John Paul Jr

John Paul Jr

19/2/1960

John Paul Jr. started racing Formula Fords in 1979. He won the first SCCA Trans-Am race he entered. He also won the first IMSA race and 500-mile Indy Car race he entered, the Michigan 500 in 1983. He has 18 overall wins in FIA, IMSA and Sportscars and has won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Sebring 12 Hour race twice. He also finished runner up at Le Mans on two occasions.

A native of Muncie, Indiana, John Paul, Jr. has always been involved in some form of racing or another. He started racing Formula Fords in 1979 after attending the Skip Barber driving school. He made the Runoffs that year and in 1980 joined his father at JLP Racing driving a Porsche 935 in IMSA. They won the second heat at Lime Rock, John Paul Jr's first IMSA race. Driving with his father, they took second at Daytona and Mosport, another win at Road America, fourth at Road Atlanta and finished the season with second at Daytona to finish 4th in the Championship for his first season.

In 1982 they started the season with back to back wins at Daytona and Sebring, being joined at Daytona by Rolf Stommelen. John Paul Jr won at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca. Another win followed at Charlotte teamed with his father again. At Mid Ohio, John Paul Jr finished fourth after starting from the pole and at Lime Rock he finished second. Wins followed at Brainerd, Portland and Mosport. At Road America, driving with Mauricio de Narvaez, he finished second followed by a DNF at Mid Ohio. He won at Road Atlanta driving with his father and they also took second at Pocono. It was their last race together. John Paul Jr was crowned IMSA Champion and John Paul Sr won the Camel Endurance Championship.

1982 also saw him make his debut in CART. He made 21 starts between 1982 and 1985 with a win at Michigan International Speedway and 8th in the points in 1983.

Paul also finished 2nd in the 1984 Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race with Jean Rondeau in a Porsche 956.

In the early 1980s IMSA racing fell victim to a series of drug scandals, involving leading drivers. John Paul Jr was jailed from June 1986 to October 1988 after pleading guilty to charges of Federal racketeering and possession of a false passport> As part of a plea agreement reached with the Government, four other drug-related charges against him were dropped. His father was given a 25-year sentence after pleading guilty to importing marijuana, tax evasion, possession of a false passport and shooting a federal witness. He was on the run for several years and was eventually arrested in Geneva, Switzerland, by FBI officers.

John Paul Junior returned to CART racing in 1989 but only drove in the Indianapolis 500 from 1990 to 1994.

He was given an IMSA Licence in 1990 and drove for Jim Busby in his Nissan ZX GTP Turbo with Kevin Cogan. A retirement at Daytona was followed by second place at Miami and fifth at Sebring. After a string of fifth place finishes, he rounded out the season with third place at Tampa and Del Mar. During the year he also did a couple of races in the car with Jacques Villeneuve.

In 1991 John Paul Jr ran a limited IMSA program, only driving in four races. However he did finish second at Del Mar driving the Hotschkis Racing Spice Pontiac.

A similar season followed in 1992. A GTU win at the Sebring 12 Hour race in Bob Leitzinger's Nissan 240SX, driving with Leitzinger and David Loring, was his only finish of note.

1993 started with a drive in the Daytona 24 Hour race in Gianpiero Moretti's Nissan NPT90. Sharing the driving with Derek Bell, Massimo Sigala and Gianpiero Moretti, they were leading late in the race when engine problems put them out, leaving them classified sixth. He took second at Sebring in the Nissan before being dropped by Moretti. He drove the Gunnar Porsche 966 to 4th at Lime Rock, 7th at Laguna Seca and 8th in Portland. He also finished second at Road America driving a Joest Racing Porsche 962. In the Indy 500 he crashed in qualifying and didn't race.

He was back to running a limited schedule in 1994, contesting just 3 IMSA races, picking up a third driving the Spice-Dyson Ferrari 348 with James Weaver in the 2 hour race at Indianapolis. At the Indy 500 he qualified in 30th and finished the race in 25th spot.

1995 saw John drive the Prototype Technology Group M3 BMW at Daytona for the 24 hour race. Driving with Dieter Quester and David Donohue, they retired with mechanical problems 32 laps from the finish. At Road Atlanta he finished 5th in the GTS class in the M3 before switching to the Dyson Racing Riley & Scott Mk III Ford for the Mosehead Grand Prix in Halifax, finishing 2nd with Butch Leitzinger. He failed to finish the 3 hour race at Watkins Glen in the M3 and crashed the Riley & Scott at Mosport Park. He finished the year with at the Texas World Speedway with third with Andy Wallace in the Riley & Scott.

A full program of racing in 1996 started with 3rd in the GTS Class at Daytona with the M3 and 5th at Sebring in the Riley & Scott. A 4th in the 6 hour race at Watkins Glen and 3rd at Sears Point was followed by a win and fastest lap in the Chrysler Mosport 500, all in the Riley & Scott. He then finished 3rd in Dallas before taking another win in the IMSA Finale, the Daytona 3 hour race.

1997 began with his second outright win at the Daytona 24 hour race. Driving with James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger, Rob Dyson and Andy Wallace, they crossed the line having completed 3953,192 km at an average speed of 164,623 kph. A second and a fifth at Sebring followed in March driving two of the Dyson Racing entered Riley & Scott Mk III Fords. He finsished second at Road Atlanta but then dissaster struck.

He was due to drive in the Indy 500 for PDM racing. Paul was in the top ten in all the practice sessions until the seventh day of practice when he crashed head-on into the wall at Turn 4. He suffered multiple injuries to his legs and feet.

He returned to racing in September with a win at Las Vegas with Butch Leitzinger in the Riley & Scott and a fourth Pikes Peak. 5th in the 2 hour race Sebring was followed by a win at Laguna Seca.

He was back at Indy in 1998 driving the Team Pelfrey Car. John led almost 100 miles of the race in the Oldsmobile V-8. This led to him being asked to drive the IRL car of Jonathan Byrd/Cunningham racing. Visionaire came on board as a primary sponsor and, on September 20, 1998 John put the VisionAire Indy car in Victory Lane, at Texas Motor Speedway, with a 1.577 second win over Robby Unser. Despite a few races that season in which equipment problems surfaced, John nevertheless wound up 11th in IRL points at the end of the year and only 3 points out of the top 10.

The team started 1999 with high hopes, but a crash at Indianapolis during practice for the Indy 500, which sent John to the hospital, proved costly. After Indy, the team basically closed shop due to high costs and sponsorship problems.

In his seven Indy 500 starts he has a best finish of 7th in 1998. He made his last IRL start in 1999 and retired from racing after failing to qualify for the 2001 Indy 500.

John is a highly regarding racing instructor and has worked for the Justin Bell Driving School as well as doing private coaching for drivers. He was the team manager for an Infiniti Pro Series team in 2003 and has also undertaken single seater testing work.

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