouTube Videos of Vintage Mississippi Driver

Below is a list of some YouTube vidios. If you have found any vidios that I've miss, PLEASE let me know. I'll be happy to add them here.

Mobile International Speedway 1967 World 300 Super Modified THANKS TO David Findlay - YouTube

Tommy Herbert & Pappy Crane Flip - 1960 Daytona 500

EllisPalasini WXVT GreenvilleSpeedway

Jackson International Speedway, Clinton, MS, Hobby Class - 1970

Jackson International Speedway, Clinton, MS, Super Modifieds - 1970

Jackson International Speedway - Clinton, Ms, Stock Cars - 1970

Ride Around Jackson International Speedway in 2012

 

Bill Gupton

A Mississippi Motor Sports Unsung Hero

Written By Mack Gillis (Promoter of Jackson International Speedway)

Bill Gupton is truly one of the unsung heroes of Mississippi Motor Sports; not only motor sports, but all outdoor sports.  He covered virtually everything from racing, hunting, fishing, rodeos, wrestling, fairs, festivals, political speaking’s, civic meetings and more.  It was almost endless as to what he covered for The Mississippi Sportsman.  Equally important was his wife, Doris, who usually worked behind the scenes.  She laid out most of the ads, wrote editorials, and handled publishers.  Doris was Editor of The Mississippi Sportsman Magazine.  Although they covered so many events, I believe auto racing was their favorite.  I would see them at different events and they immediately would begin to ask me about the track and any racing news.  They never missed any event I promoted in the Jackson area.  Many times, they would leave other events early so as not to be late for racing. 

The Gupton’s involvement with racing was much deeper than most people realized.  They didn't just shoot pictures and publish a paper.  They sponsored cars and drivers at different times.  They helped acquire sponsors and they helped promote races. 

Before starting his paper, Bill had worked for several newspapers and had contacts across the State.  When I would go on the road promoting events, Bill would give me names of individuals to see and would always say "tell them Ole Bill sent you by."   Their photos were often used by other publications without them receiving credit, but I never heard them complain. 

Bill knew how to get the most from a picture.  Our famous winner signs came about particularly because of this.  I wanted our track to get all the recognition it deserved.  Bill was in charge of the Victory Lane celebrations, and many of his pictures from our major races were picked up and used by the National publications.  Many of the Mississippi races would have little to show if not for their involvement, photos and written articles. 

Another fact not known to many, Bill and Doris were prolific business owners.  I always enjoyed and learned from our business conversations.  Bill and Doris built and owned many warehouses offices and retail buildings.  They bought and sold many buildings of store fixtures.  Many of the display units and shelves I use today came from them.  They were members of many civic organizations, and strong supporters of the development of the Barnett Reservoir.  Bill was Director of the Reservoir Development Association.  Not only being so helpful, the Guptons had such a positive outlook and upbeat personality.  They were a very welcome asset to the Jackson International Speedway operating staff.  They had a great sense of humor.  I will never forget all the help and support that I and all Mississippi Racers received from Bill and Doris Gupton.

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A Mississippi Racing Historian Passes Away

Jack Brown passed away Tuesday March 19th 2013 after a long illness. Jack was a good friend to many people. I personally think he knew everyone. Jack was simply an amazing man with a passion for life, love, people and racing.

MissChicken.com was created as a restoration website for our racecar. Jack single handedly added “and Mississippi Racing History" to this website name with his knowledge of Mississippi Racing.

I first met Jack at a car show in 2005. I had been searching for pictures of Miss Chicken from back when she raced in the 1960's. Someone gave me Jack's phone number and said he had old racing pictures, so I made the call. Turns out, he wanted to look over our racecar just as badly as I wanted to look over his pictures. We met at the Morton Day car show. Jack had the most impressive collection of Mississippi Racing pictures I have ever seen and his knowledge of the people and places was outstanding. Mississippi Racing History was born.

