Memories Of Jerry Wimbish

Mike Bell

By Mike Bell
Posted in Columns 9/24/10

Jerry Wimbish died on June 22, 1998.  Two days prior, he had been part of a team representing the Georgia Auto Racing Hall of Fame Association (GARHOFA) at the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Banquet in Talladega, Alabama.

Jerry was a true pioneer of the sport and no stranger to Atlanta’s racing addicts, especially those who frequented the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and at Lakewood shortly after World War II.

During the war, he flew several dozen missions as a bombardier over Germany.  I once asked him why he had a slight limp.

“The plane I was in during one of our bombing missions was shot apart, so for the next several hours at 30,000 feet my feet were dangling out of this cripple plane,” he told me.  “We made it back but I am lucky to still have my legs today.”

Jerry Wimbish raced in the late forties and early fifties, mostly in the south.

He said it was the most scared and coldest he had ever been, even though he would have his share of ‘scary’ moments in racecars.

Wimbish began by driving midgets and most of the time finished high in the money.  It was noted throughout Atlanta papers at the time “Jerry Wimbish is one of the most promising youngsters now racing in the south and should be ready to enter the Indianapolis 500 in about two years.”

Fortunately for the Indy drivers, he gave up the open wheel cars for a future in stocks.

“I had intended to work my way up to Indy,” he told me.  “But one night at the Peach Bowl I flipped a midget car over and ended up on my head.  Right then I decided to hell with cars with no tops.”

He became even more at home in stock cars.  He joined forces with Georgia legend Gober Sosebee to become one o the most successful early “racing team” combinations in the south.  So much so that in 1949 he won the Alabama State Championship.

He was a perennial favorite at the old Iron Bowl Speedway in Birmingham.  Late into both 150-mile races held at Lakewood in 1949, he was in position to win until faulty engines put him out.

When I was talking to him at the last Hall of Fame meeting prior to his passing, Jerry told me “That’s true, Gober and I has some good, fast cars, but I probably will be more remembered for my embarrassing moment when I ran into the lake at Lakewood in the early 50s.”

Jerry Wimbish’s car goes swimming in the 1950’s at Lakewood.

“I was pushing the car in front of me a little too much,” he continued.  “Anyway, we hooked bumpers and when they came unhooked, I went like a slingshot right in the water at the grandstand curve.  I guess that was the first real use of the slingshot method in racing.”

He is remembered by those who knew him for his enthusiasm, knowledge of the sport and sense of humor, along with his tireless efforts to promote GARHOFA and the Hall of Fame from the beginning.

Now, he is also remembered for being a member of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. He will be inducted as part of the 2010 class on October 22 at the Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, Georgia.

So now he’ll be remembered for much more than an embarrassing trip into the water at Lakewood Speedway.

Editors note: Portions of this story originally appeared in the August 1998 issue of the Pioneer Pages magazine.

Mike Bell is the CEO and historian for the Georgia Auto Racing Hall of Fame Association, Inc. (GARHOFA)

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