Very few people in Late Model Stock Car racing earned the level of respect Jerry Moody did. The iconic car owner won many championships with many iconic drivers, including Scott Riggs, Jamey Caudill and Matt McCall.
Jerry Moody and “The Pig Rig” were synonymous not just with racing, but with winning. In the over 50 years Moody owned cars, it’s impossible to count how many wins he is actually credited for as a car owner. However, Moody was more than just a car owner, he was a friend to everyone who knew him, a caring family member and a devout Christian man who was true to his beliefs.
RACE22.com talked to those who knew him best for this special report, remembering Jerry Moody.
The Early Years
On April 18, 1942, while the United States of America was embroiled in World War II, Alton and Ruby Moody gave birth to Jerry Gene Moody in Lenoir County, in the coastal plains of North Carolina. Moody graduated from Moss Hill High School in Moss Hill, North Carolina in the early 1960s, a time when America was seeing transformative social change and when stock car racing was entering its boom years.
Jerry was never a racer himself but he was already deeply involved with racing by the time he met his first wife, Bernice. After the two got married around 1966, Jerry adopted his first two daughters, Terri Hill, now 51, and Sandra Hardison, now 52.
“Me and my older sister were adopted when we were three and four and he was in racing then,” Terri recalled. “He was claustrophobic and he never drove. I know he had a car because me and my sister used to go to the racetrack with him.”
David Jackson, a regional racing historian, says Jerry’s first car, as an owner, was a 1955 Ford with a 312 cubic inch engine which was run at the old Wilson County Speedway dirt track, a track Lee Petty once raced at, in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Throughout the early years, Jerry also owned a 1963 Fairlane sedan and a 1969 Ford Cougar.
Jerry’s cars raced all over Eastern North Carolina, from Fayetteville to Wilson County and Kinston to LaGrange. Jerry was always a car guy and always a Ford guy. Before he got into racing, Jackson recalls Jerry’s personal car, a 1963 Ford Starliner Fastback, as being the fastest car he ever sat in.
One memory David recalls very well was when Jerry took a car to South Boston Speedway with a “Sandy Bottom” sticker on the back and the other competitors at the track wondering where that was. David laughed as he told the story.
Along with being at the racetrack, Jerry was also a pig farmer in his early adulthood.
Terri said Jerry always wanted kids but could not have kids of his own because of a childhood disease. But, he loved Terri and Sandra like they were his own.
“I think he had a good childhood,” Terri stated. “He was never able to have kids of his own and that’s why we were lucky and got adopted. My dad was the greatest. He was my hero. He never did anything wrong in my eyes. He was the best dad ever.”
Jerry and Bernice divorced in 1979. According to Terri, Jerry’s first wife is still alive.
Jerry and Becky: True Love
On September 27, 1986, Jerry married Becky Davis Moody. Prior to those wedding bells chiming, he had dated her for two years after meeting her when working on racecars.
Becky Davis Moody, 56, is a sister to Wendell Davis and Gary Davis, both longtime mainstays in racing themselves. Jerry worked on racecars with Wendell and Gary in Sandy Bottom, North Carolina for many years, and thus the “Sandy Bottom Gang” was born. It was around that time, in the mid-1980s that Becky met Jerry. She remembers their first date well.
“We lived in the same community,” Becky said. “My brothers, Gary and Wendell, raced. He would come to the shop and that one day, I walked out there and we started. He asked if I was going to the race, I said I don’t know. He asked if I wanted to go, I said ‘I reckon so’. The first time we went out together, he took me to a race and the last time, I took him somewhere was to a race.”
Becky was considerably younger than Jerry when they hooked up, but some two years after that first date, they got married. Becky was always in love with him.
“If I had to describe him in a sentence, I’d say he was the most unselfish man I’ve ever known that would marry a person as young as me,” she remarked. “I was 17 years younger than him. To adopt a child at 52, that’s unselfish to me. He was a giving, loving person.”
Becky speaks highly of her husband to this day. She talked about who he was as a person, a Christian man with a giant personality.
“He was a good Christian man and people do know that,” Becky said. “He had a strong faith. We were baptized together, rededicated our lives. I mean, Jerry was a quiet man. He didn’t show his emotions, a lot like Haley. She takes after him a lot. When we were home, us three together, he laughed, we danced around like nobody would imagine him being. He was totally different. He’d act crazy around us. He would never do that in public.”
One way Becky and Jerry would bond during their years was by horseback riding. Both had horses and, while Becky’s horse passed away, Jerry’s horse is still alive – an everlasting memory of the man she loved and still loves.
Jerry’s Little Angel
Jerry had already adopted two girls as his own but it was the third daughter he adopted that he bonded with the most. Haley Moody, born on February 9, 1995, was Jerry’s angel. While he loved his other children no less than he loved Haley, Haley was the one he got to touch at birth.
“He loved all his children, he really did,” Becky explained. “Like I told Haley, he loved me a different way. I was there when Haley was born and he sold pigs that day and when he found out he was sick, he prayed when he took his shower that day that, if he couldn’t live to see her grow, this [adoption] wouldn’t take place. He said he reckoned he should pray to see her live longer.”
Because he was unable to have children of his own, Haley was adopted privately and, because of that private adoption, Jerry and Becky were both able to witness her birth. Becky recalled Haley’s birth and Jerry’s reaction.
“She grabbed his finger and I saw the tears then. I never saw him shed a tear until that day. She won him over. He loved her. They were close. He was at the age also that, he had time. We were always together. We never did anything without her. We had a very good life. We were blessed.”
Jerry was a loving father, but he was tough as well. He expected his little angel to give “110 percent” into everything she did in life the same way he expected his drivers to give everything they had on the track on race night. Whether it was school or athletics, he expected the most from Haley.
“He’s always been tough on me with everything that I’ve done,” Haley said. “I think that’s why I’m good at basically what I do. I mean, with that being basketball, volleyball, racing, everything. He was always tough. He wanted me to be my best and I think that’s why I succeed in most of what I do.”
While losing her father when she was only 18-years-old was tough, Haley knew Jerry gave her the best life a daughter, and certainly an adopted daughter, could ask for.
“That’s pretty special,” she observed. “Not many people that get adopted get good homes like I have and I’m very thankful for that every day and I had a good life growing up.”
The Pig Rig’s Dominance
Every car Jerry owned sported a decal that read, “I Dig Pigs”. The car, the trailer, it was called the Pig Rig. When Jerry moved from dirt racing to asphalt racing, he found himself fielding cars at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina – about an hour north of the Moody family home in Kinston.
The early years of Southern National saw the rise of Scott Riggs, a future winner in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Riggs won a lot of races and two championships. He raced for Jerry, as did Clay Jones. However, it was Jamey Caudill that would make Jerry and the no. 50 “I Dig Pigs” car synonymous with Late Model Stock Car racing forever.
“When I was little, every weekend, we were somewhere racing, whether it was with Scott, Jamey or Matt [McCall],” Haley said. “I was always there with him. I would try to learn and I think that’s why I love it so much today. It’s going to be cool racing with some of them here that I grew up with looking up to and hopefully that will be good.”
Jamey Caudill raced for Jerry for the entirety of the 1997, 1998 and 1999 seasons. Those three seasons resulted in championships for Jamey – a driver who has gone down as one of Late Model Stock Car racing’s greatest drivers.
“A t the end of 1996, I was out of a ride and didn’t have anything there and I met Jerry and he gave me a chance to drive his car,” Jamey said. “We went to the big fall race at Myrtle Beach, the same race and weekend that he passed away on was the same race I ran for him there. We won championships at Southern National all three years we ran there.”
In 2000, Jerry decided to cut back on racing and it was then that he and Jamey split ways professionally as Jamey continued racing. Despite parting ways, Jamey always respected Jerry and the two maintained an everlasting mutual friendship.
“2000, that’s the year he built a house and he said he wasn’t going to race quite as much that year so I split my season and ran half with him and the other half with Mr. Wilford at Southern Piping Company. If it hadn’t been for that year that he built his house, I don’t know that I would have ever driven for anyone else as far as being my decision to.”
Jamey described Jerry as quiet but decisive. He knew what he wanted and, according to Jamey, he was a man of his word.
“He definitely was very quiet, didn’t say a lot but he was a very decisive man,” Jamey explained. “He didn’t think long to make decisions and they were smart decisions most of the time. The biggest thing with Jerry, if he told you something, you could bet your life on it. He didn’t talk just to be talking. He meant what he said when he told you something. He would get worked up during the race but he didn’t show it. He walked many laps in the pit but he would never show his emotions. Can’t say I’ve ever seen him really get mad. I knew he was upset at times but he didn’t ever show it.”
Throughout the years, Jamey Caudill has won over 100 Late Model Stock Car feature races and is a former winner of Late Model Stock Car racing’s most prestigious event, the Valley Star Credit Union 300. He says he could not have had that success if it was not for Jerry.
“It helped me establish myself in Late Model Stock racing and we won a lot of races together. I’m not sure how many we won with just Jerry but it was a lot. Probably won more for him than anybody I drove for. Winning those three championships, all there, that definitely made me who I am in racing which, he was very good to drive for. He wanted to win. He didn’t mind spending the money to get what we needed to win but he expected results and he always expected 110 percent out of everything he did and that’s what he gave so it’s what he expected back. That’s why him, with his racing program, and everybody’s that’s driven for him has been as successful as they have been.”
Jamey’s friendship with Jerry lasted forever. To him, it meant everything that Jerry believed in him when nobody else would.
“It means a lot when people believe in you. Like I say, in 1996, I didn’t have anything. I probably, at the Late Model Stock level, would have never raced again and he stepped up, believed in me, let me drive and gave me stuff to win in. We had a great relationship that grew over the years. Jerry meant a lot to me.”
Through those years, Jamey and anyone who raced for Jerry raced car number 50 and raced a Ford. Jerry was a Ford guy and he had a particular liking for the number 50.
“He’s always loved car number 50,” Becky Davis Moody explained. “Preacher Cox, Jerry always admired him and liked him. He was really a preacher and would not race on Sunday. He always liked him. When we went, after Jerry died, I went where he was buried at. He had already lots there. The woman was telling me what number the lot was. It was number 50.”
To this day, Jamey is still connected with the Moody family as he helps Jerry’s daughter, Haley, find success in racing today.
A Defining Championship
Jerry Moody is probably known most for helping propel Matt McCall, now a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, to a championship in the United Auto Racing Association (UARA) Southern Touring Asphalt Racing Series. The once prominent series made careers and Matt McCall felt the championship he won with the help of Jerry made his career.
Matt recalled the first time he drove for Jerry.
“First time I drove for him, pretty crazy story, I want to say it was 2007,” Matt said. “I drove the car because they built a new car. The guy that helped me years ago was helping him and they wanted me to come run the car one time. I ran it, tore it up and was embarrassed. Ran it the next week and we won so I got lucky to get a chance to keep driving it.”
In 2009, Matt McCall returned to competition in the UARA tour after having previously won the championship in 2005.
“It was a lot of fun because I’d been driving for him since 2007,” McCall stated. “We raced a decent amount. I was working with Tom Pistone a little bit and it worked out that we would run two cars. Both were interested in running for a championship. We raced with two cars, one Chevy and one Ford. It worked out financially to run the full series … He was a die-hard Ford guy. I don’t think he loved the other car we were racing was a Chevy but he was supportive of the goal.”
In the time between the two championships McCall won in the series, the sport had evolved. Technological advances had made the cars faster and more competitive than ever before. Racing for Jerry, Matt was able to remain competitive in the series in spite of the evolution. And that championship, it meant a lot to him.
“It was pretty cool,” Matt said about winning the 2009 championship. “Jerry was crazy about racing. He gave a lot of people a lot of opportunities and would do whatever it took to have nice cars. It was a cool deal. He put a lot of effort. He worked on the car more than anybody. He loved to tinker all day and night. It was pretty special to come back. In 2005, it was my family owned team, we had a group and it was only a few people. We came and raced. We came back in 2009 when things were changing with more competitive. 2009 was very special, especially to be able to do it with two car owners.”
Matt credits much of his success today, as he sits stop the pit box for Jamie McMurray and Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to Jerry Moody. Much like Jerry did with Jamey, he gave Matt a second chance to remain in the sport when others had given up on him.
“He gave me another chance. I had an opportunity to go Busch racing at the time. It was sort of a development deal. That was a short stint, sponsorship dependent. I didn’t make the correct choices as far as not racing enough. After that fizzled out, he gave me a chance again to race full-time. I was doing side-work, setting cars up. I got to drive racecars and he gave me that opportunity to keep doing that. I love to do it, still love to do it.”
Haley Becomes The Protégé
Following Matt McCall’s triumph in the 2009 UARA-STARS Series, Jerry planned to exit racing. His sweetly engaging teenage daughter had different plans for him.
“We were always working on a racecar somewhere and my dad was actually going to get out of it after Matt won the championship in 2009,” Haley said. “I looked at him and I was like, ‘um, I want to race dad’ and he was like ‘okay’ so we went and bought a U-CAR and we went to Jacksonville and actually won the first race I ever raced in.”
In 2013, Jamey Caudill made a promise to Jerry and he came on board to help Haley race as she competed in the Charger class at Southern National Motorsports Park, a track both Jerry and Jamey had a lot of success at in their time together.
“We ran Charger here and Jamey helped us that year,” Haley said. “That was the first year he came with us and we finished second in the points and we ran Limited here last year and won the championship. I just wish he could have been here to see that.”
It turned out that Haley could drive fast. She won two races in the regular season and finished second in points. Her season also earned her “Driver of the Year” honors at Southern National that season.
At the time she was racing, she was also an accomplished basketball player at her high school, Bethel Christian Academy. During her time at Bethel Christian Academy, she became the all-time leading varsity scorer and, in 2013, her number 20 jersey was retired – with her father at her side.
Jamey attributed Haley’s success on the hardwood and on asphalt to the love and discipline she received from Jerry as she grew up.
