When you hear about legends in the sport, you hear about drivers, team owners and the France family. But one of the biggest legends in NASCAR passed away this week. J.C. “Jake” Elder known as Suitcase Jake was 73.
Jake’s career spanned a change in technology and NASCAR itself, yet always being at the top of the sport. In 1967 he helped Mario Andretti win the Daytona 500. 1968 & 1969 he won championships and 27 races with David Pearson. 1975 Jake was crew chief on Darrell Waltrip’s first win at Nashville. He also was with Darrell on his last win at the 1992 Southern 500. He was with Dale Earnhardt for his first win, Rookie of the year and into his first championship season before packing his toolbox once again that earned his named “suitcase Jake.” Jake worked with many drivers at one time as crew chief or mechanic from Fred Lorenzen to Benny Parsons. He started his career at Petty Enterprises as a fabricator. Many drivers respected his abilities but so did many other crew chiefs.
He earned his nickname because he was considered difficult to work. But many people said it was due to Jake being a perfectionist. He often would double check every nut and bolt on the car. Jake insisted it was his way as the only way. With his record maybe because it was the right way.
Jake Elder is one of a number of other crew chiefs who will one day be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Dale Inman, Waddell Wilson, Harry Hyde Leonard Wood, Buddy Parrott also need to be on that list. But there was none as colorful as Jake. He will be remembered as one of the Legends in Nascar.