Racing legend Harvey L. Jones remembered

Racing legend Harvey L. Jones remembered

VALDOSTA (By Dean Poling Feb 6, 2009 Updated Sep 12, 2014) — In a 1996 Sports Illustrated article, Harvey L. Jones said he would quit racing cars when he no longer won races. He was 73 then.

In 2002, nearing 80 years old, Jones raced his last lap. He didn’t win, but he didn’t lose either, said his wife of 56 years, Hazel Jones.

“He didn’t want to stop racing,” she said Friday, “but he knew he was slowing down and could not do what he once could.”

On Monday, Jones’ race came to a final stop. He died at the age of 85. His funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Culley’s Meadowwood Riggins Road Chapel in Tallahassee, Fla., with interment to follow in Tallahassee Memory Gardens.

Though a lifelong Tallahassee, Fla., resident, Harvey Jones was a South Georgia racing legend.

Numerous racing Web sites commemorate Jones as “an original pioneer of dirt track racing,” and he was known for decades as “a living legend” of South Georgia and North Florida racing.

He was a regular draw to past Valdosta race tracks, such as the 75 Speedway and Thunderbowl Speedway. He put a lot of grit onto tracks throughout Georgia, won countless trophies, and passed and outlasted an untold number of competitors.

But it was on a Valdosta race track that he faced a horrible loss.

Harvey Jones started racing in 1949. Through the 1950s and into the early ’60s, he and his brother, Hulon Jones, raced together and worked together on the tracks. In 1962, Hulon died in a wreck at Valdosta’s 75 Speedway, Mrs. Jones said. Harvey pulled his dying brother from the race car.

“Someone asked me then if I was going to make Harvey quit racing,” she said, “and I said no. As long as Harvey’s confidence was strong, he’d race. If the good Lord wanted him, He’d take Harvey whether he was racing or not.”

And Harvey Jones raced, often six races in a night. His blue No. 6 Sportsman was a familiar sight on the tracks. So was his yellow No. 68, sponsored by the Cooper Brothers.

During a phone conversation Friday, Mrs. Jones recalled an article from The Valdosta Daily Times, which referred to Harvey Jones as a “50-50” racer. “Fifty percent went to see Harvey win and 50 percent went to see him lose,” she said. From the sound of it, the 50 percent who wanted to see him lose often left disappointed.

While he was a Florida native, he did win an estimated 70 to 80 percent of his racing in Georgia, according to the Thunder Road USA Web site. He was the first non-Georgia racer inducted into the Georgia Auto Racing Hall of Fame. The Jacksonville racing hall of fame also inducted Jones.

As Jones told Sports Illustrated in 1996, “To win the race, you got to be there at the end of the race. These guys who tear up their cars at the start of a race — well, it’s a lot of hooey.”