Motorsports mastermind Tom Fox dies at 77

Tom Fox, the oldest of four brothers who made a mark in the world of motorsports, died earlier this month in Mooresville, N.C.

Cancer claimed Fox, 77, who stayed involved with the sport he loved right up until the end.

Two weeks before he died, Tom was helping younger brother, Bob, work on a car and trailer. He was also helping Bob’s sons, who are also racers, said his daughter Teresa.

“We grew up with parts on the kitchen table,” said Teresa. “You’d get woke up at 2 a.m., when the guys who were getting ready to go to whatever race they were going to — and they were always running to a race — fired off the motor.”

Another brother, Leon Fox, died in 2002 after a battle with cancer. Jim (Teeny) Fox still lives in Bremerton.

Their parents, Alma and Corneluis “Connie” Fox, moved to Bremerton from Nebraska, which is where Tom was born.

The Fox brothers, who all left their own mark in auto racing, were inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Tom and his buddies used to sneak onto the abandoned Navy runway at night and it led to organized drag racing at what is still Bremerton Raceway. Tom and Harry Penor started the Crankers Car Club. Tom Fox later raced on the dirt oval at Silverdale Speedway. NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula I — the master fabricator was part of them all at times during his career.

Tom told me he regretted passing up an opportunity to go to Europe to work on Formula 1 cars in the 1957, but his career took off in other directions once he concentrated on building cars. He aligned with Tom Sneva to form one of the best open-wheel teams in the Northwest, moved to Europe and built Formula 1 cars for Mario Andretti and other drivers. He was known as one of the top chassis builders on the NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup). He hooked up with noted Indy Car crew chief George Bignotti, and later built the car and it’s been reported that he was instrumental in the setup of Tom Sneva’s car that won the Indy 500 in 1983.

Early on in his life, when he was still in Bremerton, Tom designed something they called the “Poguar.” It was a Pontiac-powered Jaguar, said his son John Fox, who lives in Bellingham. “I remember seeing a picture of it. It was a goofy looking. I think it made Hot Rod Magazine.”

He operated Tom Fox Automotive for a time on Park and 7th Street in downtown Bremerton, but it didn’t take long for the oldest brother to move into the big-leagues of racing. He eventually settled in South Carolina, and later North Carolina, and he never stopped tinkering with or thinking about race cars.

“I tried stuff nobody wanted to try,” Tom Fox said during that 2008 interview. “I never thought about anything else. I’d think about them damn racing cars 16 to 18 hours a day. Still do. It’s been a good life. I’ve done a lot of stuff. Like I said, I’ve been blessed.”

A July 22 celebration at the Bremerton Elks Club will be held for Tom Fox.

 

 

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