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Former IMSA Race Director Kaufman Passes Away at 82

Longtime track official Marty Kaufman passes away after lengthy illness…

Photo: Marty Kaufman Facebook

Competitors, team owners and those who worked alongside Marty Kaufman for a decades-long career in auto racing remembered their associate and friend after Kaufman died Thursday in Florida following a lengthy illness.

Kaufman, 82, originally from Fresno, Calif., was a longtime track official from his early days leading the SCCA in Northern California to his time as race director and official in one of IMSA’s most celebrated eras until his retirement in 2010.

Kaufman’s leadership, fairness and friendship are being remembered and lauded by many.

Kaufman transitioned from the SCCA to serve as IMSA race director from 1986-96, overseeing the glory days of the IMSA GTP era. His even keel and keen sense of fairness earned him immediate respect and endured to this day.

“We all agreed he was the right guy and it turned out that he was,” said Mark Raffauf, IMSA’s senior director of competition who preceded Kaufman in the race director role and played a part in hiring Kaufman to succeed him.

“He did a great job. He had the highest integrity, was straightforward and calm.

“Throughout that 10 years, we had a few controversies but not due to his decisions,” Raffauf continued.

“Marty did a great job, and I guess the best compliment you can give an official of any sport at the highest level is that, even the people who may not have agreed with the decisions he made would come back after the fact and say he was fair.

“Marty Kaufman was a very fair guy and he fit the mold in his own way, with his own personality.

“He knew what the ‘right thing’ was to do, which wasn’t always what you should do or what the rules said you should do. He understood the philosophy of doing the right thing and that right thing would be related to fairness, in my mind.”

Racer Tommy Kendall, a fellow Californian, was among those who competed under Kaufman’s leadership. Kendall also stressed the fairness competitors expected and received with Kaufman at the helm.

“Marty was a total pro.” said Kendall, the former SCCA and IMSA star. “He did such a good job managing all of the competing interests in the series in such a way that he never became the story, something that is far easier said than done.

“Furthermore, he cared deeply about everyone involved, which can make doing his job near impossible, as caring too much can be an Achilles heel in making tough but fair calls.’”

IMSA President John Doonan first met Kaufman when Doonan was an executive with Mazda charged with bringing the marque back into the sport.

As with others who so fondly recalled Kaufman’s contributions, Doonan said, “He was a ‘teacher.’

“There are so many people in the last 12 hours – when word of his passing came out – who have mentioned, ‘I learned so much from that guy!’” Doonan continued.

“And I think that’s not only a tribute to Marty but a reminder to all of us who are still in the sport, that we have a duty to educate and teach not only our current participants but our next generation of participants about how we do what we do and why we do it that way.

“That’s really what means the most to me about him. And I hope we can carry on in the same manner he did.’”

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