Jack's passion for racing started at a very early age. He would beg his dad to take him to the races every weekend. When he got older, he would travel to tracks all over Mississippi. He told me that every date he had with his wife (Charlotte) ended up at a racetrack somewhere.

His passion was not just limited to watching the races. A young Jack Brown made a name for himself in the Kart Racing world. Jack even raced a car in the Mini Stock Class at Jackson International Speedway. His most exciting experience on the track was not in a race. He had rebuilt the motor on his Mini Stock and had gone to the track early to get it setup. While making his final laps, Jack noticed a young Mark Martin getting ready to take some practice laps. Jack said he stayed on track a few extra laps just so he could say he was on the same track as Mark Martin.

Jack made many friends and acquaintances during his lifelong love of racing. His outstandng knowledge of Mississippi racing history, the people and the cars served him well as part time announcer at Jackson International Speedway. 

Jack eventually moved from racecars to Street Rods when he bought his 1939 Chevy. He truly enjoyed the fellowship of fellow car enthusiast.  As with everything in Jack’s life, he got involved to the fullest. He held several positions in the Mississippi Street Rod Association and helped this group expand and grow.

There will never be another like Jack Brown.

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Mississippi Racing Legend

Ival Cooper

When you talk about the best Mississippi race car drivers ever, there are a handful of names that always go to the top of the list. The name Ival Cooper will always be near the top.

 

Ival Cooper learned the art of fast driving shortly after he graduated high school in Southeastern Arkansas. Ival discovered his driving abilities on Arkansas’ dirt roads from behind the wheel of a log truck. YES, I said a log truck !! Ival first real job was driving log trucks in Tyro Arkansas. He once said that he always wanted to get to where ever he was going before everyone else.

 

Sometime about 1950, Ival followed his brother to Jackson Mississippi to drive for a local trucking company. Ival said that he never really thought about driving race cars, until then one day in 1951, he heard an advertisement on the radio about racing at the Mississippi Sports Arena. He decided to go down and see what car racing was all about. The next week he was back at the track and got his chance to drive a race car when another drive didn’t show up. Ival said he didn’t get to race that night. Seems the car broke while he was running his time-trial but that evening he caught the racing fever. He was back at the track the next week and most every weekend afterwards until his death in July 1984.

 

Ival drove for many car owners from 1951 to 1953. In 1954 he teamed up with another Mississippi racing legend Chicken McCombs. Chicken McCombs built the legendary car #248 and Ival Cooper drove the wheels off of it. Ival Cooper will forever be known as the driver of the Chicken McCombs built cars, #248 and #631. They were the team to beat in the mid 50’s through the 1960’s.

 

Ival won races in modifieds and supermodifieds all over the southeast. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s a racing team could race 5 days a week. Ival and Chicken’s skills were well known from Memphis to Biloxi and from Houston to Pensacola. Ival won races for many car owners especially after moving to asphalt full time in the late 1960’s. Toward the end of his career Ival was associated with car #30 the “Ardis Special”, built and owned by Johnny Ardis of Mobile AL .

 

Ival Cooper was not only an intense competitor but also a friend to most all the drivers. Ival was always looking out for his fellow competitor. If a driver seemed to be in trouble after a crash, he would pull over to help get him out of the car. Even if he was leading the race. Ival was also a force to be reckoned with in the pits. When drivers did something on the track that endanged another drivers, you could bet that Ival would be in their face before they could get out of their car.

 

Ival died doing what he loved, driving a supermodified racecar. It was reported that Ival had a heart attack driving the “Ardis Special” at Mobil International Speedway. Fans say they knew he was in trouble when he slumped over while racing down the back stretch. He never let off the gas and never made the #3 turn.

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Mississippi Racing Legend

Tommy Noblin - "The Mississippi Skeeter"

Tommy Noblin was born in 1940 in Clifton Mississippi. He went to his first race in 1958 and two weeks later he had his own car. As with all of the Scott County Gang, racing got in his blood quickly.

