Many a story has been told about the early days of NASCAR Grand National racing—the roughneck driving and hell-raising of men like Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly, the hard-charging style of Lee Petty, the lead-foot whiskey running that gave young Junior Johnson priceless training. But perhaps the most unusual story involves Tim Flock and his racing companion, Jocko Flocko.
Jocko Flocko was a rhesus monkey. He had his own driving suit, racing helmet and jacket. While Flock was bumping doors on the track in 1952, Jocko was beside him, strapped in his own little seat.
"I had TIM FLOCK painted on the side of my door and JOCKO FLOCKO painted on his side," says Flock, who lives in Charlotte. "He had his own little seat, and when I'd drive by another car, he would stick his head out the window and stare at the other driver. It would irritate some of the other hot dogs on the track."
Drivers may have been irked, but Jocko delighted the spectators, who'd cheer the odd duo. "All the other drivers at that time were concerned with the percentages they got paid from their sponsors," Flock says. "I told them that I had it easy—if I got tired after 100 laps, I'd let Jocko drive, and all I had to pay him was a banana and five percent."
July 8, 1984
A promoter's dream team, Tim and Jocko rode together in eight races that year. Flock considered it a kind of public relations gesture.
"If a driver today could do what I did with that monkey, he'd never get booed the way [Darrell] Waltrip does," says Flock. "All the fans came to see that monkey. Could you imagine what it would be like if Waltrip drove around with a bear?"
In one race Flock literally had to get the monkey off his back. "I was driving on the one-mile paved track in Raleigh [N.C.] and was in second place in my '52 Hudson Hornet," he recalls. "Jocko got out of his seat belt and went roaming around in the car. He got his head down in a hole in the floorboard, and the tire nipped him. He got scared and jumped on my back. I was in second place, and I couldn't afford to stop, so I had to drive by the pits real slow and get a crewman to get the monkey out of there.
"While that was going on, Speedy Thompson drove by and took second place. It's the only time in NASCAR Grand National history that a driver had to go into the pits to get a monkey out of the car," says Flock, who believes the pit stop kept him from winning the race and the $700 first prize.
The idea of having a monkey ride in Flock's car was dreamed up by Ted Chester, Flock's sponsor. Chester had bought a monkey and ordered a race suit and helmet for it. "He asked me if it would be all right for the monkey to ride with me, and I told him that I didn't care," Flock says. "He wound up being my pet."
Getting the monkey to ride in the car was easy, but trying to get him into a hotel was another matter. "I was turned away from several hotels because they wouldn't let me bring Jocko in, so I snuck him in a couple of times," says Flock. "He hated maids. Sometimes a maid would come in and see the monkey, and her eyes would bulge out and she would scream. He used to jump on the maids' backs, ride down the hall for about 40 feet and then jump off.
"Needless to say, I had a lot of rooms that were never made up."
After their eight races, the driving team split up. "Jocko eventually stopped eating and we quit racing him," Flock says. "He lived about three or four weeks after we put him in an animal hospital. I guess he didn't want to be a driver anymore."
Flock was one of the best stock car drivers in the old days. He won 40 Grand National races and was the champion in 1952—despite Jocko's stint—and '55. He is the only race driver in the Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame. Flock also won more races—four—than any driver on the old Daytona Beach racecourse. His record of 18 wins in 1955 stood until Richard Petty won 27 in 1967. Flock retired from racing in 1960. Today, at 60, he works in the marketing department at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Many people still ask Flock about his onetime companion. "We made a lot of friends by riding the monkey with us," he says. "People that actually saw the monkey remember him; I just hope they remember me, too. I had a pretty good record, you know."