John Paul Jr Racing History
In 1960, John Paul Jr. was born in Muncie, Indiana. He graduated from Delta High School in Muncie, and his life took on a new direction a couple of years later when he joined his father, John Paul Sr.’s race team. He was to learn the extent of what a racing organization was, including becoming a jack-of-all-trades. As John Jr. took on learning about engines, John Sr. decided his son needed to go to driver's school. He went to the Skip Barber driving school, and curiously enough, his instructor qualified his driving as hopeless! Not a very encouraging beginning, but in spite of that, his father bought him an old Formula Ford and he started competing in races. In 1979 he qualified for the IMSA Runoffs.
His racing career really took off the next year, when he became part of the JLP Racing team as his father's co-driver. He took the start of his first IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) race in 1980 at Lime Rock. There, he drove the Porsche 935 his father had built, which was dubbed JLP2. They won the second heat and subsequently, John Paul Jr. won the first IMSA race he entered as the youngest ever IMSA champion.
The 1982 IMSA rules were more liberal, and full-blown tube frame cars were allowed in order to counterbalance the GTP cars, which were more efficient. The father and son team was very confident for the season to come. It would be their most successful ever.
They started the season with back to back wins at Daytona and Sebring. For the first race, they were partnered by no less than Rolf Stommelen! At Sebring, they overcame a gearbox failure to win the race over the hard-charging March driven by Bobby Rahal. John Paul Jr. won at Road Atlanta, and this race attracted Miller Beer distributor Bobby Hogg, who sponsored them for the remainder of the season. John Paul Jr. was driving the Lola at Laguna Seca, and won the race while his father was back home working on the new car. At Charlotte, they again teamed up on the JLP3 car to win the race.
At Mid-Ohio, the race was less successful as John Jr. finished only fourth after starting from the pole. At Lime Rock, the Lola Junior drove was out powered by John Fitzpatrick's Porsche 935K4. He finished second and was eagerly waiting for his new car, the JLP4 which debuted at Brainerd, which was a very fast course. Starting from second place behind Danny Ongais, John Paul Jr. drove his brand new car to its first victory. He had become accustomed to winning races with cars that were new to him. He won again at Portland, at the wheel of JLP4. Junior drove JLP3 with his father to a victory at Mosport. At Road America, he was partnered by Mauricio de Narvaez, and the pair finished second to John Fitzpatrick and David Hobbs who drove the K4. The father and son team won again at Road Atlanta, with JLP3., and they took a second at Pocono. It would be their last race as a father and son team. John Paul Jr. had long since clinched the Championship.
John Paul Jr. had shown what a promising talent he was, and he had outgunned everyone, but he was used to driving his father's cars. In 1983 JLP Racing became dismantled as Senior was involved in legal problems. Junior had decisions to make, and he had to pick up rides as they became available. He drove JLP4 once in 1983 and took a second at Miami in the Lola. At Sebring, he was hired by Ft Lauderdale Swap Shop owner Preston Henn to drive the winning Daytona car. He drove this car again with Preston Henn at Road America but was unable to finish. After that, he decided to try his hands at CART racing, and he again won the first race he ever entered, as well as his first Trans-Am race. At the 1983 Michigan 500, John won the race in the last corner, last lap, passing Rick Mears. Rick was caught up in the draft as John passed him and spun and crashed. John won that race with a broken leg (his crew had to put him in and out of the car as he broke it at Indy a month prior). That was one heck of a race.
In 1984, he would wind up second overall at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, co-driven by Jean Rondeau and Preston Henn on a Porsche 956. In 1984, his IMSA season began late in the year, and he was offered a ride by Phil Conte, who entered a March 84G Chevrolet.
Running for Conte, he had what should have been a more efficient car, which was now Buick powered, but it was utterly unreliable, to John Paul's disappointment. The season started with a pole position at Daytona, but it ended up unfinished. He finally broke his seventeen string DNF (did not finish) streak by finishing 2nd at Road Atlanta, in the March/Hawk Buick.
After a four year leave from racing, John Paul Jr. came back to IMSA racing in 1990, and was offered a ride by Jim Busby, who had a Nissan ZX GTP Turbo entered. It was a very powerful car, similar to the factory cars. John Paul Jr took a second place at Miami and a fifth at Sebring in the car maintained by Seabroke Racing. The remainder of the season was to bring him a string of fifth places, at West Palm Beach, Portland, and Road America. An eighth place finish overall was his reward.
