Sunday, April 7, 2024

Return To Sebring An Adventure

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I have to admit that when I came to the Sebring Raceway a few years ago, I was overwhelmed about covering a different form of racing. 

This was my first time covering Endurance Racing and I didn’t know any of the drivers. 

I learned that this form of racing was more about teamwork with 3-4 drivers per-car and it was more about the manufacturer's. 

This circuit has a lot of money when you have Rolls Royce, Porsche, Lamborghini, Cadillac’s and others racing for long periods of time in the various classes of competition. NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson found this track to be quite challenging.

I had a great teacher in track historian Ken Breslauer showing me the ropes, in addition to Kelsi Miller, who has invited me to cover a race at Road America in Atlanta, GA., which I have on my bucket list.

Every year at Sebring, they always have a different set up for the media and I’m not going to dwell on that in this story.

Last year, I took Sebring Off and tackled the Rolex 24 Hours at the Daytona International Speedway. This was taken off my bucket list and I had to come up with a strategy to survive this experience on my first try by asking various members of the media at the preliminary races how to do it. I received different opinions and then successfully got the job done.

This year, I returned to Sebring with the Rolex 24 Hours experience under my belt and over the two days I was at this historic racetrack, this situation was extremely easy, but there were different sets of challenges.

On Friday, March 16, I did run into Breslauer again and we exchanged books. I gave him a signed copy of mine, “Lessons From The Microphone” and he returned the favor with his second book, “Sebring 1983” and we reminisced about my first couple of races in Endurance Racing. We also exchanged ideas on how to promote our books.

I also talked to Ken about the frustration that I had with Daytona International Speedway Communications Director Steph Harris and her arrogant attitude when we covered the Rolex 24 and Daytona 500. 

This woman had the gall to call our website a fans website and it was evident she never went to it which was so far from the truth.

I told Ken about our seating accommodations this year as the press box was eliminated and the media was divided up into three different rooms in the paddock area and two rooms at the track hotel. He told me to call him next year and he’ll make sure the situation is much better.

My second day was spent at the track hotel. 

For the two days I was in the area, I commuted 90 minutes each way from Fort Pierce, FL. 

That situation will change next year as I will be leasing a new van this summer and will stay at the racetrack.

During the week, I was contacted by the publicist of “The Heart of Racing Team” Haleigh R Jordan and she asked me if I was interested in interviewing some of her drivers. I told her yes and she set up a pair at 4 pm that day. I hung around their trailer and these drivers were Zachorie Robicon and Roman DeAngelis.

Both of these drivers had won IMSA Championships and Robicon won at Sebring. They were signing autographs for the fans.

Jordan came up to me if I wanted to do these interviews closer to 3:30 PM and that suited me fine.

DeAngelis was absolutely fantastic. We did the interview and took a photo together. 

Unfortunately, there would be no interview with Robicon as a drivers meeting unexpectedly came up.

Where I struggle with Jordan’s professionalism was we began with five possibilities, then two and landed one. She never came up with a time to reschedule Robicon.

I made the best of the situation and made the decision that when I cover this race or any other endurance again, I wouldn’t do business with her again.

My goal for late 2024 is when I write the second part of my book, I would be only covering events that would give me enough stories to make the next one better than the first.

Day two on Saturday, March 17, was an experience in itself as I spent the entire time at the Seven Raceway Hotel. 

There were two rooms that I could have worked out of for the over flow media. There was one that had three monitors where I could see the race while the other one didn’t have monitors.

I was unable to find a spot in the room that had monitors so I opted for the other room.

There were approximately 350 press credentials issued and space for 200. That’s why this hotel was utilized. 

After a frustrating Friday, there was no way that I was going to get just one story for the weekend. 

When you’ve been in the business for 44 years, you simply don’t settle for anything less than what you want.

In life, you have to make the best out of a situation or turn a negative into a positive. That’s exactly what I did as I sought very different feature stories.

My first story was about a Cuban born journalist named Luis Martinez. We talked about his upbringing in Cuba and how he got into racing. You can watch the interview in its entirety in this story. I was fascinated by everything he said and we ate dinner later that afternoon. Martinez is based out of Rochester, NY.

I decided to do a story with his photographer Anthony Joseph Bristol and we talked about all of the endurance races that he’s covered. His experiences were outright amazing.

Considering how loud it is to find a quiet spot to do interviews, this last one was really neat. 

I spoke with native Metro Detroiter and now Naples resident Karen Burrow, who rented a conference room in the hotel to have an art gallery. 

I made a deal with her that if she let me use the room for one hour, then I would promote her Automotive Art Gallery. 

She was absolutely fantastic as I used her room from 1-2 PM. We did a show for about 15 minutes and she was extremely elated! This was the ultimate win-win situation!

You couldn’t find stories more different than these and once again, you’ll be able to view these videos in this story. 

I find it outright amazing that when you have so much time with these endurance races whether it be 12 or 24 hours, it’s amazing what type of content a person can come up with.

Since I didn’t have my photographer Candy Ebling with me on this project, I sought other individuals to take key photos and do the videos.

What I did like about the hotel set-up was I enjoyed taking photos during the day and at night of the back of the race-track. The hotel is nice and one day, I might decide to rent a room just to get a way for a weekend.

Sebring isn’t known for the best internet connection, but heck, if it’s adequate enough to do basic things, that works for me.

When it was all said and done, this was a race where I didn’t know who won it because there was no monitor to watch the end. Then again, I didn’t know the drivers with the exception of the Heart Racing Team. 

This experience will make me a bit smarter when I return in 2025.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can see his broadcasts by subscribing to the South Florida Tribune YouTube Channel. He can be found on X at @Tribune South.

His book, “Lessons From The Microphone” can be purchased on Amazon, Kindle and Barnes & Noble.





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