The news broke Sunday afternoon about a tragic loss of a driving instructor at the Richard Petty Driving Experience’s Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida. It hit home for many in the racing community when it was announced that the racing world lost a family member and friend, Gary Terry.
Per various news reports, Terry was the passenger in a Lamborghini while instructing a driver around the road course at the track located near the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom. The driver lost control of the car and struck a guardrail.
Terry didn’t survive the accident.
Gary’s brother, Adam Terry, spoke to Speed51.com powered by JEGS and asked to pass along the family’s appreciation of all of the thoughts and messages the family has received since the sad news was announced Sunday evening.
He said that his older brother was a great family man to his loving wife and daughter. He also said that he would remember his older brother as someone who was passionate about racing and loved motorsports. He said that his job gave him the opportunity to share his passion with others, especially giving them the chance to experience it from the driver seat.
Gary Terry was part of a huge racing family that started racing around the Michigan/Indiana area in the mid 90’s to early 2000’s until moving to Florida to work as an instructor at the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
He started racing at New Paris Speedway in New Paris, Indiana in 1995 and quickly became a top driver at New Paris, South Bend and Plymouth Speedways. In 1996, he would go to compete at Kalamazoo Speedway in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he won six times in the Sportsman division and finished third in the point standings.
In 1997, he moved up to the Super Late Model division where he had three wins, finished third in points and captured “Rookie of the Year” honors.
Per Speed51.com’s The Third Turn website, Terry made 16 starts in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series in 1999-2000. He recorded two top-five and three top-10 finishes during that time. He also competed in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series from 2000-2002 with 18 starts, two top-five’s and five top-10 finishes.
Terry was also competitive in the ARCA/CRA Super Series powered by JEGS in 1998 where he scored two top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 12 starts.
He made three starts in the ASA National Tour and competed in many other short track events throughout the United States.
Recently, he competed at the 2013 World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where he had one top-10 finish in five starts in the Super Late Model division.
Bob Koorsen, the track announcer at New Paris Speedway and at Kalamazoo Speedway at that time, provided Speed51.com with some of his racing information.
“Gary was an exceptionally nice kid from a wonderful family, who could wheel a car like no other,” Koorsen remembered. “He had a phenomenal natural ability and had all of the earmarks of someone who was going to be a star. Sadly, his dreams got derailed, so he spent his life helping fulfill the dreams of others as he gave thousands of wannabes a taste of speed and, for a few thrilling moments, a chance to live out their own. He died helping a 24-year-old park employee celebrate his birthday.”
Gary Howe, Promoter of Kalamazoo Speedway, recalls Gary Terry coming from a great racing pedigree.
“He was part of three generations that raced in Indiana/Michigan area. The Terry family is a real good family and this will be a very hard loss for them,” said Gary Howe, Kalamazoo Speedway Promoter. “He started racing at Kalamazoo; in fact, I was racing at the same time he got his start. He seemed to have a lot of talent. He was an equivalent to what Andy Bozell is today. He was one of the happiest guys you could have met he was a good guy. This is a big hit for short track racing as a good human being lost his life. My prayers go out to his entire family.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran driver David Stremme, remembers a good friend.
“I remember when he first started racing full-bodied stock cars, I raced against him a lot all the way up to the old All-Pro Series (NASCAR Elite Division, Southeast Series),” Stremme recalled. “In fact, we raced out of the same shop for a while. He touched a lot of people and he enjoyed life. He was really good on the track. In the early 2000’s, I was fortunate to get a break and move up in racing. I think he had the quality to drive at the upper levels, but he never got that opportunity.”
Stremme’s memories also include what he did at the track for fellow drivers.
“He was always friendly at the track and would help out anywhere. I remember Gary giving up his ride to a local guy at a track so that driver could go and win the track championship. That is probably the one thing I learned that was more amazing about him.
Every trip to Florida wouldn’t be complete for Stremme until he got to visit with his friend.
“He went to do the driving school and was real good at explaining things to drivers. We always tried to catch up with him when we were in Florida. We spoke a couple of weeks ago and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next since the driving school was going to be closing soon at Walt Disney World. He was into his job and made sure that people got their fulfillment of their experience.
“The family was always great and his loss reminds us that racing is a small world. It is hard right now for me; he was a real good guy.”
Chas Howe of Howe Racing Enterprises built Terry’s first Late Model that he ran at Kalamazoo Speedway.
“He was a talented driver and my heart goes out to his family. I knew him on a professional basis, but he would always go out of his way to stop by and say hello at PRI every year,” Howe remembered. “He was very polite and respectful, which I think came from his upbringing. He was fast behind the wheel right away, and he always looked at how he could balance racing with life, and I think he found that working at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. He had enough sense and was always practical in everything he did.”
The racing world is saddened by the loss of an ambassador to this sport. The entire staff at Speed51.com expresses their condolences to the Terry family on their loss.
– Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Director of Business/Midwest Editor. Twitter: @KevinRamsell
Photos Courtesy: Adam Terry