There was another reason for the success of Sox and Martin, and that was head engine man Jake King. He was a perfectionist, recalled Sox. "He was very laid back, very quiet. He would not put a motor together unless it was the absolute best he could do, and he would take his time." Coupled with Ronnie's driving, the meticulous preparation of Jake King made the Sox and Martin team the dominant force for close to ten years.
One of the hallmarks of Sox and Martin is they and their equipment were always first class. The cars were flawless in appearance and preparation, as were their tow vehicles. They wore sharp, classy uniforms while everyone else was in jeans and t-shirts. "That was Buddy," recalled Ronnie. "He knew how to obtain sponsors and keep them. He knew that on top of winning, they wanted to be associated with a professional-looking operation."
Even though the team was incredibly successful within the NHRA class structure, the desire to race heads-up was alluring. Sox ran competitively in NHRA Super Stock, but also found time for several independent events in the "outlaw" Experimental Super Stock (X/SS) class, racing heads-up against the Chevrolet of Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins and the Ford of "Dyno Don" Nicholson. The crowd response was incredible, and the three lobbied NHRA to form Pro Stock, where heads-up racing could be carried out on a championship level. This wish was granted in 1970, and Sox was again the dominant force. After losing an upset final to Jenkins' Camaro at the Winternationals in Pomona at the beginning of the year, the Sox and Martin Pro Stock Barracuda went undefeated the rest of the year. They continued to dominate into the 1971 season, and the team's notoriety and recognition continued to flourish. They were invited to the White House to meet President Richard Nixon at the end of the year.
The win streak was stopped in 1971, when a tire went flat during a semifinal burnout at the NHRA Summer Nationals in Englishtown, New Jersey. "Our competition, Mike Fons in the Rod Shop Challenger, offered to wait until we changed it, but we told him to go ahead." After that event, Sox picked up where he left off, winning virtually everything the red, white, and blue Plymouth entered. What he didn't win, his teammate, Herb McClandless, won in the team's Duster. It was also during 1971 that NHRA's relationship with Chrysler began to sour. They started to add a hundred pounds with each race won.
Sox and Martin continued to press forward, though, building a trick Duster that continued to be competitive. It would be the last one built in the Sox and Martin shop.
Sox and Martin eventually parted ways, but "The Boss" kept on racing with a Dodge Colt and found a successful following on the match race scene. Then disaster struck. Sox said, "I had parked the rig inside a chain link fence that surrounded our shop. The power went out one night, and someone broke into the place, stole a lot of stuff, including all our good engines, set fire to the shop, destroying it. An arrest was never made, and although we have an idea of who was responsible, nothing was ever proven." This basically ended his racing activities, but in the mid-to-late-'80s, there were a variety of programs and efforts that Sox dabbled in. "In 1989, I built another '68 Barracuda to mess with and also built the Comet Pro Mod. It was quite a ride, fast, and breathtaking. But to this day nothing matches that '68 Hemi A-Body."
In 1995, Sox crossed paths with Martin to field an IHRA Pro Stock Thunderbird. That made way for a real trick Probe with a Jon Kaase-built 815-inch Shotgun Ford engine, which held a lot of promise. The car was short lived and nearly cost Sox his life. "It had a six-stage oiling system on it, and one of the oil lines came off during a pass," said Sox. "The car barrel rolled 14 times, and busted me up pretty good. I had a bruised eye, broken ribs, broken sternum, and a whole lot of other injuries. It was a bad scene." That crash nearly put Sox out of the sport, but he was later lured back for a short stint behind the wheel of a small-block Dodge Dakota Pro Stock Truck.
Up until his passing, Ronnie still found the time and the energy to attend car shows and Nostalgia events, and was in high demand. He signed autographs, shook hands, and relived memories. He was delighted that so many remembered him. He fielded hundreds of questions from old-timers and those old enough to remember his name. Although having had success with different makes of race cars, Ronnie remained a hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool Mopar man. "Chrysler fans are the best, most rabid," he said. "They have everything. They come to me for autographs, show me model cars; it is unbelievable. They are fanatics, which is OK. I am a Chrysler fanatic, myself. I have given my life to this sport; I love it."
Good-bye Ronnie. You'll be greatly missed.