Joseph Reynolds "Joie" Ray Jr., one of America's
pioneer open-wheel and stock-car drivers, died April 13 from
respiratory failure. The Louisville, Ky., native was 83.
Ray's racing career spanned 17 years, from 1947 to 1963, in
sprint cars, midgets and stock cars. He was the first black driver
to be licensed by AAA. On Feb. 10, 1952, Ray started 25th and
finished 51st in a race on the beach course at Daytona. He is
recognized as the first black driver to start a NASCAR sanctioned
A story that followed him throughout his career was that Ray
found a sprint car for sale for $450, placed a bet on the number
450 and won $500. He allegedly used that cash to buy his first race
car in 1946.