Car Racing 06

Johnny Capels

May 20, 1936 ~ June 9, 2022 (age 86)


Johnny Capels, 86, of Fishers, Indiana, passed away on June 9, 2022. He was born on May 20, 1936, in Albuquerque, New Mexico to John and Jane (Anderson) Capels.

Johnny’s extensive career in racing began at age 15 when he began driving and building Modifieds in his hometown of Albuquerque. He went on to be a New Mexico Motor Racing Association Champion and then further to become the NMMRA President. He was a recipient of the New Mexico Governor’s Sports Award in 1968.

In 1968 he moved to Indy at the behest of Bobby and Al Unser with Al’s resurrected Al Unser Chevy. Johnny won the USAC Indy Car National Championship with Joe Leonard in 1971 and 1972, and in 1973 he was the Winning Mechanic of the USAC Championship Dirt Car Series with Al Unser as driver. He won the award again the following year in 1974 with Mario Andretti as driver and was awarded once again in 1978 with Pancho Carter as driver. Johnny established the Indy Car Team with Alex Morales of Anaheim California as Chief Mechanic and Team Manager in USAC in 1975. His team was won the Michigan 500 in 1981 and 1986 and in 1989 Johnny accepted an offer from C.A.R.T. at the December Board of Directors meeting in Indianapolis for the position of President and COO. In 1999 he formed a USAC International Road Racing Team of Officials to officiate the Formula One World Championship Series under USAC sanction for 2000 thru 2007 and for the MOTO GP bikes for 2008 thru 2010. In 2001 he received the Sagamore on the Wabash as Chief on the Staff of Governor Frank Obannon at eh Indianapolis Athletic Club with Bob Jenkins as Master of Ceremonies at his retirement party.   In 2002 Johnny became Chairman of the Board of Directors of USAC. He was the Director and President during his 16 year tenure of the Benevolent of Motor Sports Fund and the same for the USAC Benevolent fund during a 17 year tenure.

Johnny is survived by his wife Dana (Klenotic) Capels who he married on June 28, 1980; his son Johnny (Renee) Capels; daughter Candy Perry; step-son Roy (Diane) Caruthers; grandchildren Taylor, Sean, Chris, Corey, and Matthias; and his brother William Capels. He is preceded in death by his parents.

As was Johnny’s preferred style of remaining behind the scenes his family is honoring his wishes for a simple cremation. Friends are encouraged to make donations in his memory to the USAC Benevolent Fund at Please share condolences and memories at

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