Jerry Titus was born in Johnson City, New York on October 24, 1928. Born exactly one year before the stock market crash leading to the great depression, Titus grew up in hard times. His parents moved through many jobs, including running a dairy farm in Florida. The family eventually moved back to New York, his mother taking a job at Grumman Aircraft and his father operating a Sinclair gas station, and installing heating and cooling units.
Titus originally became a trumpeter, at which he had a great talent for. This led him to studying at the renown Juilliard School of Music in New York City and performing in the band of jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden.
Titus eventually changed careers and became an auto mechanic, working for car customizer Bill Frick, at his performance auto shop. Titus discovered his talent for driving sports cars from testing vehicles and repairing customers' race cars while employed by Frick.
In the later 1950s Titus put this skill to use, racing in the amateur Formula Junior series.
He discovered another passion working for Frick; automotive journalism. Titus wrote his first article for Speed Age in 1954, and was later ghostwriting for Sports Car Illustrated. This led him to be a part of the editorial staff of Sports Car Graphic.
Sports Car Graphic supported Titus' racing habits by sponsoring him in a factory racing Sunbeam Alpine in 1962 and 1963.
Titus' son Rick Titus is an automotive journalist and former race car driver himself.
Jerry Titus once again captured the attention of Carroll Shelby, as Titus had once repaired a Maserati race car for Shelby during a test drive of the 1965 Shelby GT350 for Sports Car Graphic. Shelby offered Titus a place on his SCCA National Championship team, and Titus won the 1965 Pacific Coast National Championship with a production GT350.
Titus left his position as editor-in-chef at Sports Car Graphic and became a full-time racing driver for Shelby's team. He went on to become the number one team driver and won both the 1967 Manufacturer's Championship for Ford and the 1967 Driver's Championship as well.
Titus entered the 1969 24 Hours of Daytona and raced to a class victory and an overall third place.
The 1969 season was plagued with engine configuration problems for the new car, resulting in 3 DNFs for the team. The highlight of the season was a second-place finish for Titus at Sainte Jovite, Quebec.
While driving in a practice session on July 19, 1970 for the Trans Am race at Road America during the 1970 season, Jerry Titus' Pontiac Firebird experienced a steering gear failure that caused him to crash into the Billy Mitchell Bridge abutment on the outside of Turn 13. Titus was badly injured and taken to Milwaukee Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on August 5, 1970.
Titus became known by the nickname "Mr. Trans Am".
The Billy Mitchell Bridge, which transporters used to access the circuit, became a source of controversy for many years at Road America with both cars and motorcycles for safety reasons. After Memo Gidley's serious crash at the 2001 CART race at the circuit, and complaints by motorcycle racers, officials began formulating a plan to fix the problem. In the winter of 2006, the bridge was demolished, adding runoff at Turn 13 while adding a new tunnel and eliminating the point of impact where Titus was badly injured.
Shortly after his death, the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association has named their annual "Driver of the Year" award, which is currently given to the driver with the most votes among the winners in each category (stock car, open wheel, road racing, short track, touring, and at-large), the Jerry Titus Memorial Award.
SCCA National Championship RunoffsEdit
|1964||Riverside||Webster Special||Climax||D Modified||1||Running|
|1965||Daytona||Ford Mustang GT350||B Production||1||5||Running|
|1966||Riverside||Porsche 911||D Production||1||Running|
|Elva Mk.7||Porsche||E Sports Racer||Retired|
- "Racing Heroes – Jerry Titus | Hemmings Daily". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
- "Titus, Jerry - Sports Cars - 2010 | Inductees | Hall of Fame". www.mshf.com. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
- Titus, Jerry. "Historic Racing". Archived from the original on 2016-04-30. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
- Jerry Titus at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America