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Ernie Derr, stock car racing champion, dies at 92 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, January 10, 2014 9:32 PM

KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) — Ernie Derr, a record-setting stock car racing champion from Keokuk who competed between the 1950s and 1970s, has died at the age of 92.

DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Centers announced Derr died Wednesday.

Derr began his career in the International Motor Contest Association circuit in 1950, after years of working as a mechanic in his hometown of Keokuk in southeast Iowa, The Daily Gate City newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/1c09EoS ).

After a few years, Derr won his first championship title in 1953. He followed that up with consecutive titles between 1959 and 1962 and a period of dominance with consecutive titles between 1965 and 1971.

In all, he won 12 championships. He continues to hold the record for most IMCA championship titles by a single racer. His consecutive wins between 1965 and 1971 also remain a record.

"It's not even close," Bill Martin, of IMCA, told The Associated Press. "He won so many more than anybody else in his time. He was the king."

Derr, whose performances were seen at county fairgrounds around Iowa and the country, finished with more than 320 wins during his career with IMCA, which was a record until 2005. He was later a fixture in the United States Auto Club Stock Car series in the 1970s. He ended his racing career in 1977.

Martin said Derr was also known for being a mechanic and for his attention to detail.

"He was the whole ball of wax," Martin said.

Family members told the newspaper that Derr cheered on other drivers from the Keokuk area, but he was also a fierce competitor who spent a lot of time preparing for his races.

"You've probably heard the old quote, 'It only pays to lead the last lap.' He knew that all too well," said one of his sons, Danny Derr. "He didn't have to run the last 50 or 20 laps in first place. It just mattered if you finish that last lap in first place."

Before his stock car racing career, Derr enlisted in the Army in 1942 and was part of the 6th Armored Division. He was honorably discharged in 1945.

Randy Derr, another son, recalled a racers reunion in Keokuk several years ago.

"The one time at the reunion they wanted to interview him," recalled Randy Derr. "He went over and started his race car. That was his talking."

Derr is survived by his wife, seven children, 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Visitation is set for Sunday and services will be Monday at one of the DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Centers. A burial will immediately follow at Keokuk National Cemetery.

 

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