By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
During the course of his 72 years, Jerry Powell has done a little bit of everything.
Powell has owned a trucking business, raced sprint cars, has his pilot’s license and is now owner of a racing team. He is also a tool and die maker and produces many parts on the race cars.
He used to race Figure 8 cars at Anderson Speedway.
Powell’s son, Dr. Jerry Powell II works in Tipton and races a Class A dragster.
“My son had to move to Tipton for his work and about 12 years ago we moved to Tipton County,” he said.
Powell has competed in the Pay Less Little 500 — the 65th running is set for Saturday at Anderson Speedway — as both a driver and owner.
He raced at the Little 500 from 1970 to 1972 before other interests took him out of the driver’s seat.
“I was rookie of the year at the Little 500 in 1970,” Powell smiles in the put area at the speedway on Thursday. “I was the first alternate and someone didn’t show up. I started 33rd and finished seventh.
“It was all luck,” he laughs. “I had no power steering and was racing a Champ Car that had a longer wheel base. I shouldn’t have been out there, but I was.”
Powell became a car owner five years ago and has a fleet of dirt and pavement sprint cars in his shop located on Ind. 19 between Tipton and Kokomo.
“I was sitting in the grandstands and said I wouldn’t mind owning a car again,” he said.
Powell’s cars compete annually in the Little 500, the King’s Royal at Eldora Speedway in Ohio and the bigger events at Kokomo and Gas City speedways.
In the 2012 Little 500, Powell’s car finished second with driver Billy Wease winning rookie of the year honors.
This year, Florida driver Dude Teate and Crawfordville’s Sondi Eden will be behind the wheel.
“I was down in Florida for sprint weeks and met Dude for the first time,” Powell said. “I asked him if he was so good a driver, why he didn’t have a ride? He said he didn’t know why.”
The car Teate will be driving has a long and storied history. Powell said it raced in the Indianapolis 500 and was cut down into a Champ Car, winning the Hoosier Hundred.
“Our getting together was an accident,” he laughs about having Teate in his car. “I hired Sondi [Eden] because I wanted a driver with experience and someone who was aggressive.”
Powell and his wife of 52 years, Joanna, finance the race teams. First place in Saturday’s race is guaranteed $25,000.
“I oversee everything,” he said of race day activities, “and help when needed.”
Powell is retired from AT&T and Steel Parts in Tipton and said he could be racing year-round.
“A win in the Little 500 would mean everything to me,” he said. “It might get me into the Hall of Fame.”
That first race in the Little 500 remains Powell’s best memory of the world’s richest pavement sprint car race.
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