Modified Racing Pioneer And Legendary Team Owner Bob Judkins Passes

Bob Judkins stands next to one of his revolutionary 2X Pinto Modifieds with Ed Flemke Sr. behind the wheel in the early 1970’s (Photo: EdFlemke.com)

Legendary and revolutionary Modified race team owner Bob Judkins, who fielded cars for a who’s who list of the best Modified drivers over decades, passed away Thursday in Middletown.

Judkins was 83.

Judkins started building Modifieds in the early 1960’s and over time he fielded for cars for a multitude of top drivers including Ed Flemke Sr., Bugsy Stevens, Rene Charland, Gene Bergin, Ron Bouchard, Brett Bodine, Reggie Ruggiero and Jerry Marquis.

Judkins was also the driving force behind what became known in Modified racing in the early 1970’s as the “Pinto Revolution.”

Judkins was a 2003 inductee into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

“He had some incredible drivers,” longtime New England racing journalist and historian Pete Zanardi said. “… Just a singular outstanding human being and car owner. Just did a lot of revolutionary things.”

Bob Judkins (Photo: New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame)

Judkins was the grandfather of NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Ryan Preece of Berlin.

Judkins, who had lived for many years in Florida, had recently moved back to Connecticut.

“Obviously he was a legend in racing and Modifieds with the Pinto Revolution and everything,” Preece said. “… He was obviously a big part of my career. That was a good thing.”

Judkins was well known for his number 2X Modifieds. According to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame it was Flemke who got Judkins to renumber his car to 2X while racing with the Eastern Bandits.

“He was just an amazing guy,” Ed Flemke Jr. said. “I know my dad had a lot of admiration for him. They were kind of like the go-to team when they both knew they needed each other they each other. Whenever they got together they were successful. … The sum was greater than the two parts. … They made a great team.”

In 1971 Judkins introduced a Pinto style body on a Modified for the firt time, bucking the longtime trend of the pre-World War II coupe bodies on Modifieds.

According to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame website, NASCAR officials first balked at the idea of the change and refused to allow the Judkins Pinto bodied cars to compete.

Stafford Speedway owner Jack Arute Sr. pushed NASCAR founder Bill France to allow the bodies.

“Obviously [that] was a major major change in auto racing in New England,” Zanardi said. “I always thought [Judkins] was a big factor in Stafford becoming Stafford because Jack Arute immediately became such a defender of the [new] bodies. Jack kind of drew a line in the sand there and made a stand for him that people admired him for.”

Preece said Judkins had been in ailing health of late.

“Now the suffering and pain is over,” Preece said.

Said Flemke: “He just gave so much to the sports and asked for so little back. He gave so much. And he was always a background guy. He was never comfortable in the spotlight. But he was always had that little smirk on his face. A very cool guy.”

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Comments

  1. Robert Karvonen says:

    rest in piece my friend!

  2. HE WAS A LEGEND, I FEEL BAD FOR RYAN LOSING HIS GRANDFATHER ON HIS BIRTHDAY, R.I.P BOB

  3. Kathy Maffei-Thompson says:

    Rest in Peace Sir.. Thank you for the wonderful memories.

  4. God Speed, R.I.P. Bob was a great guy ….
    Skip Rogers & Family

  5. Richard Martin says:

    I am so sad to here this news. I grew up being around “BeBop” when I was just a young boy. Some of my best memories where spending time at the race track with him and his wife. They always where so nice. I’ll miss you Bob!!

  6. Robert Kosuda says:

    R.I.P MY FRIEND WILL MISS YOU

  7. Bruce Childs says:

    Very sad day. Bob was a great friend,neighbor,racer and all around great guy.
    R.I.P. Bobby

  8. Larry Larivee says:

    God speed my friend, It was an honor to know you and learn from you. I will always treasure our time together no matter how short it was. Always in my memory.

  9. Remember that little smirk well.
    Condolences to the family. Rest in Peace!

  10. Great cars. Awesome drivers. Exceptional person.
    Thanks for the years of great memories, Bob!

    Don Thomas
    Norwood Arena Speedway Historic Website

  11. R.I.P. Bob. One of the true racers of the modern era. Your legacy will continue. A true legend. God speed.

  12. Glad he got to see his grandson make it didn’t know him pioneers like him made the sport what it is today rip

  13. My condolences to the entire Judkins family and friends..I actually had brought Bob home to CT after his car hauler broke down in PA. He was on way home from Martinsville race with the 7 car that Ron Bouchard drove. As I was on my way home to, stopped at same Rest Stop….a true innovator , Rest In Peace……

  14. Boulay Family says:

    Loved Bob from the first time I had the pleasure of meeting him while with Steady Eddie!! A real genuine nice guy and a racers reverse!! He and Eddie gave me so many great memories I will forever be greatful!! RIP MR Judkins and I can’t wait to see what car you and Pops put together for that great race track in the sky!!!

  15. Elton Hill says:

    Thanks for the memories.

  16. Angelo Cerase says:

    I will miss you very much 😃🏎

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