Dynamic duo: Ray Fox built lasting legacy with Junior Johnson

Jeff Hammond remembers the life of NASCAR mechanic and engine builder Ray Fox, who died Sunday at age 98. Fox and driver Junior Johnson not only achieved great things together; they were also great friends.

Junior Johnson (left) stands with car owner Ray Fox (right) after winning a Daytona 500 qualifying race on Feb. 22, 1963.

RacingOne / ISC Archives

This week, our sport lost one of its all-time greats in the legendary Ray Fox. He had an incredible life and lived to an amazing 98 years old. My first and earliest memories of Mr. Fox were when I was working for Junior Johnson.

Obviously, the newer fans of our sport probably don't realize the extent of history between those two guys. They won the Daytona 500 together in 1960 with Junior Johnson behind the wheel.

Those two were longtime friends. They were innovators in our sport. Back in the day, when we would be in Daytona for Speedweeks, Junior, then-wife Flossie, the crew and, I mean, everybody would go to Mr. Fox's house for a massive shrimp dinner. Mr. Fox's whole family was there and he'd open his house up to all of us.

For years it was just tradition to do that during Speedweeks in February. It was just really special memories that I will always carry with me.

The other fun part for me was being the proverbial "fly on the wall" and being able to listen in on the conversations Mr. Fox and Junior Johnson used to have about the old days of racing, the Chevrolet engines they tinkered with, carburetors, etc. Those "Back in the Day" stories really gave a young guy like me at the time a really clear perspective of how things were back in the beginning of our sport.

Even after he got out of the sport of NASCAR, Ray never lost his passion for it. In his later years he was the president of the Living Legends of Auto Racing that promoted the preservation of our racing heritage. His grandson is in the sport as a mechanic for Roush Fenway Racing.

Despite his mechanical brilliance when it came to race engines and race cars, I'll always remember Mr. Fox as a compassionate man and, truth be told, a very funny man. This was a man who probably cared more about our sport and promoting our sport than he ever did about promoting himself.

Mr. Fox was and is all that is good about the sport of NASCAR.

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