One of the 'Keokuk Gang' which consisted of the 'Old Man' Ernie Derr, Don White, Ramo Stott and Dick Hutcherson. Ernie started racing in 1950. He won 12 IMCA championships between 1959 and 1971 only loosing out to Dick Hutcherson in 1963 and 1964.
From Keokuk, Iowa and not the tallest driver around at 5ft 8inches, the moustachioed Derr got interested in racing after watched his brother-in-law, Don White, race back into the late 1940s. He thought that it looked like a good way to make a dollar. So in 1950 he took to the tracks. In a career that lasted 25 years he won over 300 feature races.
Derr raced primarily on dirt short tracks, mostly half-mile ovals, and his greatest days were on the IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) circuit. He won 12 IMCA championships, starting in 1953. Then he claimed four in a row between 1959 and 1962. He lost out to Dick Hutcherson in 1963 and 1964, bit then went on to take the next seven from 1965 to 1971.
In 1963 he had suport from General Motors and from 1964 to 1970 Chrysler stepped in. But though he had help and factory support Derr was still one of the best mechanic-drivers, setting up, repairing and builting his own motors.
Derr retired in September 1977 at a Fall Jamboree at Knoxville. Complete records of Derr's achievements aren't available as they were destroyed in a fire.