Caribou’s Mark Jones New Motorsports Hall of Fame member

Episode 30

November 9, 2014

Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2015 in his office at Caribou High School. The high school principal is surrounded by several of his racing awards.

Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2015 in his office at Caribou High School. The high school principal is surrounded by several of his racing awards.

Latest Spud Speedway inductee into the Hall of Fame has over 80 wins to his credit

Maine Vintage Race Car Association announced it’s Class of 2015 Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees on Sunday November 9, 2014 at their annual meeting. The class includes Dr. Dick Berggren, Steve Blood, Mike Johnson, Sandy MacKinnon, Steve Nelson and Caribou’s Mark Jones. They will join over 90 others who have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame Induction ceremony will be April 4, 2015 at the Augusta Civic Center. More information can be found on their website www.mainevintageracecars.com

Jones’ career in racing began in 1972 and continued until 1995 when rotator cuff problems prevented him from continuing. During that time he earned over 80 checkered flags and several track championships.

The most unique championship, according to Joe Chamberlain, was 1975 when Jones and 2014 Hall of Fame member Chink Maynard were both awarded the Sportsman Division Point Championship. Their records supposedly were identical and all efforts to break the tie were futile so they were named co-champions.

Bobby Alexander, a 2014 Hall of Fame member remembers Mark as a tough but fair competitor who used his knowledge about car suspensions to set up his racer to handle well. Alexander said, “My congratulations Mark. Well earned honor.”

Presque Isle’s Freddy Haines who raced against Jones in the 1970’s after he learned about Jones’ status said, “Mark Jones was one of the most competitive racers at Spud Speedway. He was a clean driver who did not drive to clean house he drove to win”

“He and Bobby Alexander were about two of the cleanest drivers. Mark would not over drive his car. If there was a situation where he needed to back off he would.”

Troy Haney the track owner and a relatively young guy, vaguely remembered Jones racing, however, he did say, “It is good that this group of guys (Bobby Alexander, Chink Maynard, and Mark Jones) are getting recognized. It is well that Mark be honored for his 80 plus wins and several championships”

“I never expected this with so many good guys to choose from”, said Jones. I was surprised when Joe (Chamberlain) asked me for information. Time passes and I never thought of myself  in the same category with the others like Dr. Dick Berggren and those southern Maine guys.”

Jones always spent many hours studying the set up of his suspension and his engine. He remarked that he never spent a great deal of money on either. He always used junkyard engines for overhauls and filled them with the Speedway Motors $189 kit which included  pistons, rods, rings, bearings, and crank.

“I had good luck with those engines”, said Jones. “I only blew up one engine when I owned the car. At the time I was the Automotive Instructor at Caribou Tech Center. I had my students help remove the engine, went to the junkyard for another on Monday, cleaned it and sent it to the machine shop Tuesday and was back racing the next weekend.”

When asked why his low-budget race cars worked so well he attributed that to his attention to detail. He built his cars to get the center of gravity as low as possible.

One of his cars is still successfully campaigned by Mike Kinney from Danforth. That car was built almost two decades ago and still carries the number six. Kinney acquired the car sometime near Jones’ retirement from racing due to rotator cuff problems.

“There was an invitational race at Speedway 95 and I was about three months out of surgery when Mike asked me to drive the car. They could not get it to work,” Jones remembered. “I suggested using a 3.08 or 3.25 gear versus the 3.42 that was in the car which if used at Speedway 95 required more engine rpms. I got there and the car was unloaded but still had the 3.42 gears”

“I took it out. I had a really nice exhaust system on it so it sounded good. At Spud we would turn 6-6100. There I was turning 6500-6600. I went out to practice a little bit and when I came in I told Mike it’s going to blow”

Jones won his qualifying race putting him in row 2 inside for the start of the feature. At the green flag there was a three car breakaway. By lap 17 they had already lapped most of the field. When he reached the start-finish line on that lap Jones said, “It sounded like a hand grenade. I spun on my oil and went off into the turn one bank. Nothing except the intake manifold was salvageable in that engine. There even were pieces of engine in the air cleaner.”

He credits his career as a businessman and racer for his ability to understand finances as a high school principal. He looks at what the needs are, no more no less. He also finds that he can relate to students who may not be bound for a four-year education and finds himself encouraging them to stick with it even when times are tough. He may never have been able to make those connections without his background.

