Longtime Goodguys member and fan Earl Gaerte, 67, of Rochester, Ind., died on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011, after a long illness.
A member of the 2007 class of the Sprint Car Hall of Fame, Gaerte had humble beginnings in his hometown. He went from an engine shop run out of his garage to becoming one of the biggest innovators in sprint car and midget racing.
Gaerte Engines was founded in 1969 when Gaerte, who was at the time a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealer, started his own business out of his two-car garage with $1,000 and some performance parts. He began making engines for drag racers, but soon switched to sprint car racing. He not only made gains in sprint car and midget racing, but also supplied horsepower for dirt late model and stock car racers.
Over the years, many Goodguys staff members befriended Gaerte who attended nearly all 22 Goodguys Hot Rod Nationals in Indy. Earl was a huge fan of the Goodguys Street Rod Shootout event and was a close friend of former Goodguys event announcer Brian Olson. He loved bringing his potent ’64 Plymouth and ’32 Ford out to Indianapolis Raceway Park for the Goodguys event.
Gaerte was preceded in death by his wife, Alice. Survivors include their daughter, Brenda, and son, Joe (1987 and ‘88 All Star Circuit of Champions titlist), who continues to keep the Gaerte Engines name alive in auto racing.