There’s a rule in NASCAR that none of the drivers are allowed to have a passenger. For seemingly obvious reasons, like safety, there’s only supposed to be one person in the car during a race.
But, NASCAR being the wild-ass sport that it is, you know there’s going to be a bat-shit crazy exception.
Tim Flock was a two-time cup series champion and Hall of Fame driver. But, he had an unconventional driving style. He had a co-driver that was a rhesus monkey named Jocko Flocko who rode shotgun with him in several races races.
Tim found himself in a rut during the 1953 season after winning 33 races the season prior, so his sponsor, Ted Chester, wanted to find a way to give him an extra boost to get him back on track (literally).
Ted just so happened to come across a monkey in a pet shop in Atlanta. After finding out the monkey was named Jocko Flocko and he could use it as a play off of Tim’s last name, he decided he could get some attention and media coverage for his driver.
Mostly though, Ted wanted Tim to use the monkey as a distraction out on the track so that if other drivers saw it in the passenger seat, they wouldn’t be able to focus on their driving. You can file all of this under something that would never even stand a chance in being a possibility of happening today, which is honestly kind of sad. You can’t make this type of shit up.
Eventually, Tim agreed to all of this (even though it was against the rules), and his team had a little seat, harness, helmet, and fire suit made for Jocko.
The best part was, he never had to pay Jocko a dime of the money he received when he won a race:
“All the other drivers at that time were concerned with the percentages they got paid from their sponsors. 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 5 percent.”
I guess that’s one way to look at it.
Jocko made his first appearance in a race during that 1953 season at Charlotte Motor Speedway when it was still a dirt track. Of course, NASCAR had no clue this was going on at the time of Jocko’s debut.
And honestly, I really don’t understand that part. How the heck did none of the NASCAR officials realize that not only was there a monkey at the track, but in the race car. I mean, I know the technology was vastly different then and they didn’t have all the cameras and such that they do today, but still. It seems crazy to me that no one noticed.
On May 16, 1953, Jocko and Tim won their first race together at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, it all came to an end a few races later at another race in Raleigh at the Raleigh Speedway 300 when Jocko slipped out of his harness during the race and decided to explore the car:
“We had this chain hooked onto the floorboard that we would pull up to check on the wear on the right front tire.
Well, old Jocko had been watching me do that, and soon as he came unstrapped he went right for the hole and stuck his head through. The tire zipped him on the head, and he liked to have went crazy.”
Dick Passwater, who finished fifth that day, said he saw Jocko go crazy in the car:
“Yeah, I saw that monkey jumping around in there, but I didn’t know what was happening. He was like a bird in there. He’d be on one side of the car, and the next thing you know he’d be on the other side.
That monkey probably thought somebody was trying to kill him.”
Tim was in second place during this part of the race, but obviously had to make a pit stop during the commotion to get Jocko out of the car so he could keep driving.
Speedy Thompson passed him while he pitted and Tim ended up finishing in third place:
“The pit stop cost me second place and a $600 difference in my paycheck. Jocko was retired immediately.”
Sadly, Jocko never really recovered from that incident in Raleigh. He refused to eat and could clearly no longer be a part of the races. Eventually, he had to be euthanized by a veterinarian.
Of course, when Jocko stopped appearing at races, it left fans, especially young fans who loved getting to pet him at the track, curious about his absence. One little girl burst into tears upon hearing the news Jocko passed away, and after that, Tim started telling people Jocko had been fired, saying:
“I couldn’t teach him to sign his autograph, so I had to fire him.”
Like I said, it could quite possibly be the craziest story in all of NASCAR. I can’t imagine anything, both figuratively and literally, wilder than a monkey co-driving a race car.
Check out this video if you want to see a few photos of little Jocko back in the day: