50 Greatest Modified Drivers – Corky Cookman 1943-1987
“Quiet and Consistent”
During his Modified racing career at Stafford, Corky Cookman recorded only one win, the Manchester Oil Heat 100 on August 6, 1982. His style and consistent high finishes earned him a spot as being one of Stafford’s Salutes NASCAR at 50 program list of the 50 Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time.
Hailing from Green Farms, Connecticut, Cookman began his racing career on the dirt at Middletown, New York in 1969. In 1975 he switched to asphalt Modifieds at Danbury where he remained until the track closed. Cookman shifted his racing to Stafford but his homebuilt racer was no where near competitive. When Maynard Troyer retired from driving and began mass-producing Modifieds for sale, Cookman was one of his early customers. The decision to abandon his homebuilt racer and go with a Troyer Built Modified was a wise one as it enabled him to show his talent as a driver.
Cookman was very private person and although he had a good following of fans, very few were able to get close to him. Virtually unsponsored, Cookman always had the best equipment that money could buy. Cookman, a Vietnam Army Veteran, often stated that he was a maintenance man at a boys prep school, but come to find out, he actually owned the school: Green Farms Academy. He most often kept to himself and had only his girlfriend Carla as his pit crew.
Cookman was a regular Friday night competitor at Stafford through 1986. When Stafford dropped the Modifieds and elevated the SK Modifieds® to their lead division he, like many others, ran only the events on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. His lifelong dream became a reality in the fall of 1986 when he drew the pole position and led every lap of the season ending World Series at Thompson.
When 1987 rolled around Cookman decided he would not chase points in the Modified Tour. Instead, he would just race in Connecticut. It was during the running of the Charlie Jarzombek Memorial at Thompson on July 19 that tragedy struck. Cookman slammed full bore, head on into the concrete wall between turns three and four and died instantly due to massive internal injuries.
Prentiss ‘Corky’ Cookman is remembered as one of the men who supplied the blood to the sport of auto racing and will also be remembered for his professional and ‘nice guy’ approach to the sport of Modified racing.
By: Phil Smith