In 1991 John Paul Jr. was hired by Gunnar Racing to drive the Porsche 966 at West Palm Beach, he finished sixth overall. The end of the season was to bring him some kind of happiness, with a second place finish at Del Mar, driving the underpowered Hotchkis Racing Spice Pontiac.
The 1992 season continued on a race by race basis. It was the year he drove the most different cars in a single season. He experienced his first ever GTU win in Bob Leitzinger's Nissan 240SX, which he shared with Butch Leitzinger and David Loring. It was a victory nonetheless. Then Gianpiero Moretti offered him a ride at Watkins Glen, and he finished sixth in a Porsche 962. At Laguna Seca, he took an eighth place, again driving John Hotschkis' Spice Pontiac. Then he had a string of three races with Momo Corse.
The 1993 season started well, as he was entered as co-driver in Gianpiero Moretti's Nissan NPT90. The car was very fast, and with Derek Bell, Massimo Sigala, and Gianpiero Moretti as co-drivers, he had great hopes for the win in such a race. In fact, JPJ was leading the race when it began to experience engine troubles. At the end, it was an undeserved sixth place overall that rewarded the Nissan. The next race, held at Sebring, proved to be kinder to JPJ as he finished second at Sebring, reminding him of past success on the same course. He would continue to drive the Gunnar Porsche 966 at Lime Rock, Laguna Seca and Portland, but with very unsatisfying results. He was able to take one last second place at Road America, this time driving a Joest Racing Porsche 962.
John Paul Junior was awarded the first Scott Brayton Memorial Trophy in 1997 at the Indianapolis 500, dedicated to the driver who best exemplifies the attitude, spirit, and competitive drive.
In 1998 JPJ landed a competitive ride on the Byrd-Cunningham Racing IRL team and won the 1998 Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He started the race in 13th position and went on to win the race with an average lap speed of 220 mph in over 100* temperatures. John Paul had become aware of the fact that things had changed a lot over the years, and when not driving a factory car, you could not expect it to be much harder to win races. However, his overall results proved he had tremendous raw talent as a driver, with a fantastic ability to drive a variety of different types of car.
John Paul became a racing instructor for Skip Barber Racing, the very place that had called him hopeless, as well as for BMW, Factory Corvette and other companies. He retired from professional racing in 2001 after noticing that the telemetry of the Corvette GT-1 he was testing did not match what he thought his feet were doing in the car. A subsequent medical evaluation confirmed he had Huntington’s Disease (HD). November 1, 2012 John Paul lost his younger sister Tonya, to HD.
For more history and stories about John Paul Jr get the book 50/50 by Sylvia Wilkinson.
What is Huntington's Disease?
Huntington's disease is caused by a genetic defect on chromosome #4. The defect causes a part of DNA, called a CAG repeat, to occur many more times than it is supposed to. Normally, this section of DNA is repeated 10 to 35 times. But in persons with Huntington's disease, it is repeated 36 to 120 times.
There are two forms of Huntington's disease. The most common is adult-onset Huntington's disease. Persons with this form usually develop symptoms in their mid-30s and 40s.
If one of your parents has Huntington's disease, you have a 50% chance of getting the gene for the disease. If you get the gene from your parents, you will develop the disease at some point in your life, and can pass it onto your children. If you do not get the gene from your parents, you cannot pass the gene onto your children.
HD slowly diminishes the affected individual's ability to walk, talk and reason. Huntington's Disease profoundly affects the lives of entire families -- emotionally, socially and economically.
More than a quarter of a million Americans have HD or are "at-risk" of inheriting the disease from an affected parent. HD affects as many people as Hemophilia, Cystic Fibrosis or muscular dystrophy and is similar to Central Nervous System disease to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Early symptoms of Huntington's Disease may affect cognitive ability or mobility and include depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, clumsiness, involuntary twitching and lack of coordination. As the disease progresses, concentration and short-term memory diminish and involuntary movements of the head, trunk and limbs increase. Walking, speaking and swallowing abilities deteriorate.
HD affects males and females equally and crosses all ethnic and racial boundaries. In 1993, the HD gene was isolated and a direct genetic test developed which can accurately determine whether a person carries the HD gene.
Since the discovery of the gene that causes HD, scientific research has accelerated and much has been added to our understanding of Huntington's Disease and its effects upon different individuals. By continuing to increase investment in both clinical and basic HD research each year, breakthroughs in treatment - and a cure can be forthcoming in the near future.
John Paul Jr. Racing Highlights
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