You may have heard some of these stories before from Sebring’s veteran race fans. Some are bizarre, some are macabre, and all make you say “only at Sebring.”
Every year we update this list we hear about more and more strange Sebring stories. As best as we can determine, here is the truth:
A child was born in Green Park during the 12 Hours of Sebring:
We have no evidence this ever happened. Remember, we are talking about a child being born in Green Park, not conceived. However, children were born at this location when it was the Hendricks Field military base.
Several cars started the 1955 Sebring 12 Hours without permission, sneaking on to the track during the start.
Six drivers of reserve entries, unhappy they were not allowed to start, decided to go on the track at the start, they all did one or two laps and then got off the track.
Even though there was no Sebring race in 1974, devoted fans showed up anyway.
The actual number of fans who showed up that year is uncertain, estimated somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000.
The Governor of Florida was once given a tour on the Sebring circuit while the race was going on.
In 1950 Sebring promoter Alec Ulmann took Gov. Fuller Warren on a lap around the track while the race was in progress!
A serial killer raced in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Christopher Wilder, later to be discovered as the “Beauty Queen” serial killer, drove in the 1983 race. He was killed by police the following year trying to cross the border into Canada.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs drove in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
He attended the race in 1980, but he never drove in the race.
A Ford GT involved in a fatal accident back in 1966 is buried at the track.
A Ford GT driven by Bob McLean, in which he was killed during a fiery accident approaching the hairpin in 1966, was buried at nearby property. There was very little left of the car. The remains of an Alfa Romeo also are buried near the circuit. We’re not telling where.
Peanuts comic strip artist Charles Schulz painted the 1964 Sebring poster.
The artist in 1964 was named Shultz, spelled different than the Peanuts creator.
Jim Morrison, lead singer for the Doors, attended the Sebring 12 hours.
By all accounts, Morrison attended the 1962 and/or 1963 race. Remember, he was born in Melbourne Florida and attended by St Petersburg Junior College and Florida State University.
Gene Hackman, James Brolin, Lorenzo Lamas, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, David Carradine and James Garner are all actors who have driven in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
FACT (except Garner)
Yes, they all did except Garner, who was a car owner in the 1960s and attended Sebring regularly but never drove in the race.
A stolen rental car was once raced in the Firehawk series at Sebring.
After the race in 1989, a car entered in the Firehawk street stock race was simply left behind by the team. They never came back for it. The rumor was it was a stolen rental car, but apparently it was mainly a financial dispute between the owners over various racing debts (imagine that in racing!).
All-time Sebring winner Tom Kristensen waved to fans at a Turn 10 campsite during a caution period while leading the 1999 Sebring 12 Hours.
Tom has officially acknowledged that he indeed did wave to his friends in Turn 10 he had meet the day before in a trip to Green Park with J.J. Lehto and photographer John Brooks.
The race was once red-flagged because an alligator was on the track.
Alligators have made their way on to the track at Sebring, but not during the race.
During the 1957 Sebring 12 Hours, Stirling Moss slowed down at the Hairpin so someone could handle him a cold bottle of Cocoa-Cola.
Legendary photo journalist Bernard Cahier handed Moss the Coke at the Hairpin, and on the next lap Moss tossed the empty bottle!
The race was once yellow-flagged because the track was running out of fuel for the teams.
In 1983, a yellow flag was needed to allow a fuel truck to cross the track to bring more fuel. There were 83 cars in the race that year!
During the first two Sebring 12-hour races, armed patrols on horseback were hired to shoot stray animals that could have wandered on the circuit.
Wild boar and deer were a concern of the race organizers.
Dale Earnhardt had a “secret” test in a factory Corvette at Sebring shortly before he died.
Earnhardt and his son Dale Jr. tested with the Corvette team in December 2000.
The famous B-17 called “Memphis Belle” landed at Hendricks Field during Word War II.
The Memphis Belle landed at Hendricks Field as part of a War Bond drive and moral booster for the crews training in Sebring.
A Led Zeppelin concert scheduled at Sebring Raceway was cancelled at the last minute.
In 1975, Led Zeppelin, BTO and the J. Geils Band cancelled a concert appearance at Palm Beach International Raceway, not Sebring. However, a Joe Cocker concert scheduled at the 1975 Sebring 12 Hours was cancelled only two weeks before the race.
The Sebring race was scheduled to relocate to West Palm Beach in 1967.
Yes, Alec Ulmann officially announced this but it obviously never happened, in part due to heavy rains that flooded the new track near West Palm Beach a few months before the race. Ulmann considered moving the race to Fort Lauderdale in 1957.
When preparing for the construction of the new pits in 1999, construction workers found live WWII era ammunition from Hendricks Field.
Never happened. Nor did they find Jimmy Hoffa.
Roger Penske’s Chevrolet Lola was stolen after the 1969 Sebring 12 Hours.
While towing the car back from Sebring, the team stopped near Ormond Beach, where it was stolen (most of it was eventually recovered).
A movie starring Robert Redford was filmed at Sebring Raceway.
Portions of the 1975 movie “The Great Waldo Pepper” were filmed at the Sebring Airport and Raceway.
President Jimmy Carter frequently was a spectator at Sebring.
It is well documented that Carter and his family traveled to Sebring annually (long before he got into politics) to attend the 12 hours.
Sebring Raceway is a “boneyard” of pieces from defunct race tracks.
FACT (at least to some degree)
Bridges, fencing, tire barriers, lighting and other equipment (including the now deceased scoring tower) came from defunct races including the original version of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, Tamiami Park Indy Car race, New Orleans Grand Prix, Baltimore Grand Prix, World Challenge of Tampa, Lakeland Speedway and other tracks. We recycle!
The car that won the first ever race at Sebring in 1950 was actually a spectator’s car.
Victor Sharpe of Tampa drove his Crosley Hot Shot (pictured above) to the Sam Collier 6-hour Memorial race in 1950. He was convinced to loan his car to drivers Ralph Deshon and Fritz Koster. They ended up winning the race, which was run on a handicap formula.
A spectator once arrived three months early to get in line for the race.
The earliest arrival was by Patrick Taylor of Palm Bay, Florida, who arrived on December 26th 2003, nearly three months before the race. Fans are now not allowed to arrive until March 1st.
The 1974 race, before being cancelled, was changed to a 1,200 kilometer race (instead of 12 hours) to save fuel.
The sanctioning organization changed the race name to the “Sebring-Camel 1200 km” instead of “The 12 Hours of Sebring.” However, the race was never held.
The 12 Hours of Sebring was once a 24-hour race.
For some reason this is one of the most common myths about Sebring. The race was NEVER a 24-hour race.
One of the victims of the Charles Manson family in 1969 was hair salon entrepreneur Jay Sebring, who named himself after the famous 12-hour race.
Sadly true. He real name was Thomas Kummer, but he chose Jay “Sebring” because he liked the name of the famous Florida sports car race.
Walter Cronkite once drove in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The famous journalist drove a Lancia in the 1959 Sebring 12 Hours. On his first practice lap three days before the race, he witnessed a fatal accident when Edwin Lawrence crashed his Maserati at the Hairpin. Lawrence’s family comes to the 12 Hours race every year, camps at the track and holds a private memorial service.