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 Joseph Reynolds "Joie" Ray, Jr.
September 29, 1923    Died: April 13, 2007
Home: Lousiville, KY

Joie Ray  was born in Louisville, Kentucky and was primarily an open-wheel and stock-car racer. Despite many sources to the contrary, was not the first African-American to race in NASCAR's top series. The Joie Ray who started 25th in the 1952 Daytona race in a Henry J was white, from Portland, Oregon and little is known about him. They were two different men.

However, in 1947, Ray was the first African American licensed by the American Automobile Association. Ray raced primarily in the Midwest and raced in AAA, USAC, CSRA and other organizations. Though never officially in a NASCAR stock car, Legends of Nascar feels it is important to distinguish the differences of the two Joie Rays (other Joie Ray here).

Elias Bowie became the first African-American to race in NASCAR's top series, then known as Grand National, when he raced in the July 31, 1955 event at San Mateo, California.

Ray died in Louisville of pneumonia.


Welcome to our web site about motorsports pioneer Joie Ray. Ray's racing career spanned 17 years racing Sprint, Midget, and Stock cars from 1947 to 1963. Our records reflect that Joie drove his first race on Easter Sunday, 1947, at Mitchell, IN. Joie is no longer with us, but he can rest in peace, knowing that he has paid his dues and more.

Ray was the first African American AAA license holder and ran in the Central States Racing Association (CRSA), The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), United States Auto Club (USAC) and the Midwest Dirt Track Racing Association.



After learning of a Sprint car for sale for $450, Ray placed a dollar bet on the number 450 and won $500. He used his prize money to buy his first race car in 1946, the #7 Joe’s Special (shown here).




Joie's father,
Joseph Reynolds Ray, Sr. was an Eisenhower appointee at the Housing and Home Finance Agency (now called HUD) in the 1950s in Washington, DC. Before that, the senior Ray worked in Bloomfield, Kentucky as a teacher; and in Louisville as a bank teller who was eventually promoted to vice president of the bank, a president of another bank, and a partner in Ray and Hawes real estate agency. Ray’s mother, Ella Hughes Ray was a schoolteacher whose family inherited 300 acres of farmland in Maud, KY that was rented to white sharecroppers.


  • On February 21, 2008, Joie was honored post-humously for his auto racing accomplishments, by the Kentucky Legislative Black Caucus in a Black History Month celebration at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, KY.

  • In December 2006, Joie was one of three special guests on Don Kay’s “The Budweiser Autosport Show", which streamed live from McGilvery’s Speedway, Indianapolis. See www.DaveArgabright.com for book information.

  • Joie has appeared on several national television and radio programs and is featured in several books, periodicals and newspaper articles about his racing career. His last TV appearance was in February 2006, on the SPEED Channel program Black Wheels.

  • On February 25, 2005, Joie was a guest on the “Steve Harvey Morning Show”.

  • Joie was among the 33 celebrities honored at the 2003 Indy 500 in pre-race ceremonies. Some other guests honored were boxing legend Muhammed Ali, comedian Ruth Buzzie, TV mom Florence Henderson, actor/singer Jim Nabors, actor George Hamilton, and Paula Abdul, judge on American Idol .

  • More on www.JoieRay.com


Joie in the 1940's

Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets


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