By: Donnie Helmly
Jax Raceways will end their 1999 season with a celebration tomorrow night as they host the season ending NASCAR awards banquet, and the Jax Raceways Hall of Fame Inductee ceremony at the Morocco Temple.
Jeff Godbee will be center stage as he accepts his championship crown for the track's premiere division, the NASCAR Winston Racing Series Late Model division.
Godbee closed out the season as the dominant driver in the division setting new records all throughout the year. Godbee piloted his GRT Chassis/Gary Johns Racing Engine powered Chevrolet Monte Carlo to three different qualifying records, each time breaking his own from the previous time.
Godbee finished his "Dream Season" with 29 starts, 28 top ten's, 26 top five's and visited the winners circle a record 18 times. Godbee pocketed over $30,000 for his year's worth of accomplishments. Former "Rookie of the Year" Buster Delay of Jacksonville Beach finished in the runner up spot with 29 starts, 29 top tens and 26 top fives. Four-time division champion Steve Whitener finished third with 3 wins, 19 top five's and 24 top tens. The "Rookie of the Year" was 18 year old Michael Murrer who finished 6th in the final points standings with 1 feature win to his credit, 11 top five's and 19 to tens.
The Hobby Stock division has a familiar face as it's champion for the year. Eddie Holton of Callahan took home the Championship for the second time in three years with 9 wins, 27 top ten's and 20 top five's in the most competitive division at the half mile NASCAR sanctioned facility. Joey Miller will be crowned as the runner up with 3 wins, 20 top tens and 20 top five's. Defending '98 champion Tony Callaway finished up in the third spot, failing to make it to the winners circle, but logged 18 top five's and 24 top 10's. Mark Beebe will have the rookie of the year honors with a 6th place finish in the final points standing.
The Open Wheel Modified division was proof that it takes consistent finishes to win championships and not wins. Bobby Balkcom or Callahan will be crowned the champion with zero trips to the winner's circle, but the most constant finishing average and the most points.
Balkcom finished the season with 17 top fives and 27 top tens. Kenny Bayless who was Balkoms' teammate finished in the second spot with 6 wins, 17 top 5's and 26 top tens. Bayless also is the "Rookie of the Year" for the division. Ronnie Ponce of Palm Valley will take home third place honors with one feature win, 20 top 5's and 28 top 10's.
The Pure Stock division also proved that consistent finishes would bring drivers home a championship. Darren Greenslet took home 10 feature wins in the season but it would only be good enough for a third place in the points standing. Priscilla Yergy would log the second most wins of the year with 7 feature wins, but come up one spot shy of the championship with a second place finish in the points standings. Hardy Jarvis, however, logged one feature wins, but was the top driver week in and week out as he finished with 23 top 10's 15 top 5's and 1 win, to take home the championship crown. Windal Clark was the "Rookie of the Year", with 4 feature wins and a 7th place finish in the point standings.
The Powder Puff Championship was a battle to the end between three-time Champion Karen Greenslet and Cindy Holton. Greenslet would come up one spot shy of her fourth crown as Cindy Holton claimed her first. Holton and Greenslet both shared 6 wins each. Holton had 14 top 10's and 12 top 5's to Greenslet's 14 top 10's and 11 top 5's. Patty Duren took home third place honors, as well as, the "Rookie of the Year" title.
The Annual Jax Raceways Hall of Fame will induct four well deserving members of the racing community tomorrow night on stage along with today's stars. Curtis Morton Turner known as the "Babe Ruth" of auto racing will be included in the inductee ceremony. Turner won 17 races in NASCAR's top division known as Winston Cup today, and still holds the record as the best average finisher in NASCAR with a 44.7% win percentage. Turner won over 350 events in his career, and competed in many events at Jacksonville Speedway, his last one being on August 20, 1970. Curtis died in a plane crash October 4, 1970, and will be long remembered as the most exciting driver ever to compete in NASCAR.
Harvey Jones Sr. will long be known as the driver who never retired. Jones at the age of 74 won the Late Model Sportsmen championship at Gulf County Speedway in Wewahitchka, Florida, and continues to compete on a limited basis. Jones began racing in 1949 and has won over 500 feature events, as well as, many championships, including at the old Jacksonville Speedway.
Ronnie Cam Patrick moved to Jacksonville at the young age of 15 and was encouraged by local police to put his racing on the track after being ticketed numerous times for racing his 55 Chevrolet on the streets. Patrick did just that and mounted a 32 race winning streak at the old Jacksonville Speedway and won the Championship in a 53 Buick. Patrick went on to win countless feature events as well as championships in Florida and Georgia.
Ray Fox was and is one of the most legendary engine builders and racecar fabricators in the racing community, and will be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Fox was know early in his career as the engine builder for Fireball Roberts and won the Daytona 500 as the engine builder for Jr. Johnson. Fox built engines for drivers like Lee Roy Yarborough, David Pearson, and Buddy Baker just to name a few. Fox's engines went on to win countless NASCAR events as well as local, regional and national championships around the country. Fox retired as an engine inspector for NASCAR in 1996 and is a true legend as one of the greatest engine builders of all time.