“Haley’s a strong-willed person,” Jamey said. “She gives 110 percent in everything she does, whether it’s racing, sports or school. Her dad instilled that in her.”
However, Haley’s shining star was ready to shine ever brighter…
Myrtle Beach Miracle
Friday night, November 22nd, it was the night that the proverbial climax of a Disney movie would take center stage in reality at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway.
In the days and months leading up to the exhibition feature at Myrtle Beach Speedway, Jerry Moody had been diagnosed with two terminal forms of cancer. He did not have much time left and he was progressively getting worse. Nobody knew how bad he was until the week of the race. In that week leading up to the race, Jerry’s health deteriorated rapidly. His days were running out.
“Nobody really realized what kind of shape he was in,” Becky recalled. “I was mentally worn out. I saw him go from walking to not walking in a week. My friends had to pick him up and put him in a truck. He asked every day when we would go to the race. That’s what he was hanging on for.”
Race day came and Haley Moody was ready to shine as bright as a shooting star.
She upset a full field of Limited Late Models in qualifying to score the pole in the Southeast Limited Late Model Series’ Challenger feature race. With her dad watching on, all she needed to do was run 50 perfect laps, and she would do just that.
Throughout the duration of the race, reality began to set in that Haley Moody was about to score her first career Limited Late Model victory in spectacular fashion as Jerry watched on.
“Come on Haley, everybody’s rooting for you,” the race announcer said over the public address system.
A late race accident setup a Green-White-Checkered finish and, after running 48 perfect laps, Haley would need two more.
“I knew he was there, every lap,” Haley recalled. “He was looking at me and I was thinking what an honor it would be to win that race for him.”
As the green flag dropped for the final two laps, Haley raced through the gearbox like John Force and took off, never looking back as she went on to score a stunning, miraculous and timeless victory – one that will be cherished by her and by everyone who loved and knew Jerry forever.
Knowing that she did not have much time left with her father, she cherished the sentimental and bittersweet moment with her father as he was transported to victory lane.
“It was, everybody got really quiet,” Haley remembered. “I just gave him the trophy and I was like, well we did it, and he was really happy and that was the last race he’d see so it was a good win for sure.”
“I think that’s when he left us, after she won,” Becky said. “He never spoke another word. It was just too emotional for me. It was just; I don’t even remember some things because it was surreal.”
November 24, 2013
Surreal it was. Less than 48 hours after watching Haley score her first career Late Model victory, Jerry Moody passed away at the age of 71. His last word was “Haley”.
“I think he knew it was his time,” Becky recalled. “He never said a word after that until the moment he died. He called Haley’s name. When we got up to give him his medication, my nephew, Clint, is a nurse. He stayed with us. He said we might want to sit with him. Haley came from upstairs and said he called her and that was it.”
“It was really hard,” Haley said. “It was quick. It was unexpected. But being at Myrtle Beach that weekend and him seeing the last race, that was pretty cool.”
Jerry Moody was laid to rest on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 with the funeral being held at the Bethel Freewill Baptist Church in Kinston, North Carolina.
Continuing The Winning Tradition
The loss of a father was tough for Haley Moody, who turned 19 in February 2014, but she found the strength inside her to continue racing. It’s what she wanted to do and it’s what her father would have wanted.
On May 24th, she picked up her first win of the 2014 season and found herself in championship contention in Southern National Motorsports Park’s Limited Late Model division. As the summer months went on, the possibility of winning a championship for her father and becoming the region’s first female Late Model champion became a probability and then inevitability. On September 14th, destiny played its hand as Haley Moody scored her third win of the year and the championship.
“I’m pretty sure he was pretty excited looking down,” Haley said of how he would react to her championship triumph. “That’s all he wanted me to do was do good and I’m pretty sure that’s a big accomplishment for him and for me.”
Haley Moody’s journey and her championship triumph became noted not just in the pages of her proverbial autobiography, but on the pages of the media and in NASCAR history.
Haley Moody’s journey took center stage on February 20, 2015 at the Daytona International Speedway as she accepted NASCAR’s Diverse Driver Award in the presence of Mike Helton, Jeff Burton and the cameras of national news outlets.
Honoring Jerry Moody
Jerry Moody has passed away but his legacy lives on. Beginning on Sunday, April 26, 2014, Southern National Motorsports Park will honor Jerry Moody with the inaugural running of the Jerry Moody Memorial featuring the “I Dig Pigs 100”. And ever since the time of his passing, others have remembered Jerry Moody as well, including guys like Scott Riggs and Clay Jones who have also raced for him.
Jerry Moody was a friend to the entire racing world, he is missed, but he is never forgotten.
Special thanks to: Haley Moody, Becky Davis Moody, Michelle Davis, Jamey Caudill, Matt McCall and David Jackson.