published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
New, old race fans embrace the tradition of Race Week
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - The Paddock is already bustling at the Sebring International Raceway as the 61st annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring is shifting into high gear.
Fans, workers and volunteers could be seen moving about the midway in the chilly Thursday morning prepping for the upcoming party/race atmosphere that will soon take over.
The races hold a different meaning to the many familiar with it throughout the Heartland. For some it is a routine event, an ongoing part of being a Sebring resident, for others however it is a new an exciting adventure.
Just before noon at the Taste of the Race event excited faces, young and old, checked out vintage sports cars along Circle Drive. The event is a pre-cursor to the annual races and draws hundreds of seasoned and neophyte race fans year after year.
Race car owner Dan Mershon was busy giving kids a brief moment of fun, allowing the little boys and girls to hop right into the driver's seat of his classic Ford.
"It is a GT 40 Mark 2. It has a 427 Ford engine. It ran at the 1967 La Mans," Mershon said proudly.
The shiny red car was one of the two that Mershon had on display Thursday. Parents, grandparents and kids 'ooh'ed and ahh'ed' at the vehicle that will be participating in the one hour race on Friday.
Further down the line, Sebring residents and friends Stacy Black and Debra Levy captured photos of their sons climbing in and out of another vintage sports car.
The classic 1969 Corvette, owned by Doug Hudson, caught the eyes of young Jaiden Bancroft and Joseph Levy as they strolled past with their mothers.
"We've been going to the races for years," Black said. "My son just loves it."
As for her newly Florida-established friend, the Sebring races are a new concept.
"I never heard of the races until this year. I've been coming back and forth for many years from New Jersey and somehow I just never knew about it. I'm a full-time resident now, I've been here about two years. This will be my first ever Race Week, his too," Levy said pointing to her son.
Young Levy was thrilled to see the shiny cars and is looking forward to being at the races with his mother. When asked what he was going to do when he got to the races Levy replied. "I'm going to see all the cars. I'm so excited!"
The Sebring races draw approximately 150,000 fans each year. New and returning, young and old, the races have become a vital part of the lives of each of the citizens of the community.
Race Week has officially kicked off with thousands of fans flooding the streets, hotels, and restaurants throughout Highlands County. The 12 Hours of Sebring is Saturday. For a full schedule of events and more information visit www.sebringraceway.com/.
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