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Racer John Paul Jr., who appeared in seven Indy 500's, has died

Also spent prison time for racketeering
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Posted at 4:32 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 16:56:02-05

INDIANAPOLIS — John Paul Jr., considered one of the most gifted and versatile race car drivers of his generation, has died.

Paul's death was announced by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Muncie native was 60 and had suffered from Huntington's disease.

Between 1986 and 98, Paul made seven Indianapolis 500 starts. His best race was 1998, where he started 16th, led 39 laps and finished seventh.

He racked up more than 20 sports car victories, two INDYCAR wins and made starts in open-wheel, sports car and stock car competition. He also is a member of an exclusive club of drivers who won open-wheel races in CART and INDYCAR.

As one of America’s fastest young drivers, Paul enjoyed a spectacular rookie year in the 1983 CART series.
In only his fourth CART start, Paul passed Rick Mears on the last lap to win the Michigan 500.

He finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1984.

The highlight of the 1985 season was Paul’s first start in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified 24th and finished 15th, the third-best result among six rookies in the field.

But in 1986, Paul's racing career was interrupted by a five-year jail sentence on racketeering charges stemming from his alleged involvement with his father in a drug smuggling operation. Paul was released from prison after serving half the sentence.

In 1990, Paul qualified for the second time in the Indy 500. The debut of the Indy Racing League in 1996 offered Paul more chances to drive over a three-year period, including a 1998 victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

Paul’s driving career ended after the 2001 season, when he began what turned out to be a nearly 20-year battle against Huntington’s disease, a rare neurological disorder.

He is survived by his sister, Tonya; daughter, Alexandria; and son, Jonathan.