Racing in their genes

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

Story by Phyllis Speidell

Photos by John Sheally II

When your roots run deep into Concord, N.C., a hub of motorsports — tracks, schools, shops and attractions — odds are you will be a racing fan.

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Born in Concord, James “Jim” F. Mosley Jr. carried the racing gene when he moved to Portsmouth as a young teenager. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, went to work for Robinson’s Hardware in Portsmouth and other construction-related firms. Thirty years later, Mosley started his own commercial drywall business. Racing, however, remained his true passion and one he passed on to his son, Jamie Mosley.

“I’ve been in automotive stuff since I was 12,” Jamie said. “My father loved racing and gave me money to build a race car, a drag car.”

“We got into racing in 1996 when Phil Warren was dominating Langley Speedway. My father said we were going to build a race team like Warren’s where everything was always in perfect condition,” Jamie Mosley said. “I built the cars and my father turned racing into a business — Lamb and Robinson Motorsports.”

Jamie Mosley talks about the history of Lamb & Robinson Racing, which he and his father, James F. Mosley Jr., built from the wheels up. (John H. Sheally II photo)

“In racing you can do everything right and still come in last,” he said. “But if we finished second, he wanted to know why.”

Their first car was a pristine Monte Carlo driven by a rookie driver. On the third lap of the first day of practice at Langley, a competing driver, D.J. Johnson, rear-ended the car and folded it so badly that clearing the track required two wreckers. The track manager, Wayne Wyatt, advised the Mosleys, “If you don’t want to wreck ‘em, leave ‘em on the trailer.”

Looking back over his years as a builder and crew chief, Jamie said, “The drivers have the easiest job on pit row.”

The Mosleys built a team by hiring engineering students from Old Dominion University and training their pit crew to speed up the green-flag pit stops. They later credited at least one championship mainly to their pit crew who also won the 2004 Goodrich Crew Challenge Championship.

“As a family-run team, we had limited money — half to three-quarters of a million a year — and had to choose where we spent it,” Jamie said. “Presentation is important, and we were the first to have pressed uniforms at the track with well-designed and well-painted cars and trailers. My father changed car colors like he changed his underwear.”

“We were racing for wins — it costs less to race in front rather than in the back — sponsors want to back a winner,” he said. “We would try to catch drivers, guys from Charlotte who were among the best but in the twilight of their careers.”

Over the following years, the L & R team included well-known drivers Phil Warren, Bobby Gill, Sam Giata, Elton Sawyer and Clay Rogers. The Mosleys competed in Late Model, Pro Cup and Craftsman Truck Series, traveling almost every weekend.

Breaking into a new series was never easy. In Pensacola, Fla., for their first Pro Cup race, Jamie approached veteran driver Bobby Gill and asked, since it was Lamb and Robinson’s first race there, if his new driver, Phil Warren, could follow Gill around the track for a few laps just to get the feel of things. When Gill said, “Do you really think he can keep up?” Jamie walked away knowing his team had a lot to learn. Later on, Gill drove for Lamb and Robinson.

While Jamie, who still lives in the Western Branch neighborhood where he grew up, was the race team’s crew chief, he was also running his business, Lamb and Robinson Auto Electric Service. He had started there at 16 and knew Kenneth Lamb as a good businessman and Robbie Robinson as an electronics genius. When Lamb suffered a stroke, Jamie, just 19, became the business manager and still built racecars at night. Ten years later, Lamb retired and offered to help him buy the business.

Jim Mosley co-signed for the purchase. Father and son incorporated the drywall business into Lamb and Robinson and in the late 1990s moved the businesses to Station House Road in Western Branch.

The race team flourished, finishing 2013 as champions of the Pro Cup series. However, a faltering economy, loss of their sponsor and Jim Mosley’s declining health put the brakes on their run.

“I love competition and building things, and what could be better than trying to build something faster than your competitors?” Jamie said, adding that he was a truly lucky man to be able to do it all with his father. “Now, looking back, I will sure miss all of those other teams we tried to beat or wreck.”

After Jim Mosley passed away in 2016, Jamie, forced to abandon their business restructuring plans, sold to Bay Custom Auto where he is working now.

“Bay Custom impressed me — they are structured, organized and insist on quality,” he said. “But for me, the hardest part was losing the Lamb and Robinson name that had been on the business since 1957. “

His crew chief days behind him, Jamie sees NASCAR losing popularity.

“NASCAR has become cookie cutter — too big and too slick, “he said. “We need real people and real passion — heroes, legends and guys banging on each other.”