Jerry Eckhardt Racing
April 23, 2019
Five words of a Frank Sinatra song define Jerry Eckhardt's nearly 55 years of stock car racing, "I did it my way". Jerry's "way" is simple - honest ingenuity. Don't spend money you don't have and used parts can be just as good as new parts. With some ingenuity and a little patience, he straightens whats bent and often fabricates what he doesn't have. Jerry credits his approach to racing as the reason he's been able to stay active in the competitive and expensive divisions of Late and Super Late Model racing. Jerry's wife Kathy, daughter Brenda and long-time crewman Charlie Weber help him at the track. They all marvel at his passion and dedication to the craft of auto racing and in their own ways admire who he is, what he stands for and what he's taught them.
Having competed on asphalt ovals around the state of Wisconsin since 1965, Jerry Eckhardt has raced against many of the biggest names in short track racing including Dick Trickle, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Alan Kulwicki. Jerry currently races his orange number 61 Late Model on Saturdays at Jefferson Speedway. Sundays you'll find his identical looking Super Late Model on the high banks of Slinger Speedway. Jerry also competed Friday nights at the quarter-mile Columbus 151 Speedway until it closed in 2015. Columbus was special to many racers, especially Jerry as he was track champion in 1975. He also won track championship at Jefferson that same year in addition to 1970, ‘71, and ‘73. Outside of his five championships, he’s finished in the top five of points at Columbus, Jefferson and Slinger eight times, most recently in 2009. Jerry has over 100 semi-feature wins to his name.
Not only does 76-year-old Jerry Eckhardt race two cars, two nights a week, he and his wife Kathy also gave two retired cars to fellow competitors Al Stippich and Joe Shelby. Jerry and Kathy believe in helping others and keeping cars on the track. Their passion and generosity is the very heartbeat of grassroots racing. You can learn about Al Stippich at: Stippich Performance and Joe Shelby by reading: 10 Questions with Joe Shelby.
Jerry Eckhardt - #61 Owner / Driver
Everything about Jerry Eckhardt, the 2018 Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame Inductee, is interesting. From his weathered cowboy hat and driving boots to the ever-present cigar in his mustache framed mouth. Eckhardt is remarkably humble, marvelously frugal and generally reserved with words. His orange number 61 Late Models appear to have as many stories to tell as their driver. You could say the same about his shop, a cornucopia of auction and salvage yard spoils. At age 76, the five-time Late Model champion hopes to find more speed and stay competitive doing while doing what he loves - racing cars.
Kathy Eckhardt - Team Manager
Kathy Eckhardt is not only Jerry Eckhardt's wife, she's his biggest fan. While Jerry's humility and modesty often dismiss any spotlights, Kathy is a constant beacon of love and support to her husband. She's seen his hard work and knows his decades of racing accomplishments have become a resounding legacy. If not at work on racedays, you'll find Kathy at the track keeping records, feeding the team and helping maintain the car. She wants to make a difference in the world and believes you treat others like you would like to be treated. This drives her passion to help support and mentor racers. She wants to see the sport thrive and together with Jerry, they're helping give opportunities to others.
Charlie Weber - Mechanic
Charlie Weber has been working on Jerry Eckhardt's pit crew for over 30 years. The time he's been with Jerry is something he'll be forever grateful for. Charlie credits most of his knowledge of cars and racing to Jerry's teaching. He is amazed by Jerry's depth of knowledge and believes that Jerry knows more about race cars than many of his competitors. After moving to northern Wisconsin in order to care for his aging father, Charlie drives three hours, one-way to help Jerry at Slinger Speedway on Sunday nights. His love for the sport and his friend are what keeps him coming back to the track.
Brenda Eckhardt - Mechanic
Born into a racing family, Brenda Eckhardt has helped her father Jerry Eckhardt at the track most of her life. Her father is her hero and she is inspired by his drive. Being a part of the crew when the team competes at Jefferson Speedway has been some of her most memorable moments in life. Helping her father work on his car is her favorite part of race days and Brenda admits, she'll probably retire from racing when or if her father decides to.