Author and script writer Brock Yates once described Judy Stropus as a “racing personality,” since her career in motorsports has covered a gamut of disciplines, including her “savant” ability to accurately time and score endurance sports-car races before the introduction of computers, driving race cars, and becoming an author and an award-winning public relations expert.
Probably best known as a professional timer/scorer, Judy has worked with top teams such as Penske Racing in Can-Am, Trans-Am and at the Indy 500, Bud Moore Racing, BMW, American Motors, Al Holbert’s Porsche IndyCar team, the Porsche teams of Ted Field, Bruce Leven, Bob Akin, Dick Barbour, Wayne Baker (and many more) and Chevrolet factory teams.
At the same time she handled p.r. duties for Chevrolet, Bob Akin Racing, Brumos Racing, among others. She also expanded that expertise to include working with TV networks such as CBS, TNN, ABC and ESPN. After she retired from timing, she grew the public relations side of her business, JVS Enterprises, continuing to work with Chevrolet, and adding such clients as BMW North America, Duracell, Pirelli, Mattel, Callaway Competition, Dunlop and, most recently, Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA Drag Racing Series. She is now “semi-retired,” but continues to work on special motorsports projects, including p.r. duties for the Road Racing Drivers Club and the Sonoma Historics.
She was awarded the 2008 Jim Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. She is a member of AARWBA, the Road Racing Drivers Club, the Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society, and the Public Relations Society of America.
Her race-driving career includes SCCA National competition, earning a place in the National Runoffs in 1979, the Volkswagen Cup, Showroom Stock endurance races, the Kelly-American Challenge, and numerous vintage racing events, including piloting a 1954 OSCA Maserati in VSCCA competition before she earned her national SCCA license. She has raced a Porsche 914, 924, Maserati Bi-Turbo, Frazier-Nash, among others, and currently competes occasionally in go-kart racing. She also competed in the notorious Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash in 1972 with actress Adrienne Barbeau playing a character loosely based on her in the movie, “Cannonball Run.”
Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, Judy learned to speak English after arriving in the U.S. “many years ago.” She lives in Ridgefield, Conn., is the author of “The Stropus Guide to Auto Racing Timing and Scoring,” and the editor of a number of racing books, including two annual editions of “Auto Racing USA.”
Who have you mentored, or/and did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?
A. I have mentored several men and women in the public relations business over the years, some of whom have gone on to obtain excellent jobs. I would have to say my mentor is the author Karl Ludvigsen, for whom I worked at the beginning of my motorsports p.r./writing career.
As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
A. I like to have the outside temperature gauge, direction gauge (N, S, W), good views out the rear and sides, comfortable seat, automatic air temperature control, easy viewing of instruments.
Why does the auto/motorsports industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
A. It shouldn’t be. I’ve been in it for almost 50 years and the only time I found it difficult was when I tried to do what is considered by many (incorrectly) a “man’s” job, that includes race-car driving. However, once I proved that I had talent in a race car, I was generally accepted. I can’t say it’s the same in higher levels of auto racing. Even if you’re the only woman out there, there is a flawed perception that you’re not good enough unless you win. There are many acceptable, respected male race car drivers who have never won. Women should act professionally under all circumstances and not react to the IAMs (insecure adult males), and shrug it off.
Why did you want to work in the auto/motorsports industry?
A. It was my hobby when I was a teenager and, with my boyfriend, who started me in cars and racing, we progressed into making it our profession and business. We had the skills that were needed at the time as the sport was growing, and we provided a service to race teams, sponsors, manufacturers and media.
First automotive/motorsports job?
A. I would have to say working for writer/author Karl Ludvigsen. After he had to relinquish a client because of a conflict of interest, I took over the work for the client and started my business. However, at about the same time I also was hired by professional race teams to time/score races – a unique “savant” ability I discovered I had which the teams needed (pre-computers) – and write for several publications.
Proudest professional achievement?
A. Being honored with the Jim Chapman Award for “excellence in public relations and promotions” by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) in 2008. And also coordinating the Juan Pablo Montoya/Jeff Gordon “car swap” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for BMW in 2003.
Current challenge at work?
A. I am semi-retired, but am still working on automotive and racing projects, so the biggest challenge is making sure I have time to accomplish everything.
A. Can’t say I have one. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I had along the way in my career, and couldn’t be happier with what I was able to accomplish. Perhaps I’d like to finally write that book everyone is asking me to write.
What sports or activities did you enjoy in school or/and currently?
A. Tennis, skiing, walking, painting (art), go-kart racing, gymkhana racing, car touring, crossword puzzles, sudoku.
What you do to relax?
A. Watch television (I’m a news junkie) with a cocktail and apples with peanut/almond butter in one hand and a crossword/sudoku in the other. Sounds like too many hands.