A Farewell to Joe Jacono, Always Fast and Funny

September 7, 2017

Joe Jacono’s Rollin’ Stone Funny Car was his final race car ride. Joe drove this car at 70+ years of age!


Joe built and ran this Lyndwood Chassis AA/Dragster in the early 60’s. Blown Buick Nailhead powered it.

A Farewell to Joe Jacono, Always Fast and Funny

Story by Jim Hill

Racers and fans loved Joe Jacono for his wild, let-it-all-hang-out antics, non-stop jokes, hilarious one-liners, and his hard charging style while behind the wheel of everything from front-engine, AA-Fuel Dragsters, Funny Cars and an injected, Buick powered, Competition Coupe. Many of these same admirers of the recently-passed Jacono don’t know of his way-back career as a serious and very competitive drag racer.

From West Chester, PA, Jacono came from a decidedly blue-collar background to rise as an engine builder, race car constructor, driver and never-shy, self-promoter. Joe’s final race car, the “Rollin’ Stoned” alcohol Funny Car, carried Jacono to 200+ mph speeds long after he surpassed 70 years of age.

As far back as the February, 1960 NHRA/NASCAR Winter Nationals, in Bunnell, Florida, Joe Jacono’s name and irrepressible sense of humor was being etched into drag racing’s historic tablet of time. It was at the “First Winternationals”, that Jacono ended up in the final for Top Eliminator. It was against Lewis Carden’s injected Chevy B/Dragster. Carden’s Birmingham, Alabama dragster took the win, but Jacono’s Nailhead Buick powered A/Modified Roadster, a dragster chassis with a high-mileage roadster body hung on its roll-cage, covered the rest of that early field.

Jacono later built a AA/Gas Dragster, again with blown Buick power in a Pat Bilbow, Lyndwood Welding Eliminator chassis. Up and down the East Coast Jacono raced and collected numerous Top Eliminator trophies plus a little cash. His next car was a bit more upscale, a Don Garlits chassis with a blown small-block Chevy, running in Top Fuel Eliminator. Joe’s own ’63 Pontiac Bonneville convertible served as his push car, and Jacono was known as a car that was tough to beat, anywhere he unloaded.

Later driving for car owner Biddy Winward (“Brief Encounter”, a 392 hemi powered, Garlits chassis, AA/Fuel Dragster) and then Funny Cars made Jacono well known to fans and competitors in the East. He was also well known on the NASCAR Drag Racing Division’s 1960’s schedule, winning often during the Bill France-Ed Otto era. Joe Jacono never won a major NHRA race, but he always figured in the results.

In 2003 Joltin’ Joe was inducted into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame, a fitting honor for a career East Coast racer and iconic fixture in rough and tumble Eastern racing. He was also a regular attendee at the annual event, until failing health reluctantly kept him away.

Joe passed away at home, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, not far from the 1960 Winternationals track where he first rose to national fame. That he lived in New Smyrna Beach was typical of Jacono’s offbeat sense of humor. NSB is known “The Shark Bite Capitol of the World”, where tourists and surfers frequently run afoul of the shiny-white choppers of Jaws’ cousins. Joe, of course, loved the joke and its irony.

Joe Jacono, Bruce Larson and Bret Kepner at the 2003 East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame, & Reunion, Henderson, NC (Photo by:  Fred Simmons)

At the end, Joe Jacono’s family members were nearby, comforting him and making his final pass an

easy lone-run.