John Paul Jr is the son of Hans-Johan Paul, a dutchman who emigrated to the US in 1956. He americanized his name in John Lee Paul, and was married to Joyce. In 1960, John Jr was born. They had settled to Muncie, Indiana. A man naturally talented in mathematics, he finally graduated from Harvard, then signed on with Putnam Management, a Boston mutual fund firm. There, he made miracles and was quickly propelled as co-fund manager. The fund grew from $600 million to $4 billion within six years. He became a millionaire before reaching his 30th birthday. He then invested in burgeoning companies such as Mattel or Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had the ability to make money, and he did it well. He received a 64 Chevrolet Corvette as a welcomed outlet to his pressure-packed life in finance. He decided to try it on a parking lot : that's how he probably got the racing bug. In 1970, he purchased Sam Posey's Dodge Challenger, and he went on winning races at Lime Rock and Bridgehampton. However, his personal life was torn apart, and he and his wife finally separated. From that moment, John Paul Jr's life took a new direction, as he decided to remain with his mother. It was in 1972.
John Paul Sr sold everything he owned, quit his job, and purchased a sailboat. He sailed away. When he came back two years later, his life had gone another way, with drug smuggling in the background. John Jr's feeling was to stay with his dad, and he became involved in his life.
Life with his mother had been so rude and dull. Then John Jr quickly felt he would like to go with his father, and a better life. In fact, he was in search of his father, and was eagerly willing to know him better. He graduated from Delta High School in Muncie, but his life took a new direction, soon. John Paul Sr was a perfectionist, but always rude with anyone. You had better share his views, but it rarely was the case. So everyone in the team was under constant abuse by the boss. John Paul Jr was then part of the team. He was to learn the wherabouts of what a racing organisation was, and he did everything too. He became some kind of a jack-of-all-trades. This period was a mixed one, and race seasons were entered as well as what was needed to fund them. It was a weird period, but it lasted some time. As John Jr took on learning about engines, John Sr decided his son needed to go to driver's school. He went to Skip Barber driving school, and curiously enough, his instructor qualified his driving as hopeless! Not very encouraging, was it? In spite of that, his father bought him an old Formula Ford. He then became a race driver. However, he didn't know at all that he would become a race driver. In fact, it seems that it came the natural way. In 1979, he did some Formula Ford races, and made the Runoffs. His racing career really took off the next year, when he became part of the JLP Racing team as his father's co-driver. He took the start of his first IMSA race in 1980 at Lime Rock. There, he drove the Porsche 935 his father had built, which was dubbed JLP2. They won the second heat and subsequently, John Paul Jr won the first IMSA he entered. Running most of the time with his father, he took two seconds at Daytona and Mosport, another first at Road America, a fourth at Road Atlanta, and a second place at the Finale at Daytona.
Copyright Wayne Ellwood
Not so bad for a rookie! He ended up 4th in points for his very first racing season. The 1981 season was to be a continuation of the previous one. The father and son team would have a quite interesting 1981 season. They could not finish the two first enduros of the season, but they took a second place at Riverside. At Laguna Seca, John Paul Jr faced a new challenge in the name of the Lola T600 Chevrolet driven by Brian Redman. This new type of car was a true prototype, with better handling and cornering. It would soon dominate the IMSA Championship. But no one knew it when the car took the start. Brian Redman easily won the race over John Paul Jr, who took second. This domination drove John Paul Sr to purchasing the first customer Lola T600, which would debut at Mid Ohio. His first race at the wheel of the Lola would not turn as a success, as he retired after twelve laps with engine problems. At Road Atlanta, the father and son drove each one a different car, Senior had the Porsche and Junior the Lola. This race turned rapidly into some kind of disaster, as Senior retired after eight laps while Junior was hit by a backmarker after braking too hard while overtaking another one. He was unable to restart the car which was not equipped with a reliable starter.
