Jerry Karl

29/4/1941 - 16/2/2008

Jerry Karl
In a driving career spanning over thirty years he won numerous races and set and still holds a number of records in Midgets and Sprint cars. Between 1972 and 1975, he drove for the legendary Smokey Yunick, and qualified for the Indy 500 seven times. Jerry Karl died 14 years ago, he was 67 , He would have been 81.

Born April 29, 1941, in Jamaica, New York, Gerald Edward (Jerry) Karl was a professional racing driver who drove in the Indianapolis 500 seven times.

Jerry did a lot of his own building and engineeringHe started racing at Freeport Stadium on Long Island in 1957 and worked his way up competing in ARDC, ATQMRA and ran his own Sprint Car in the days of the URC, taking Rookie of the Year honors and winning several races. Apparently, early in his career, he was struggling to find enough funds to buy food and run his race car, so he attached a piece of 2 x 4 to the front bumper of his car so that it was near to the ground and would then attempt to run over a rabbit or two for dinner.

He finally graduated to the big league in 1969 racing in Indy Cars. Between 1969 and 1984 he made 74 starts, finishing in the top ten 8 times, and with a best finish in 7th at Ontario in 1974 in an Eagle Offy. Between 1972 and 1975, he drove for the legendary Smokey Yunick. He qualified for the Indianapolis 500 seven times.  In 1973 and 1975 driving for Yunick and in 1980 and 1981 in a McLaren M16C-2. He bought the car from David Hobbs in 1978 as backup. The car had origonally been Peter Revson's works car after he crashed his own chassis at the Indy 500 in 1973. Jerry added ground effects and a stock block 6 litre Chevrolet engine in his shop in Wellsville, Pennsylvania, in 1980 and in 1981, running as the Tonco Trailers Special, he finished a respectable 15th in what was the oldest McLaren in the field.

Jerry also competed in a number of road racing divisions including Formula 5000 and GT in 1975, and Can-Am in 1977. He drove a Porsche 911S with Richard Weiss in the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen a round of the World Championship of Makes in 1975. They were classified 7th in their class, though they were hampered by a broken oil line and a Lola T330/T332 (T330 HU15) Chevrolet in the Can-Am round at Trois-Rivières on the 4th September 1977, retiring with a broken half shaft.

He retired from driving in 1985 after failing to qualify a March 83C Cosworth for the Indy 500. He then became a race car owner, with a number of local racers driving for him.

He was an avid fisherman and an accomplished pilot who held Commercial, Multiengine and Instrument ratings for both airplanes and helicopters. He was the former owner and operator of Karl Aviation at the Capital City Airport, New Cumberland. He also owned a racing products distributorship in Wellsville, Pennsylvania.

Jerry was a member of the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club and York County Racing Club.

He was in Maryland where his boat was docked when, according to witnesses, Jerry suddenly crossed the median and the other lanes of traffic and went over an embankment. The Medical Examiner stated that death was from head trama.


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