KENTUCKY (11/13/12) - This week’s column will have to wait. It was a nice piece about the end of the stock car racing season locally, the final checkers have waved over all the immediate local tracks with special events doting the remainder of the next few weeks at warmer climate places.
This week’s column took a different turn. As it was getting the white flag, one more lap to go, something else happen. A tire flew off, a spark plug fouled, that old rusty guardrail jumped out and got us, we just didn’t make it to the checkers first… but one of our buddies did.
That’s racing. That’s life.
Our buddy, racing’s buddy, Jerry Fortner beat us to the checkers this morning. His fight with cancer came to an end and the #469 took the checkers.
Jerry Fortner, born March 14, 1959 hadn’t recently been behind the wheel of his 4-cylinder Mini Stock, but he was racing every weekend. Living across from Windy Hollow Speedway, he was the go to guy for every one there. Any problem track promoter Scott Slaton had, Jerry was there to lend a hand, day or night, Monday thru Sunday. Any racer that needed a part in his garage, they could run over and get it. He lent his car to others who were in points battles, he lent his knowledge to the announcer who needed the loud speakers fixed at the last minute, he did it all. He cared about the D-shaped oval.
He also operated Fortner Trucking with his son Justin at his side. Jerry was just at home at the Motocross as he was the stock car oval. Along helping Justin or any racer that needed a hand, there is no doubt he was there for Justin, but Jerry being Jerry he helped all. He cared about Justin.
In 2009 Jerry and Rose became grandparents. Daughter Amber and little Alex made the smile on Jerry’s face a little wider if that was even possible for a guy who never didn’t have a smile or laugh. Just a few days back he celebrated 34 years of marriage. He cared about his family.
Jerry was far away from home. Being treated in New Jersey, he fought with all his might just as if he was behind the wheel of the #469. Even being thrown a hurricane in his path to the checkers, Jerry didn’t lose his focus on what was important, he kept fighting. He cared about life.
That’s the kind of competitor in life we all should be. He was a racer, he was a dad, a grandpa, a husband, a friend. He was a winner.
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