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January 23, 2016

Jerry Cook

Robin Pemberton

Tony Stewart

Charlotte, North Carolina

TONY STEWART: Any day, any time, anywhere, and against anyone. That was the attitude that possessed our next inductee, and that's why I admire him so much. His competitive spirit knew no end, and combined with ferocious talent landed him six modified championships, and today one of my favorite drivers takes his rightful place amongst the immortals in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
(Video shown.)
Please welcome the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, my good friend Jerry Cook.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Jerry, I've known you since the 1960s when you used to stop and eat at my parents' restaurant in Malta, New York. Through the years you've been known as a tough racer and even later on a tougher NASCAR administrator. Let me tell you, no one could collect a NASCAR fine more effectively than you. Trust me, I know. (Laughter.)
So it is my honor on this 23rd day of January, 2016, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring and officially induct Jerry Cook into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
JERRY COOK: Thank you.
Good afternoon. Wow, this is a little overwhelming. This is the greatest honor in NASCAR, and to have a place in our sport's house is the ultimate achievement. Congratulations to the other inductees, also.
Nothing means more to me than to have my two children, David and Kristi, three grandchildren, Justin, Alex and Lauren, and my great grandson Oliver and our extended family here today to share this event with me.
My wife Sue and I met at Utica‑Rome Speedway in New York in 1964, and now she's been the best friend and partner. Sue, you have been a large part of our success, and happy birthday.
Many thanks to my crew guys, who volunteered to help me for all those years. I'm glad you could be here today to enjoy this with us.
I didn't grow up in a racing family, but when I was about eight years old, I met Cam Gallarte, who drove a modified and owned the service station just down the road from my home.
It didn't take long for me to know that I wanted to be involved in racing, but I was too young to drive, so at age 13 I built my own stock car and had someone else drive it for me.
With my dad's support and some money, much more than my mother ever knew, our cars won a lot of races.
After six years of fixing someone else's wrecks, I said to myself, heck, I'd rather fix my own wrecks. So in 1963, I started driving my own car and won my first track championship on dirt at Canandaigua Speedway in 1964, my first full season.
We ran at different tracks weekly from Thursday through Sunday, and I always remember racing at Ken Squier's Catamount Stadium on Thursdays. In total, we won nine track championships at seven different tracks, including two on dirt.
But I always wanted to race for the NASCAR modified championship, so in 1968 I partnered with Halibrand Trucking owned by Pete Halibrand and his son Pete Jr. which gave us the resources we needed to compete with the best, and it paid off.
From 1969 to 1981, we finished either first or second in points each year, including six NASCAR modified championships. I sure am glad that Pete saw the potential in a young driver to win races and championships.
We built our own cars in the garage beside the house, and when we won our first championship, we built a bigger garage.
Our motto was we never got tired, and we didn't know the word quit.
I raced at NASCAR tracks everywhere from Maine to Daytona Beach, from one‑fifth mile ovals to two‑and‑a‑half mile superspeedways, both dirt, asphalt, plus road courses. I even raced against fellow inductee Curtis Turner once at Pulaski County Speedway in Virginia on dirt. My most memorable win was the 1969 Dogwood 500, a 500‑lap modified race at Martinsville Speedway. They didn't give out grandfather clocks to the modified drivers at first, but we did end up collecting five clocks after seven wins at Martinsville. We ran every day and night that we could because every race counted for points.
At one point we ran eight races in six days, running one in the afternoon, flying to another one that night. We now wonder how we ever did that much racing. And yes, all the stories you heard about Richie Evans and I leaving town in different directions to not let each other know where we were going to race that night are all true. (Laughter.)
I think the rivalry between Richie and I made us both better drivers. From 1971 to 1985, we claimed all the NASCAR modified championships and were tied at six championships each when I retired in 1982.
I really wanted to stay in racing after retiring as a driver, so after finishing third in points in 1982, the France family offered me a position with NASCAR, which I gladly accepted. The timing was right, and the offer opened up an opportunity for me to continue in the sport outside of the race car.
I went to work with the weekly tracks and the modifieds that I knew so well. I launched what is now the Whelen Modified Tour along with the late great Jim Hunter, and we restarted Busch North Series, which is now the K&N Pro Series East.
I was even an interim pace car driver for the Cup races for a while until a new driver could be hired.
In 1990, I was promoted to competition administrator and moved to Daytona Beach to work with all the touring series, weekly tracks, update the rule books, and write the first set of rules for the Truck Series.
In 2002 I relocated to the NASCAR R&D Center when it opened, where I worked with testing and developing race cars, engines and parts, which had been my passion, even before I built that first stock car back in 1957.
I would like to thank some great people in this sport for helping behind the scenes. The Pettys, who opened up their shop to us when we ran in the South, and Bobby Allison for helping us with superspeedway setups, Richard Childress for qualifying my car at Winston‑Salem on Friday so that I could run another track that night, then return there to race on Saturday, and Steve Hmiel for getting in the truck after the spring race at Martinsville to work with us for the season, then returning to work for the Pettys at the end of the year.
We definitely learned better ways of doing things that season. I also want to thank Ray Evernham, who built the No.38 modified tribute car. We took old Red to Martinsville in 2014 and relived some of those moments. I'll tell you, they felt pretty good to get back out there and make some laughs.
A special thank you to the Robert and Doug Yates family for all the help that you have given my family in the last year, and finally, my gratitude to the France family, because without their vision and dedication to our sport, none of us would be here today.
I have been very fortunate to make a living doing something that I really love and would not trade it for anything.
When I first started racing, I wondered how long I could do this before I had to get a real job, but somehow I always had money in my pocket, so I just kept racing. In fact, my mother never thought I had a real job until I went to work for NASCAR.
I am proud that I have been a part of the growth of NASCAR for over 20 years as a car owner and driver and now 34 years on the administrative side helping the sport to grow into what NASCAR is today.
For me, it's always been NASCAR. I've spent my entire life in the greatest sport in the world, and to be honored in this way today, to be here and be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, along with all the greatest names in the sport, is the pinnacle of my career. NASCAR is family, and this place is our house. Thanks for bringing me to our house. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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