Saturday, November 14, 2020

Sebring, A Bucket List Item!

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

If you could turn back time, what would you like to do for a living?

This is a No-Brainer for me!

I would like to be a race car driver. 

Yes, it’s expensive to get in the sport and it’s tough to get involved. 

But remember, I asked the question, what would you like to do for a living? There is nothing better in life than an adrenaline rush!

Sometimes I often think the thing which is close to a race track is when I drive on all kinds of highways. I don’t mind two lane roads, but I prefer the major ones. Needless to see, my wife has to use her tablet when I drive on the highways because I love speed and passing drivers. 

During the years, I’ve covered auto racing, attended races as a fan, have driven around tracks and have taken ride alongs.

I’ve covered races at Michigan International Speedway, Miami-Homestead Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Sebring International Raceway, Detroit’s Belle Isle Road Course while I’ve taken laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. I also took them at Phoenix.

But there is one constant to all of this! 

Not only do I enjoy getting to the track early to prepare for these races, but it’s neat to walk around these venues.

There are plenty more tracks on my bucket list! There are plenty of ride alongs to be had! 

In 2019, I started covering events at Sebring. My former colleague, Herb Branham at the Tampa Tribune introduced me to Sebring Track Historian Ken Breslauer. Branham knew Breslauer as Herb held the same position at the Daytona International Speedway.

After working this last year, this event is addictive!

Sebring International Raceway is a 3.74 Mile Course with 17 turns. It’s open seating without capacity limitation. If there is ever a track where you need an RV and Motor Home, this one is it! It’s extremely fan friendly and there is no way to conduct this event without fans. There is plenty of room for social distancing. It’s a very spacious environment.

It occupies the site of Hendricks Army Airfield, a training base for B17 pilots in operation from 1941 to 1946.

The first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952. 

Can you imagine a Corvette, Cadillac, Lamborghini, Lexus, Porsche, BMW, Audi, Ferrari, and Mercedes driving at an average speed of 120 MPH and 180 MPH on straightaways on an Asphalt/Concrete Surface? They do and the amount of money spent on these vehicles is incredible.

What makes Sebring Special is we’re talking about Endurance Racing. 

The yearly spectacle normally occurs in March, but this year, The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Presented By Advance Auto Parts occurred on Saturday, November 14th.

What’s great about Endurance Racing is that it’s very relatable to me. 

When I travel, I prefer to drive instead of fly. 

For me, I like to drive straight through to get to my destination and in many cases, going over 10 hours at a time is a piece of cake. Furthermore, I get stronger as the drive continues especially when I travel during the middle of the night. 

I’m a meditation junky and often make my best decisions behind the wheel listening to music! 

My wife Candy calls me a “Crazy Man” because she’s never seen anyone that has my tenacity to get stronger as the drive gets longer. 

Before My Mother-In-Law died, she always worried about my outrageous road trips. 

Many years ago, I couldn’t call my grandmother because she always worried about me so what I did was called her when I would get in my hotel room.

When you work a race at Sebring in the Press Box, there is no shortage of caffeine, energy drinks, and sweets because you need to get that sugar buzz to get through the day.

But Breslauer has been great to work with. I’ve had him on my broadcasts numerous times. Last year, he spent time educating me on Endurance Racing. The South Florida Tribune is on the Media Distribution List for IMSA therefore, I have a better understanding of the sport. 

Breslauer told me that COVID-19 has presented some challenges this year as the 12 Hours of Sebring, which is held in the third week of March was moved to the fall and will decide the IMSA Championship. 

To deal with Covid-19, they held a race in July to make sure that the event would run smoothly. 

One thing that didn’t factor was time of the race. 

During the Spring, the beginning of the race starts 40 minutes later because of Daylight Savings Time. This year’s race started at 10:10 AM and ended at 10:10 PM.

Breslauer said that he enjoys having his event in the spring.

“There is no reason to change it, the tradition is the third Saturday in March, “ he said. “People plan their vacations around this and it’s Spring Break. The Championship Weekend is held at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. We’re more than happy to give it back to them. We’re the second race of the year behind Daytona (Rolex 24 Hours) which is the Florida Doubleheader. It’s like the PGA Tour where they have all of their Florida Golf Events together during the Winter.”

NASCAR Legend Jimmie Johnson recently retired and will race in Indy Cars in 2021. He’s looking for a new challenge with a less demanding schedule. 

Breslauer doesn’t think it’s far fetched to believe that the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion could appear in this historical venue.

“I think so,” Breslauer said. “It’s always good to have NASCAR Stars race here. We’ve had them in the past. There is a good chance we could see that down the road.”

Sebring has no trouble landing big name drivers.

There were six former Indianapolis 500 winners competing in the Twelve Hours of Sebring. 

They include Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Breslauer wrote a book called “SEBRING” and it’s The Record Book of America’s Legendary 12 Hour Sports Endurance Race. 

It’s loaded with photos and is a must buy if you’re a Motor Sports Fan. It can be purchased on E-Bay.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com. 

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