Reflections on John Paul Jr’s sports car racing legacy

In approximately 175 sports car races, John Paul Jr won 20, stood on the podium more than 50 times and captured its biggest victories at Daytona and Sebring. Lost on December 29 after nearly 20 years of fighting Huntington’s Disease, ‘Junior’ was among the best all-rounders of his generation.

Wins in the CART IndyCar Series, the Indy Racing League, Trans Am, and a brief foray into NASCAR were among the highlights for the Indiana native, but it was sports car racing—in IMSA and its successors—where Junior made the most consistent impact.

1982: Paul Jr./Paul Sr./Stommelen Porsche 935. Murenbeeld/Motorsport Images

And with the 12 Hours of Sebring upon us, which Junior won in 1982 on the way to claiming the IMSA GT title, eight of his friends joined in for short conversations about the immense skill and character he possessed to pay tribute to one of sports car racing’s great talents.

We open our series of celebrating John Paul Jr’s career in sports cars with veteran IMSA official Mark Raffauf, who watched Jr go from a teenage helper on his father’s team to an IMSA champion and master of the fastest, craziest Porsche 935s and GTP machinery the series produced.

Paul Jr. (No. 16) leading at Sebring, 1996. Image by Marshall Pruett

Part two of our eight-part celebration of John Paul Jr’s career in sports cars features racer and podcaster Ryan Eversley whose life is directly tied to the Paul family.

The third celebration of John Paul Jr’s career in sports cars introduces Jr’s 1984 IMSA GTP teammate John Morton who, along with his partner Sylvia Wilkinson, would become lifelong friends and play significant roles in supporting Jr throughout his battle with the neurological disorder Huntington’s Disease.

March 85G-Buick at Miami’s Bayfront Park in 1985. Murenbeeld/Motorsport Images

Part four of our eight-part celebration of John Paul Jr’s career in sports cars welcomes Bill Adam, who co-piloted the brutally fast and fragile March-Buick GTP machine with Jr in 1985.

In the fifth installment of John Paul Jr’s career in sports cars, team owner and co-driver Rob Dyson shares insights on racing with Jr after he was released from prison, and opening the door for years of racing with his IMSA GTP and WSC programs.

Making up for lost time, driving for Dyson Racing. Image by Marshall Pruett

Part six in our celebration of John Paul Jr’s career in sports car brings his legendary teammate James Weaver into the conversation about their time spent together in the 1990s, most frequently with Dyson Racing in Riley-Ford World Sports Cars.

The seventh of eight celebrations of John Paul Jr’s career in sports car comes courtesy of Butch Leitzinger, who raced and won with Jr in his family’s factory Nissan IMSA GTU program, and again at Dyson Racing in prototypes.

Mosport 1982. Murenbeeld/ Motorsport Images

We close our celebration of John Paul Jr’s career in sports car racing with friend and teammate Chris Kneifel who was there from beginning to end, with the two sharing a car during Corvette Racing’s first season in 1999, which also proved to be the last high-profile racing opportunity for Jr before Huntington’s Disease began to make its presence felt.