Jerry Gappens at Eldora Speedway in 2023. (Frank Smith photo)

Eldora General Manager Jerry Gappens Dies

ROSSBURG, Ohio — Eldora Speedway General Manager Jerry Gappens has died.

Gappens, 63, died from complications of surgery on Tuesday.

Beginning his motorsports career as a SPEED SPORT staff member under the tutelage of Chris Economaki during the early 1980s, Gappens went on to run some of the best-known race tracks in the industry.

“Jerry came to Eldora with a wealth of experience and an equal amount of humility,” said Tony Stewart, owner, Eldora Speedway. “No job was too big or too small. His attention to detail was impressive, and he made sure the fan experience at Eldora was exceptional, always finding ways to make improvements with each and every event he oversaw.

“With Jerry at the helm, Eldora Speedway was in great hands, and I’m confident track founders Earl and Berneice Baltes would agree.

“The Eldora community prays for Jerry’s wife, Cheryl, their children Denny, Wes, Allison and Brad, and their family. Jerry’s presence was immeasurable and he is sorely missed by all of us.”

Gappens spent 23 years with Speedway Motorsports, specifically serving as executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for eight years (2008-2015) and senior vice president of events and marketing of Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for 15 years (1993-2007).

Gappens became promoter of Gas City I-69 Speedway in Indiana in 2018 and operated the quarter-mile dirt track until he was hired as Eldora general manager in 2022.

Raised around motorsports, Gappens once drove sprint cars and served as announcer on various national broadcasts of motorsports.

He was introduced to racing by his father, Jerry Gappens Sr. The Gappens family hailed from Tipton County, Ind., and the family became regular visitors to Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway.

“I remember riding in the truck with him on the way home with the race car on the trailer behind us. I’d put his racing helmet on and fall asleep across the seat in the truck,” Gappens said at the time of his hiring at Eldora. “He took me to my first Indy 500 when I was 8 years old back in 1969 and we didn’t miss an Indy 500 until I went to work at Charlotte Motor Speedway.”

During Gappens’ tenure at Eldora, the track continued its tradition of holding some of the highest-paying events in dirt-track racing, including last summer’s Eldora Million, the first winged sprint car race that paid $1 million to win.

Gappens’ death comes only a week before the 30th Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora June 5-8.