Jerry Pell

In 2009 NCR presented Jerry Pell with a Lifetime Achievement award for his services to the Club. That’s rather amazing considering that prior to 1990 he’d never been a member, let alone raced a car. In fact, prior to 1990, Jerry’s only connection to sports cars was that he once owned a pretty little ‘57 MGA. It wasn’t even his daily driver, Jerry said. Rather, he called it his “go for ice cream” car – something fun to drive on a warm summer evening. But sometime in the late 1980’s, Jerry met Keith Church, who was racing a Toyota Corolla in ITC and needed some help at the track. So Jerry volunteered to crew for him. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Jerry got bit by the competition bug pretty hard and pretty fast. He saw how much fun Keith was having and decided to build his own car, an IT7 Mazda RX-7, with great help from his friend Buddy Matthews. Jerry bid on a junk RX-7 at the Greensboro city auction sale and got one for the princely sum of $99. As luck would have it, a family member with a much nicer and newer RX-7 got into an accident with his. No one was hurt, but the car was totaled. Jerry and Buddy began the process of pulling parts off the newer car and putting them on the old chassis, including the much-sought after factory limited slip differential. But Jerry ran out of time to complete the car before his first school, so he rented Heather Powers’ IT7 for his first school at Roebling Road Raceway in Savannah. He thereafter finished his own IT7 car and prepared for his second school at Daytona. There were clutch issues, but he completed the school and was in good spirits going into the final session of the day, the short “fun” race that always caps off a driver’s school. Only his brakes failed as he went into turn one on the first lap, and as others were slowing, he had no choice but to drive through them and around them. Miraculously, he didn’t hit anyone. And he ended up leading the race after turn one. That impressed his instructor, he said with a smile, noting that his instructor had no idea why his driving suddenly became so competitive. Way to go, Jerry!

Jerry campaigned the RX-7 for a year and learned to drive a really tail-happy car in the process, but he began to notice that his RX-7 was a LOT more tail-happy than his fellow competitors. It seems that the newer car from which he pulled parts from had rear disc brakes, while his chassis originally came with rear drums. When he switched to rear discs, he didn’t realize that the factory proportioning valve for a car with rear disc brakes was completely different internally, though it looked the same as the old one on the outside, and every time Jerry braked hard, he’d lock up the rears. As a result, he mastered staying in control of a car that had a mind of its own. Eventually, he put on the proper proportioning valve and got even faster. Then he spied a car that really captured his fancy, so with the brake problem solved, he sold the RX-7 to Wayne Quick. He moved on to a Spec Miata, one of the first Spec Miatas in the NCR, and Jerry has run his ever since. His is so old (make that “so well-raced”) that it now has two logs books!

OK, so that explains how Jerry became a racer. How did he earn his Lifetime Achievement award? By providing his professional services as an attorney, on behalf of the Region and its members, pro bono. Shortly after he joined and started racing, Kaye Fairer, as RE, discovered that the Region’s Charter of incorporation with the State of North Carolina had expired and we would have to be reinstated as a non-profit corporation in order to continue to operate. She asked Jerry to handle that and he did, without charge. According to the registered agent papers on the file with the NC Secretary of State’s office, the official registered agent’s address and the registered agent for the North Carolina Region is Jerry Pell, at his law office in Greensboro.

Kaye called on Jerry again shortly after VIR re-opened in 2000. It became evident that we would need a Scale Room in addition to the use of the Tech Shed at VIR, but the management under Harvey Segal and Connie Nyholm weren’t going to have any spare cash to build something like that for years to come. So, Jerry negotiated with Harvey a deal whereby NCR would build that Scale Room addition and maintain the Scale Room portion of the building in exchange for having the exclusive use of it, without any ground rent or other payment to VIR. To this day, that agreement remains in force and other racing clubs must rent the scales from us, not from VIR.

Kaye called on Jerry again, in 2004, after her husband and our Region’s Secretary, Al Fairer, passed away, to accept an appointment to fill Al’s position as Secretary on the NCR Board of Directors. Jerry was thereafter elected to that position for the next ten years. He was a voice of reason on the Board, and he freely gave the benefit of his legal expertise by writing official letters, as legal counsel for the Region, to wayward competitors and some others. Steve Rose took over as Secretary after Jerry retired, but he freely admits that Jerry taught him how to do the job.

So, if you see Jerry at the track, he might be running his well-maintained red-over-silver Spec Miata, or he might just be there hanging out with friends while working in tech, something he’s done for many years. Thanks for your help, Jerry! We’re glad to count you among our members and friends.