Promoter Extraordinaire Jimmy Day Mathews agreed to talk about his life as a race car driver after coming off of a huge celebrated event for Fiona Brown and her skin care company “The Cosmetic Vault.” Drawn to some of the most beautiful models in New York City, Mathews has had a race paced life….literally….and continues to do so. In an intimate conversation he talked about his career and his present new found career….
Not only a race car champion, Mathews also built engines and race cars for some of the biggest companies including Roush Yates. Now he does events and parties for huge nightlife people such as Lavo, Marquee, Tenjune, Pink Elephant, Cain and others…..this is his story…..
I want to know first of all how you got into race car driving? What’s the story?
When I was a kid I joined the 4-H. My parents made me join just to get off the streets and do something good like sports. They brought me to the 4-H probably about 1974. There were clubs and I had to pick one. They had a horse Club, a Cow Milking Club, and then they were bicycles not bicycles Motorcycle Club. There was one other, the go-kart Club, and that’s the one I wanted to join. So, I started going to the meetings. But I didn’t have a go-kart because I was just getting familiar with them. I went to the meetings and out in the field they would have an open day for go-kart racing. All the kids would have carts and I would just go and watch.
One day a father of one of the other kids in the club said Jimmy why don’t you try driving my cart? I drove it for him a couple of times and I really liked it and I went out and got $300 for my first cart. Which for me, back then was a fortune. So, I started in 4-H and then after that he brought me to the racetrack in Pennsylvania. Reading, Pennsylvania. I went to one race in his car,I drove for him and I got third place. That was my first race. Then I started racing week after week and I traveled to maybe over 1200 races for the next 8 or 9 years. I traveled with my parents and I raced all over the country.
Tennessee, Georgia, Florida. I ended up winning top three in the national championship. So, I went from having no money and no cart to having a whole room full of trophies for winning races everywhere. After that I was in high school. I wanted to race cars and it was the same situation. I still love the go karts but I wanted to transfer to next League. Cars.
Then I went to school in North Carolina for Buck Baker’s racing school. He was the 1957 NASCAR champion. He recently passed away. But I actually worked in his shop, and he trained me how to build racing cars in his shop in exchange for the driving time. Driving time out of school is like $1,500 a day. I could never afford that. He would cover the entire expense for me for the racing if I was a mechanic for his car.
So, I learned the cars from Buck Baker and then I came back to New Jersey. I learned in North Carolina and came back to Jersey. I bought my own car and started racing at Flemington Raceway in New Jersey. I raced for about 11 years every single Saturday. So that takes us up to the year 2000. And in 2000 I was winning a lot of races in New Jersey and surrounding area and upstate New York. I tried to take the next level leap to bring my car to Charlotte North Carolina and get into the bigger league. I started having trouble getting corporate sponsors who wanted millions of dollars to race the car down there. So, I was spending my days looking for a sponsor and working on other drivers cars. Then I got hired by a full-time NASCAR team which was Ford Racing. I worked as an engine builder for Ford Racing.
We went to the Daytona 500 several times and hundreds of NASCAR races with me as the mechanic. In 2006, I got cancer and had to stop at all. I 100% recovered but I couldn’t go back to racing. The doctors told me to stay away from racing and just do light stuff, but I didn’t listen. I went to New York City going around companies to try to get a sponsor for my race car just to try one last season of racing. All the places in New York said they didn’t have the budget to sponsor my race car. But one place told me if you bring race car drivers to the Super Bowl event in Miami we will pay you. So, they gave me like $2,000 to send all these race car drivers down there. A week after that they hired me. My first job ever was at the Marquee New York. I was working seven nights a week. I just loved it, so much promoting and being around other people. Helping new people from other countries. I was working seven nights a week for at least 5 years straight without taking a day off. No holidays, no sick days, nothing. Just recently I slowed down. I work two to three nights a week and I just do little dinner parties for the ladies and take them to the club after. Just yesterday was the first red carpet event I ever created by myself. I was just hosting one little table in a club for 10 or 20 ladies. This is a whole event I did yesterday. They just called me and told me it was a major success for the company. So, I went from pouring vodka at a table for the ladies to making a red carpet event. I would love to be back into racing but the race car driving career for me is done. I could probably do one or two more times, but I would be physically out of shape. So, I’m going to continue doing this because I like it.
Were you ever nervous racing?
No. I went 190 mph at the Poconos Speedway testing a car with all the best drivers. Dale Earnhardt was at the track, I was not nervous at all it seems so natural to me. People think race car drivers are crazy, but it is actually finesse. Planned out calculated by numbers. The RPMs, the speed, the fuel, mileage everything.
You weren’t scared that you would have an accident or something?
I was in 20 to 30 accidents. Many accidents I crashed at 130 mph at least 20 times. But I build the cars myself and I prepare the inside of the car so that if I am in an accident, it minimizes the damage to the driver. I had bruises but nothing major from the accidents.
I am more impressed that you built cars then drove them to be honest.
That’s what the team owners in North Carolina said. They had a million drivers but not as many people that could build them. I worked for the top team. Roush racing company. They just won the Nascar championship with Ryan Blaney.