Things Happen For A Reason …
In my last blog I mentioned how I personally came full circle through my association with Champion Spark Plug in Toledo and the events that led me here to Road Atlanta in time to celebrate both of our 40 year milestones (my 40th birthday high school reunion and Road Atlanta’s 40 year anniversary)!
Now join me in reminiscing about the odd chain of events that put Road Atlanta on the map and gave us the opportunity to showcase our amazing world-class road course. The rest is history!
Construction of Road Atlanta began in the spring of 1970 with completion planned in November. Things got a little hectic when SCCA officials offered Road Atlanta a Can-Am date on September 12-13th because severe storm damage forced the race at Bridgehampton, NY to be cancelled. (At the time of the Can-Am negotiations not a square inch of asphalt had been laid)! That event introduced major league road racing to more than 25,000 excited fans.
Sebring (who would later become our sister track under the leadership of the Panoz Motorsports Group) was forced to cancel their opening event in IMSA’s 1974 championship schedule due to the energy crises. This led to the first ever championship endurance racing event at Road Atlanta and set the stage for our signature event, Petit Le Mans, to make it’s debut years later.
The Atlanta 6-Hour, B.F. Goodrich 3-Hour and VW Super Vee Gold Cup was held at Road Atlanta April 19-21st. It was a nostalgic dream-come-true for Road Atlanta President Arthur Montgomery and Vice-President/General Manager Dave Sloyer. “Things have a way of coming full circle,” mused Montgomery, “because neither Dave nor I would ever have imagined that we’d be staging “Sebring” at our own race track one day!” In the mid 60s Montgomery (an Atlanta Ferrari aficionado) participated as owner/entrant of a works-prepared 330 Prototype driven in the 12-hour enduro by Umberto Maglioli and Giancarlo Baghetti of Italy. Sloyer’s first visit to the Old Sebring airfield was at the wheel of a Fiat-Abarth race in 1966.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Arthur Montgomery, he served as President of the Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Company and played a central role in bringing professional sports of all types to the Atlanta area. He was instrumental in bringing the Atlanta Braves to the city from Milwaukee and sold NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle, on the idea of a pro football franchise for Atlanta.
So the next time the economy or “mother nature” forces you to change your plans, embrace it … you never know what might happen!