Memphis, Tennessee street racing icon JJ DaBoss, who has risen to national fame via appearances on recent seasons of the Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws, has endured a week-long stretch of bad fortunes that would be difficult to script, even for television. For JJ, it’s been a costly — and physically painful — run, but he’s forged onward despite the obstacles.
Last weekend, while heading to Arkansas after a late night an early morning of racing — a night in which his Precious Cooper-driven 1949 Chevrolet pickup known as “Ole Heavy” suffered engine damage — JJ briefly fell asleep at the wheel of his GMC Sierra pickup, hauling both “Ole Heavy” and “Heifer”, his 1966 Chevy II. The pickup struck a concrete culvert near Newport, Arkansas, at an estimated 55 mph. The impact caused the Chevy, loaded in the rear of the flatbed open trailer so that it could be quickly unloaded for engine repairs, to break free from its tie-down straps and slam into the rear of the Chevy II. Both racing machines ultimately ended up in the ditch, separated from the trailer and with parts strewn all along the roadway.
JJ suffered a broken hand and rib and various cuts and cruises in the accident, but was otherwise able to walk away from a situation that could have had a far more tragic ending. In a bit of positive light, he says “luckily it broke my right arm … I’m left-handed,” with a laugh. But, no sooner than he was checked out of the hospital, he, his wife Patricia, and Cooper were in the shop and on the phone making things happen to get both vehicles back in fighting shape in time for planned upcoming races.
Besides the GMC pickup and JJ himself, “Heifer” took the brunt of the damage, with both the front and rear sections of the chassis tweaked enough to necessitate a rebuild at David Monday Race Cars that is expected to be finalized by mid-week.
Monday, whose shop is in nearby Maryville, Tennessee, has put a new front and rear chassis clip on the car, straightened the folded quarter panels, and will be adding a new nose and decklid this week.
“It’s probably going to cost me 15 to 20-thousand dollars to get it back. David told me that in any other situation the car would be totaled, but because I’ve owned it for so long — I bought the car when I was 20-something years old and it has a lot of sentimental value — I wanted to fix it at all costs. It probably would have been just as cheap to build another car. It’s still got the same seat in it that it had when I bought it over twenty years ago. That was the third car David Monday ever built, and now he’s built 386 of them.”
JJ and crew will head to Monday’s shop on Wednesday to put the final touches on the re-build. From there, if all goes to plan, his wife, who’s known in the Memphis street racing community as “Midget”, will be back behind the wheel by the weekend.
But “Ole Heavy” is a hard-to-believe story in and of itself that takes the saga for an expected turn.
The damage in the initial accident was relatively minor in comparison to the Nova: the nose crushed and other cosmetic damage evident. While nursing his broken bones, JJ and his crew spent a week making repairs to the truck to get it back to virtually good-as-new, only to have lady luck strike once more.
“I fixed the truck … we got it all fixed and re-painted picture-perfect, and we go out and test Monday night in Memphis on the street and the truck breaks the wheel studs and rolls over twice. It totaled the top of the truck. So we go back Saturday morning and put it on the frame jig and me and my guys go to jacking the roof and pulling and stretching and we get it all pushed back out — and don’t get me wrong, it isn’t pretty — but we went out and raced it on Saturday night. It’s crazy.”
Although bruised and battered — both he and his now-famous machines — JJ is able to reflect on how truly fortunate he was last weekend. And now, he hopes, the worst is finally behind him.
“I told my mom, ‘Lord, please pray for me, mama.’ ” It’s just a blessing, though, that I didn’t get hurt any worse than I did. Looking at the aftermath of the vehicles, I could have easily been killed. It just totaled all three of them.
“All I can do is keep saying my prayers and keep rolling, keep pushing,” he says. “Whatever you’re doing, you can spend a million hours killing yourself and it’s only worth it if you love what you’re doing. To us, street racing is everything.”