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HSR Tribute to John Paul Jr

John Paul Jr. Loses Heroic Battle with Huntington’s Disease


John Paul Jr., one of motor racing’s most versatile drivers whose lengthy resume included an IMSA GT championship, seven appearances in the Indianapolis 500, two victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona, two victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a second-place finish at LeMans, 1983 victory in the CART IndyCar Michigan 500, and a 1998 victory in the IRL Texas 500, lost a long battle with Huntington’s Disease Tuesday, December 29.  He would have celebrated his 61st birthday on Feb. 19.


Considered one of America’s greatest natural driving talents, Paul Jr. began competing nationally in Formula Fords in 1979.  Three years later, he won the IMSA GT title at age 22, becoming the youngest driver ever to wear that crown.  Subsequently, he became a driving instructor until symptoms of Huntington’s, an inherited neurodegenerative disorder first appeared. 


He spent the last 20 years championing the fight to raise awareness of Huntington’s while working closely with Dr. Susan Perlman of UCLA's Department of Neurology.  His life story and his fight with Huntington’s was documented in a book by racing journalist Sylvia Wilkinson entitled “50/50:  John Paul Jr. and His Battle with Huntington’s Disease” available through


John Paul Jr. passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family at his home in southern California while under hospice care.   


Dr. Susan Perlman stated,” As a champion Indy car driver, every time John Paul stepped into his car, he faced death. With Huntington’s disease, stepping into each day, John Paul faced the same. Over the past 20 years John raised HD awareness, raised funds to support research, and personally participated in any research that he could. Over this 20 years, hundreds of studies into the mechanisms of HD and dozens of trials of disease modifying therapies have been completed. John has finished the race, and we have all cheered for him. We will miss you. 


John Paul Jr. efforts and advocacy made tremendous efforts towards raising awareness as well as much needed research dollars towards a cure.”

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John Paul Jr Legacy Continues

John Paul Jr. was legendary in the world of motorsports. He successfully competed in many major championship races as a respected professional driver and racing instructor. His list of accomplishments included record breaking championships in CART, IRL, and IMSA. Eventually he began struggling with his timing and control of his racecar. While [LS1] he continued to race and instruct, he ultimately had to retire due to the symptoms and eventual diagnoses of Huntington’s Disease.


Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a hereditary neurological disorder marked by degeneration of the brain cells causing chorea, and progressive dementia among other symptoms. Because of its hereditary nature, there is approximately a 50% chance that one or more of the affected persons offspring will also have Huntington’s Disease. John Paul Jr. died in December 2020 at the age of 60, following a 20-year battle to help find a cure for Huntington’s Disease.


In honor of John Paul Jr., and his courageous fight to bring awareness and help with research for HD, a group of multidisciplinary talents are working to develop the John Paul Jr. Wellness Center. The founders and board are a collective of professionals that provided differing services and skills that were integral in John’s care, whose desire is to provide similar services for persons with comparable needs.


The last 10 years included specific medical care, research, therapy, medication, and supervision. Through further research and some trial and error, his care also included holistic interventions of Acupuncture, massage, personal training, yoga, Pilates, mental health care and personal assistance that provided help with grooming, healthy nutrition, supplements, advanced care, and last wishes. As a person’s illness progresses, they may need special equipment and other treatments as well. It is the goal of the John Paul Jr. Wellness Center to fulfill John’s hope of providing a centralized access to these services along with education, emotional support, respite for loved ones and caregivers, and community resources so that others can benefit from all that was learned from John Paul Jr. In addition, it is the goal to continue to support research at UCLA and the Huntington’s Disease Center of Excellence to find a cure.


Through fund-raising efforts of the John Paul Jr Huntington’s Disease Foundation, money will be raised to go toward funding The John Paul Jr. Wellness Center where individuals suffering from Huntington's Disease will be able to access optimal health resources. We hope that like-minded people who love John and are committed to finding a cure for HD will donate to the foundation.


The planning stages of the Center, a brick and mortar centrally located in Los Angeles, have begun along with commitments from a dedicated staff of professionals and volunteers. We hope that the future of The John Paul Jr. Wellness Center will create a healing and compassionate environment for people suffering from the effects of Huntington’s and other neurological disorders.

50/50: John Paul Jr. and His Battle with Huntington’s Disease

50/50: John Paul Jr. and His Battle with Huntington’s Disease
By Sylvia Wilkinson

50-50 Book cover.PNG

Initially described as “hopeless” by a professional driving instructor, John Paul Jr.’s driving career began in 1979 driving Formula Fords. The following year he joined his controversial father’s racing team as co-driver in the IMSA series. After only two years of competing, John Paul Jr. started the 1982 season with back-to-back wins
at Daytona and Sebring, and by the end of the season, he had clinched the championship at the age of 22, becoming 
IMSA’s youngest champion. He won the Michigan 500 CART race in 1983, followed by a second-place finish at Le Mans in 1984. Additionally, John Paul Jr competed in the Indianapolis 500 seven times.  

Symptoms of the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington’s disease began to appear at age 39, and John Paul Jr. began his fight against this deadly disease. This book chronicles John Paul Jr.’s life story and his continuing battle with


Huntington’s. All profits from “50/50 -The Story of Champion Race Car Driver John Paul Jr and His Battle with Huntington’s Disease” will go to John Paul Jr.’s funds to fight Huntington’s disease, (all proceeds go to UCLA Neurology, Dr. Perlman’s research), please order it from You will need to fill out a form online, and Sylvia will reach out to you to complete the order.