When driving at Spud Speedway he often had a large contingent of Loring Air Force Base fans. His automotive repair facility was in close proximity to the West Gate entrance at the base. GI ‘s would often stop to talk racing or get their car repaired when they noticed his stock car parked near the road.

“My cars were named the Patriot as a tribute to a drag racing car from California that caught his eye, ” Jones said. “I also utilized Mark Martin’s Roush Racing Valvoline paint scheme. I have never met Mark Martin.”

With the threat of the base closing, Jones went to work as an automotive instructor at Caribou Tech Center. He looked to advance his career by preparing for leadership level jobs obtaining his Masters Degree in Education from the University of Maine at Orono in 2006. He served as vice principal and when the principalship became open he applied and got the job.

Mark Jones has been back to Spud Speedway a few times such as the Old Timers Memorial race honoring Larry Cowett in August 2010 and at the tribute to Chink Maynard and Bobby Alexander for their Hall of Fame Induction  this past July. Track owner Troy Haney interviews Jones at that event.

Mark Jones has been back to Spud Speedway a few times such as the Old Timers Memorial race honoring Larry Cowett in August 2010 and at the tribute to Chink Maynard and Bobby Alexander for their Hall of Fame Induction this past July. Track owner Troy Haney interviews Jones at that event.

One of my favorite radio personalities dies

I cannot remember how long ago it was that I tuned in to Maine Public Radio on a Saturday morning and heard for the first time “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”. It was a couple of years before I even knew their real names, Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Tom, 77, died last Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Their distinct Boston accent and humor caught my attention as they gave automotive advice to callers on the show entitled “Car Talk” . I am not a public radio fan yet would often twist my Saturday morning schedule to allow me to catch some of the one-hour show.

I remember the guys would, at the 2/3rds mark during the show, say” Don’t go away we will be back for the third half of our show”.I would laugh at their humorous and sometimes outrageous suggestions for solving not only car problems but relationship problems as well. I never was good at their “Car Talk Puzzlers” but would love to hear their solutions.

The public radio affiliate WBUR in Boston continues to air reruns after the pair retired two years ago after more than 1200 episodes during the 35 year run. Tom’s brother and co-host Ray did a tribute to his brother this past Saturday. This episode can be found at the Car Talk website .

The pair recorded their program out of a studio overlooking Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts which was identified by a neon sign stating “Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe” which was a fictional name of a law firm made up for the show.

One of my favorite parts of every show was right at the end when the brothers would list fictious, I think, staff members with names and jobs that were a hoot. As my tribute to Tom Magliozzi I want to list 10 of my favorite staff credits in no particular order of preference:

1) Jump Starting Expert ………Stan Wellback

2) Air Traffic Controller……. Ulanda U. Lucky

3) Lug Nut Specialist…… Tad Tolouse

4) Alignment Inspector…… Lou Segusi

5) Staff Fact Checker…… Neera Nuff

6) Complaint Line Operator…… Xavier Breath

7) Curator of Tom’s Car Collection…… Rex Galore

8) Automotive Finishes Consultant…… Rusty Steele

9) Emissions Tester…… Justin Hale VII (I. II, III, IV, V, VI may they RIP)

10) Head of Buildings and Grounds…… Moe D. Lawn

Oh why not #11 Staff Chaplain Neil Down.

I will miss these guys when the reruns finally stop but until then don’t call me between 10 and 11 am on Saturdays please.

A Few Updates

Austin Theriault will be in action in the family-owned #57 at the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida.

Austin Theriault will be in action in the family-owned #57 at the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida.

Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault will be in action with the family owned #57 car December 4-7, 2014 at the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Fifty one entries were received as of last Thursday. The list includes the 2014 Nationwide Series Champion Chase Elliot, Erik Jones from the Camping World Series as well as Corey Lajoie, and Ross Kenseth. These are the racers most likely making up the top ranks in NASCAR’s future.

If you do not know it by now the four finalists in the Sprint Cup Chase at Homestead are Joey Lagano from Penske Racing, Ryan Newman representing Richard Childress Racing, Kevin Harvick of Stewart/Haas, and Denny Hamlin from Joe Gibbs Racing.The pre-race favorite is Harvick, however, any of the four can win the championship and not necessarily win the race. It is all about finishing order.

I think it is interesting that if Ryan Newman is the top finisher and does not win the race he could be the champ without winning a single race. Despite the lack of post race boxing matches at Phoenix, NASCAR should have a pretty good TV audience for the season finale next Sunday afternoon.

Let’s Go Racing.

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.