EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Coffeen’s racing life has taken him from Indiana bullrings, where he watched, worked on, and briefly drove sprint cars, to every Indy car venue of consequence during his decades as a mechanic. Coffeen turned wrenches for stars like Mario and Michael Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen, Gordon Johncock and Cristiano da Matta, and is certainly the only mechanic ever to have worked with both Jan Opperman and Nigel Mansell. Helping make all of that possible was his working relationship and personal friendship with National Sprint Car Hall of Fame driver Bubby Jones, who died in January. Click here for part one and here for part two.
The change of location didn’t slow him down for long. Bub was soon driving the Kazarian family’s gorgeous Gas Chem sprinter in CRA events. He admitted to finding Ascot, CRA’s home track, a completely different animal, and described 1980 as a struggle. But that was only because Jones set pretty high standards for himself; his “struggling” season at Ascot included eight feature wins.
Not long after that, he opened his own chassis shop, and — still with the Kazarians — won the 1983 and ’84 CRA championships in a car of his own design.
In a relatively short CRA career — eight full seasons, plus a couple of part-time efforts after a late ’80s “retirement” — Jones bagged 80 feature victories, including the Don Peabody Classic, the Pacific Coast Nationals and the Imperial County Fair in El Centro.
In 1991, having been lured back into the driver’s seat the previous season — with winning results — by old friends Larry Henry and Rod Albright, Bubby Jones climbed into a sprint car for the last time. It happened at Manzanita, in CRA’s Pacific Nationals. The result, fittingly, was a dramatic victory.
But Bubby was not done contributing to the sport. In retirement, he assisted the Kazarians in the development and construction of Perris Auto Speedway.
And racing success wasn’t the only good fortune to come Bubby`s way on the West Coast.
“Losing that ’79 USAC championship was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he often said, “because I went to California and met Patti.”
Bub and Patti Jones had three daughters — Ashley, Jessica and Emily — to go along with his earlier children, Jina, Davey and Tony.
In 2004, Bub returned to Indianapolis, where he built a shop. He worked for a while at Tony Stewart Racing and also served as chief mechanic and mentor for several young, aspiring sprint car racers.
Bubby Jones didn’t sugarcoat much. He spoke his mind and passed out compliments sparingly. A ride with a competitive team with good equipment and a competent chief wrench was “a pretty good deal.” If he summed up someone in the pits by saying, “He’s a pretty decent mechanic,” or, “That guy is pretty sharp,” well, this was heap-big praise. That was about as much flattery as you were going to get out of him.
Ol’ Bub didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he was as honest as the day is long, and he would never lie. That honesty led his lifelong friend and former car owner, Larry Henry, to say that if Bubby had written an autobiography, it would have been called, “Assholes, Jerks, and Shitboxes,” based on his dealings with all three.
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