This kind of situation was to stir his father nasty temper, and he barely avoided been fired by his father. He was still on the learning curve, and though extremely talented, was particularly tough on the cars. He just needed to acquire some more experience. The relationship between himself and his father was becoming very special, as it was becoming clear that only Junior could win races. John Paul Sr described himself as a good driver. He was an excellent driver, but some guys were faster than him, and he was aware of that fact. So he began to turn himself as a team manager, concentrating on the cars' preparation, while Junior would do the driving. Senior would co-drive him in the ljng distance races. At Pocono, the Pauls won a rain-shortened event and Junior went on to win the Daytona Finale in a last minute pass of the Lola T600 driven by Brian Redman. He ended up the 1981 season in a glorious way. The 1982 season stood out in the horizon. In the Lawrenceville JLP Racing shop, things were running strong, as a new car was to be prepared by Dave Klym, while Lee Dijkstra designed it.
The 1982 IMSA rules were more liberal, and full blown tubeframe cars were allowed in order to counterbalance the GTP cars, which were, by essence, more efficient.
It would be an all-new tubeframe car, with more ground effects, a true racing suspension, and also was much lighter than the former one. The father and son team was very confident for the season to come. It would be their most successful ever. They started the season with back to back wins at Daytona and Sebring. For the first race, they were partnered by no less than Rolf Stommelen!
At Sebring, they overcame a gearbox failure to win the race over the hard charging March driven by Bobby Rahal. John Paul Jr won at Road Atlanta, and this race attracted Miller Beer distributor Bobby Hogg, who sponsored them for the remainder of the season. John Paul Jr was driving the Lola at Laguna Seca, and he won the race while his father was working with the team on the new car at his JLP shop. At Charlotte, they again teamed up on the JLP3 car to win the race.
Copyright Mark Windecker
At Mid Ohio, the race was less successful as John Paul Jr finished only fourth after starting from the pole. At Lime Rock, the Lola Junior drove was outpowered by John Fitzpatrick's Porsche 935K4. He finished second, though, and was eagerly waiting for his new car, the JLP4. He drove JLP3 to a dnf in the Paul Revere Daytona race. JLP4 was to debut at Brainerd, which was very fast course. Starting from second place behind Danny Ongais, John Paul Jr drove his brand new car to its first victory. He was accustomed to winning races with cars that were new to him. Sears Point was dnf, but he won again at Portland, at the wheel of JLP4. Junior drove JLP3 with his father to a victory at Mosport. At Road America, he was partnered by Mauricio de Narvaez, and the pair fiished second to John Fitzpatrick and David Hobbs who drove the K4. Mid Ohio was a dnf, in fact, he was the first to retire fom the race. The father and son team won again at Road Atlanta, with JLP3., and they took a second at Pocono. It would be their very last race as a father and son team. John Paul Jr had clinched the Championship since long, but John Paul Sr could still win the Camel Endurance Championship. The race would unfortunately turn into a retirement as JLP4 will suffer from transmission problems, and Senior, who did not drive at all, was about to lose his Championship by a few points. But as a man full of resource, he rent a ride with Chip Mead, whose Pontiac Firebird earned him a ninth place overall. He had won his very last Championship, and his career was about to come to an end. John Paul Jr had shown what a promising talent he was, and he had outgunned everyone. Yet, he was used to driving his father's cars, and only these cars. At the beginning of 1983, John Paul Sr shot Stephen Carson, who would testify to federal prosecutors about his illegal activities. Carson survived, but Senior had to flee away. Junior's career was at crossroads, and he had a terrible decision to take. JLP Racing was now dismantled, and he had to pick up rides as they showed up, ar once. He drove once JLP4 in 1983, he took a second at Miami in the Lola just before his father disappeared. The two next seasons were kind of survival ones. At Sebring, he was hired by Preston Henn on the winning Daytona car. He drove this car again with Preston Henn at Road America, but to a dnf. The 1983 was a strange, new experience to him, and definitely the 1982 opposite. He had to face it. He tried his hands at CART racing, and he won the first race he ever entered too, as well as the first Trans Am race he entered. In 1984, he would wind up a second overall at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, co-driven by Jean Rondeau and Preston Henn on a Porsche 956. In 1984, his IMSA season began late in the season, and he was offered a ride by Phil Conte, who entered a March 84G Chevrolet. Beginning at Pocono, this string of four races would prove desastrous as he failed to finish each of the four races he entered. As his father was finally indicted, tried and convicted. John Paul Jr had a mixed 1985 season.
