He was a crew chief, a chassis man, an innovator and so much more to many in the short track world. Ray Stonkus’ reach spanned five decades, if not more in auto racing.
Stonkus passed away last Thursday at the age of 80.
Growing up in New England, Stonkus made his way south with Pete Hamilton and Donnie MacTavish to race.
In 1969, Stonkus and Pete Hamilton won 12 races in the NASCAR Grand American Series. He worked with Hamilton for his 1974 Snowball Derby victory before helping field cars for Gary Balough towards the end of the decade.
In his recent book, Hot Shoe – A Checkered Past: My Story, Balough said he liked the way Stonkus thought about things and considered him in the group of the smartest people he worked with in his career.
On the short track side, Stonkus worked with Ronnie Sanders, Mickey Gibbs and many others. He had two Snowball Derby wins to his credit as a “quarterback” or crew chief on the pit boxes, but he was likely part of several others with his race cars.
Stonkus helped the first NASCAR Challenger effort with Sam Posey as a driver. Many of his credits went unknown as he worked for several teams without acknowledgment.
Stonkus went on to the NASCAR Truck Series and was a winning crew chief at Daytona for Rick Crawford, as well as a big part in the foundation of JTG Daugherty Racing. He was also a major part of the Ford Lightning so it could be used on the NASCAR Trucks.
Speed51 sends its condolences to the Stonkus Family.
-Story by Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Jeff Sandt