She was hired as a team member by Roger Penske, Al Holbert, Bud Moore, Dick Barbour, Bob Akin, and other racing luminaries of the sport, entrusted on timing stands to deliver precision timing and scoring in major championships long before computers were introduced to our world.
Judy Stropus, an inductee in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s 2021 class, is a rarity among its membership as a woman racer whose talents on the team and crew side of industry has been recognized for enduring excellence.
Where many women who’ve achieved greatness behind the steering wheel are enshrined in various halls of fame, Stropus comes to her induction through pit lane.
“To me, this is such an incredible honor, and one that I never expected to receive,” she told RACER. “It’s wonderful to me, that so many of us old-time worker bees in a sport are now being recognized and honored for what we had as a passion, but really it was our jobs. And I’m totally gobsmacked about even being nominated. And this is to me the top honor that I could ever receive, so I am absolutely delighted and honored.”
A fixture in Northeast racing circles as an amateur driver, Stropus became a valued commodity in some of the biggest series of the 1960s as Can Am, Trans Am, and eventually, IMSA served as perfect homes for her intense mental processing speeds. Charting the entire field on each lap, Stropus was renowned for unquestioned accuracy while scoring long races where, on more than one occasion, the sanctioning bodies looked to her lap charts to correct their errors. For the biggest endurance races, sleep was an afterthought.
“Before computers, obviously I had an ability with scoring, and I happened to meet the right people at the right time,” she said while uncorking a delightful tale. “When the big teams came in, and the manufacturers came in, and sponsors came in, and the races were, six hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, they suddenly realized they weren’t completely prepared and needed some expertise and talent. The first time it happened was at Marlboro, in Maryland, for a five-hour Trans Am race, on a pretty short track. It was Bud Moore’s Cougar team in 1967.
“I was so tired of racing already. I’d crashed my Alfa Romeo. I had no car. I had stitches on my chin, and two black eyes, and those were just going away. So I took a bus down to Marlboro to hang out with my friends who were running the Under 2-Liter Trans Am race the day before, and I would do a lap chart for them.
“Friends picked me up at the bus station, and took me to the track, and drove me around. And they took me to the cocktail reception the night before the race, we’re all standing there, and they’re saying, ‘This is a five-hour race. We don’t have any way of scoring and knowing who’s in what position because the SCCA doesn’t provide instant information.’ And I’m just standing there oblivious to this conversation, and a friend says, ‘Well, Judy does a very good job with the lap charts, because I had just learned that in the Queen’s Sports Car Club, and found it to be somewhat easy. And Bud Moore said, ‘OK, why don’t you do the race for us tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘OK.’ They said, ‘We’ll pay you $25.’ I said, ‘OK.’ And off I went.”
Moore made sure Stropus was part of his factory team moving forward until, while out in California, The Captain introduced himself.
“I do the (Marlboro) lap charts for five hours, gave it back to them, they took the chart, they realized it was perfect, called the next day, and said, ‘You need to come out to Modesto,’ she recalled. “I hadn’t even been out to California. And it all started. And then in the middle of that, Roger Penske walks by me one day in the pits, and says, ‘Why aren’t you working for me?’ and kept on walking. And so, then I would work for Javelin for Trans Am, and then Penske for Can Am, in that same year. Then the following year, I was with Roger for both series, and IndyCar, and whatever else he was doing.”
After a long and legendary career in timing and scoring, Stropus focused on another skillset with public relations where her clientele includes BMW, Chevrolet, ABC, Dunlop, Pirelli, Brumos Racing, Don Schumacher Racing, and countless others in a trade she continues to practice.
“I had a PR business at the same time I was timing and scoring, and public relating, and driving race cars,” she said. “I was traveling to 40 races a year because of it, and then Karl Ludvigsen hired me to be his assistant and handle the Chevy account, because he convinced Chevrolet to have a PR presence in New York City.
“So I maintained the fleet of cars, getting them out to the media. This is in the mid-’60s, then Karl took on the job as East Coast editor of Motor Trend magazine. That became a conflict of interest with Chevrolet. So Chevrolet says to me, ‘Why don’t you continue with us?’ Karl says, ‘Why don’t you stay with me?’ And I said, ‘Hmm, no. I think I’ll go with Chevrolet, and then I’ll start my own company, JVS Enterprises. I keep busy with PR today, this honor from the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America tops it all.”