On June 2, 1962, Hulon Jones was in the center of a pack of three cars heading into Turn 1 at Valdosta. Harvey Jones, four years older, was a few hundred feet behind his brother as the cars all went down the front straightaway. Then Hulon's car got sandwiched, and he rode up the side of one of the other cars.
Harvey saw it happen. It was all right in front of him. "He bounced three times, every time right on the top of the car," Harvey says of Hulon. "It caved the roll-bar system in. It was just a black iron pipe back then—that's all we had. It couldn't stand punishment like the stuff we use now." Hulon was unconscious when his brother and others pulled him from his car. The ambulance arrived quickly. Within 10 minutes the race was restarted.
Harvey won, as he almost always did back then. Then he was told that his brother was dead.
The next week Harvey went back to Valdosta and won again. Two weeks after that there was a special memorial race, and Harvey won that one too.
"Why didn't you quit?" I ask him. "Had you and Hulon ever talked about what you'd do if this happened?"
"Nothin' never really was said," Harvey answers. We're alone in the cab of the Silverado. "I liked racing. What happened to him didn't mean it couldn't happen to me. I don't think he would have wanted me to quit."
He is quiet for a while and then says, "I don't want to die before my time. The good Lord's got a place for you, and I hope mine's 20 years off. I don't want to die like my daddy died. My father died in 1947 in a barracks they were makin' into a hospital, but they didn't have anything in there yet. He had a heart attack. I was in the room when he had another one. They didn't have no sedatives. He just lay there and hurt. That was a bad death to have to watch somebody die, particularly when it's your daddy."
"Was Hulon's a good death?" I ask, as respectfully as I can.
"He had a good life to that time," Harvey replies. "He didn't never know it happened. He was unconscious when we pulled him out. He never woke up."
Eight laps into the Sportsman feature, a white car, number 51, head-butts Jones's number 6 from behind as they are going down the front straightaway at 100 mph. There's no consequence to the collision—the racers hold their positions, and the race resembles bumper cars at Coney Island.