Copyright Dave Kutz
Always running for Phil Conte, he had a more efficient car, which was now Buick powered. It was utterly unreliable, to John Paul's despair. The season started with a pole position at Daytona, but it ended up once again in a dnf as well. In fact, 1985 proved to be absolutely disappointing, with eleven starts, all of them ending up in dnfs. While pleading guilty to federal racketeering charges in 1985, he would be sent to prison from June 1986 to October 1988. Meanwhile, he had broken his seventeen dnfs string by finishing 2nd at Road Atlanta, always on March/Hawk Buick. He made mistakes, as he acknowledges himself, but felt completely unable to resist his father's will. He paid for it, and when he was released, he was given an IMSA competition license. John Bishop himself saw to it that it would be the case. He came back to IMSA racing in 1990, and was offered a ride by Jim Busby, who had a Nissan ZX GTP Turbo entered. It was a very powerful car, similar to the works cars.
Copyright Mike Birch
After a retirement at Daytona, John Paul Jr took a second place at Miami and a fifth at Sebring. Then the car was maintained by Seabroke Racing. The remainder of the season was to bring him a string of fifth places, at West Palm Beach, Portland and Road America, but he ended up the season with two third place finishes at Tampa and Del Mar. An eighth place finish was his reward. He had been out of racing for nearly four years and things had now changed a lot. Works teams like Electramotive, TWR or All American Racers were now the ones to beat. It was the best he could do driving such a car. In 1991, John Paul Jr was to run a very short IMSA schedule. He was hired by Gunnar Racing to drive the Porsche 966 at West Palm Beach : he finished sixth overall. The two remaining races were more disappointing. The end of the season was to bring him some kind of happiness, with a second place finish at Del Mar, driving the underpowered Hotschkis Racing Spice Pontiac. Yes, he was still able to fight for the win, whatever the car. The 1992 season continued on a race by race basis. It was the year he drove the most different cars in a single season. He experienced his first ever GTU win in Bob Leitzinger's Nissan 240SX, which he shared with Butch Leitzinger and David Loring. It was a victory nonetheless, and he probably enjoyed it very much. Then Gianpiero Moretti offered him a ride at Watkins Glen, and he finished sixth in a Porsche 962. At Laguna Seca, he took an eighth place, again driving John Hotschkis' Spice Pontiac. Then he had a string of three races with Momo Corse. The Toyota domination was beginning to become overwhelming, and he could not do better than one sixth and two sevenths. At Del Mar, he kind of tested the Tom Milner Intrepid Chevrolet, but it resulted in yet another dnf.
The 1993 season could have started in the best way as possible, as he was entered as co-driver in Gianpiero Moretti's Nissan NPT90. The car was very fast, and with Derek Bell, Massimo Sigala and Gianpiero Moretti as co-drivers, he had great hopes for the win in such a race. In fact, was leading the race when it began to experience engine troubles. At the end, it was an undeserved sixth place overall that rewarded the Nissan. They had been so close to victory!
The next race, held at Sebring, proved to be more kind to him as he finished second at Sebring, reminding him some past success on this very course. Alas, he would not go on with Gianpiero Moretti. He would still drive the Gunnar Porsche 966 at Lime Rock, Laguna Seca and Portland, but with very unsatisfying results. He was able to take one last second place at Road America, this time driving a Joest Racing Porsche 962. At the end of this mixed season, John Paul Jr had to become aware of one fact : things had changed a lot in three years, and when not driving a Works car, you could expect to win any race. However, his results have proved he was a tremendous driver, with a fantastic ability to drive any type of car. His raw talent has remained unchanged, and for many of us, he is one of the best ever.