I’ve been told that Tommy could race thirteen months out of a year. He teamed up with car owners Rubin Finch and mechanic Udall Sessions and quickly made a name for himself as an initiator in the sport. Tommy knew that the lighter he could make the car, the faster it would go. He was always looking for ways to remove weight.

In the mid 1960’s, racing in central Mississippi went through a huge change. The asphalt tracks started drawing the larger crowds and faster cars. Asphalt tracks in Montgomery, Jackson, Laurel and Pensacola took their toll on the local dirt tracks. Tommy bought a car and tried asphalt racing for a short time but dirt track racing was his passion. One of the tracks that managed to survive the changing times was Whynot Raceway located southeast of Meridian Mississippi. Tommy started driving for car owner Richard Webb and they started winning races, quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Tommy loved racing and he also loved kids. He knew that the future of the sport was in the children and he always made time for his younger fans. One of those youngsters was Jody Walters. These days, Jody is a racecar driver from Meridian MS and has to be Tommy’s #1 fan. Jody always had a sign in the cockpit of his car that read “ Be a Hero to a Child – In Memory of Tommy Noblin”. Several years ago, Jody gave Tommy’s son that sign.

Tommy, like most drivers, had many tricks up his sleeve. One was also in his shoes. Tommy always wore an old pair of Hushpuppies to the track. He would walk the track in his Hushpuppies and they would give him a feel of how to set up the car for the race. I’ve been told that the more the track stuck to his Hushpuppies, the larger his smile.

1973 and 1974 were Tommy’s most impressive years. In 1973, Tommy won 15 of 16 races at Whynot in the sprint car class. The only man to beat him was Bubby Jones of Dansville IN. In 1974, he continued his winning streak. A $500 bounty was placed on Tommy to be given to any driver that could beat him. Marty Broadus was the Gulf Coast Sprint Champion in 1973. He came up from the coast to see if he could collect that bounty. He finished 2nd to Tommy that night. Others to come to Whynot and try to collect the bounty were Terry Broadus of Long Beach,   Sammy Swindell   of Bartlett TN, Bobby Marshall of Dallas TX and   Jim McElreath   of Fort Worth TX. All came up short. Tommy went on to win 16 of 16 races at Whynot in 1974 and collect the $500 for himself. The only man to beat Tommy at Whynot in 1973 and 74 was Bubby Jones. Tommy and Bubby went on to become lifelong friends.

Tommy’s abilities behind the wheel turned heads all over the nation. In 1974 he took his car to a Championship Race in Phoenix AZ. He qualified his car 4th of over 70 entries. Unfortunately he crashed his car in turn 1 after qualifying and could not make the race. Car owners started lining up to ask him to drive their cars in the big race.

Tommy discovered how to run Firestone 500 drag racing tires on his sprinter. He went to a Championship race at the Talladega short track and just walked all over the field. The next week he received a new set of Firestone 500s from Firestone. He called the company to let them know that he had not ordered any tires. They told him that they had sold over $40,000 worth of tires because of his showing in Talladega. They just wanted to say thanks !!

In 1975 through 1979, Tommy drove several cars for owner Bobby Davis and also for owner Bob Gillentine. These owners provided Tommy many opportunities to drive quality cars in big races all over the nation. In 1975 Tommy won track championships at West Memphis, Little Rock and Greenville. He also won big races in Kansas, Indiana, Texas, and Ohio. During this time, a group of Tommy’s racing friends started developing the foundation of what we call today “The World of Outlaws”.

On August 13, 1979, Mississippi racing lost a great driver. While driving an 18 wheeler from New Orleans back to his home in Birmingham, Tommy ran into the rear of another disabled 18 wheeler stranded in the middle of Hwy 98 near Tylertown MS. Tommy was buried in Birmingham, dressed in his race suit and helmet.

 

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