Mississippi Racing Legend
Ival Cooper - Jackson, MS
"The Little Man with the Heavy Foot"
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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