INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 6, 2002 -- Jerry L. Challis, a longtime member of the Indy Racing League, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and United States Auto Club timing and scoring staffs, died May 4, one day before Opening Day for the 86th Indianapolis 500.
Challis, 67, retired from the Indy Racing League in 2001 after a career that began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and spanned nearly 40 years.
In 1963, Challis was brought to the Speedway's timing and scoring staff by its director, Dick Sauer, to write the first computer programs for the overnight scoring audits that comprised the official Indianapolis 500 timing and scoring report. Soon after, Challis was named the chief scorer for USAC's Silver Crown division, a post he manned for almost 30 years.
Challis' dedication to the Speedway and USAC were rewarded in 1978 when the Speedway's new timing and scoring director, Art Graham, named Challis chief scorer.
The Indy Racing League became part of Challis' daily work routine in 1996, the year the series was founded. He handled timing-and-scoring duties for the new series since USAC was the sanctioning body.
The IRL assumed control of its race officiating duties during the 1996-97 season, and Challis continued with his chief scorer duties under the league's Manager of Timing and Scoring, Chuck Whetsel.
"Jerry was, for all those years, a person who liked to be in the background but wanted to be part of the auto racing community," Whetsel said. "Jerry offered a real wealth of real scoring knowledge. I brought to the table the technology and my experience with computers, and Jerry was the real force behind me learning the timing business. He really showed us the way it got done.
"Jerry was at home, and with his family, and so he was in the right place. In a lot of ways, I believe he chose this time. Here we are in the month of May, and we're all here to pay tribute to Jerry. I am happy for that, but I will miss Jerry."
In May 2000, the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club honored Challis with a meritorious service award. One month later, he suffered a debilitating stroke while working at the Indy Racing League event at Pikes Peak International Raceway, which eventually caused his retirement.
Challis is survived by his children LeAnn Havener, Angie Ashman, Jerry, Mike and Joe Challis; his brother, Dan Challis; 20 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Calling hours for Challis are at Little & Sons Funeral Home in Beech Grove, Ind., from 4-8 p.m. (EST) Monday, May 6 and Tuesday, May 7. A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 8 at Little & Sons, followed by burial at Washington Park East Cemetery.