Q: Is it true that a monkey used to ride with one of the NASCAR drivers as a stunt back in the Fifties? Albert M., Missouri.
A: It’s true, Albert. The driver who took a monkey with him in the races was the legendary Tim Flock, and I receive letters about this monkey probably twice a year! Flock was one of the true pioneers and characters of the sport, and competed in eight 1953 NASCAR races with ‘Jocko Flocko,’ his Rhesus pet monkey, as a passenger in the back seat of his racecar. To this day, “Jocko Flocko” is the only “passenger” ever to ride in a NASCAR stock car race.
The fans loved it, but the final race with Jocko was one to remember. All of the NASCAR cars back in the early Fifties had little trap doors built into the floor pans so the drivers could open them up by pulling a chain and check the tire wear. Well, while on a dirt track at Charlotte, Jocko got loose from his special seat and pulled the chain on the tire trapdoor. Supposedly, Jocko got a little to close and his head was “sanded” by the tire, sending him wildly thrashing around Tim and the interior of Flock’s Hudson Hornet. Tim had to pull in and let Jocko out, and that was his last voyage in Tim’s racecar. The unscheduled pit stop cost Flock $600 in prize money.
On a serious note, Flock was the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) champion in 1952 and 1955 and won a total of 40 races and 37 pole positions in his 13 years of racing. His 21.2 percent winning percentage (40 victories in 189 starts) is the best in NASCAR Sprint Cup history, so Flock is still regarded as one of the sport’s all-time front runners.
Flock finished fifth in the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race on June 19, 1949, at the old Charlotte Speedway three-quarter-mile dirt track. Flock’s 18 victories (in 45 races) in 1955 stood as a NASCAR record until 1967 and the 20 poles he won in his first 68 races still stands as the all-time record.
In 1952, his first championship season, Flock ran the most laps (5,345), led the most races (16) and ran the most miles (3,564). He won NASCAR’s only sports car race in 1955 driving a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gull wing.
Flock was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame and the State of Georgia Hall of Fame in 1972, the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Court of Legends in 1994 and Alabama Hall Of Fame in 2006. Flock died of lung cancer March 31 of 1998 at age 73, just a month after traveling to Daytona Beach in February to be named one NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated columnist who welcomes reader questions on anything to do with auto or motorsports nostalgia. Contact him at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18840 or email at email@example.com).