Various sports often become a tight-knit community among participants. Some are even so tightly woven that the fans also become a part of that community that feels more like extended family. That’s probably more true with dirt late model racing than any other sport.
The dirt racing family lost one of its own last weekend when veteran driver Jackie Boggs died unexpectedly. According to friends, Boggs, 51, of Grayson, was on his way to Florence Speedway in Union when he sustained a heart attack. He died Saturday at Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester.
Reports of his passing went out via social media the next day with numerous fellow drivers and fans expressing their sympathies.
“As racers and competitors we always have that one guy that makes us better than our best. Today the racing world mourns the loss of one of those guys to me. Fly high 4b,” veteran driver Eddie Carrier Jr. said via Twitter.
Considered one of the last true outlaws of dirt racing, Boggs will not soon be forgotten nor easily replaced.
“Jackie was the toughest competitor because he would race you as hard as he could race you,” former driver and fellow Carter County native Josh McGuire said.
“I can remember the first time I was fast enough to race with him was at Mud Lick (Valley Raceway) in 2003,” McGuire said. “I was running second and I was so excited because I could actually see him. He was right in front of me and he blew a tire so I took the lead. He ended up coming back through the field and was running second and there was a late restart. He restarted right beside me and he would pull up beside me and just wave. I was so nervous because ‘Jackie Boggs is right beside me,’ but I held him off.”
The race stands out to McGuire because it was his first win over Boggs, who finished second despite the blown tire that required him to go to the back of the field.
McGuire even gives Boggs the credit for getting him started in Late Model racing, something he hadn’t yet considered due to the expense of the sport.
“I broke a pulley on my bomber and uncle Wayne took me to Jackie’s shop because he wanted Jackie to look at it,” McGuire said. “Jackie had two Late Models for sale and he told me I needed to go Late Model racing. He made me a heck of a deal.”
Boggs ended up doing more than that for McGuire. The younger driver would make the short trek from his home to Boggs’s nearby shop to learn some of the ins and outs of the trade.
“I did the work and he showed me how and that’s how I learned to put bodies on cars,” McGuire said. “I would come down and work at his garage and he would give me used tires.
“The guy down the hill from me was the fastest guy in the country and I was trying to be the fastest guy in the country.”
Boggs himself was a second-generation racer in a family whose name is now synonymous with Late Model racing. His father, Black Jack Boggs, driver of the infamous B4 is an inaugural member of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. He won the 1995 World 100 and the Dirt Track World Championship in 1984, 1990 and 1995 before his untimely death at the age of 49 in April 2000.
Jack’s brother Randy Boggs won one of the most eventful and longest World 100’s in 1987 and was inducted into the NDLM Hall of Fame in 2013. He died in August 2019 at age 67. Jackie’s brother Tommy piloted the TB4 Late Model.
Jackie Boggs’s career spanned over 30 years with multiple series and track championships on his long resume. He was a three-time World of Outlaw Morton Buildings Late Model Series and three-time Battle of the Bluegrass Series champion. He took the checkered flag 11 times in the Mid-Atlantic Championship Series, three times in the Lucas Oil Late Model Series, and four times in the STARS series.
His competitive style, numerous wins and respect for his fans helped him build a fan base that was hard for most drivers to compete with. Boggs traveled to races all over the country throughout the 1990s and up until his death last weekend. Many people have commented about the various times they witnessed him crawl out from under his race car — greasy hands and all — to take the time to sign a 4B T-shirt for a young fan. The call to stage drivers for the race would be made, but Boggs would pause to take photos with fans. He was known for being late to the track, probably for taking time to assist a neighborhood kid with one thing or another.
“The difference between Jackie’s on-track persona and his off-track persona was very different,” McGuire said. “He was one of the most caring people in the pits but you had to get under that gruff exterior.”
Boggs ran a limited schedule in 2020. His last on-track appearance was Oct. 16-17 at the Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth Raceway Park. He finished 16th in the B-Main and 13th in the non-qualifier’s race.