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Former IMSA Racer Tony Adamowicz Passes Away

Former IMSA winner Tony Adamowicz passes away from cancer…

Photo: ISC Archives/IMSA.com

Photo: ISC Archives/IMSA.com

Champion sports car racer and IMSA pioneer Tony Adamowicz – affectionately known as “Tony A2Z” – passed away on Monday after a year-long battle with cancer.

Adamowicz was an eight-time winner in IMSA Camel GT competition, helping Don Devandorf’s Electramotive Datsun teams to the 1979 GTU and 1982 GTO titles.

A former White House communications aide to presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, Adamowicz began racing in the early 1960s, winning club races in a Volvo at the Marlboro circuit near Washington D.C.

That helped land a ride for Bob Tullius’ Group 44, launching a career that brought him to the highest levels of road racing, including IMSA GT Prototype, Can-Am, Trans-Am and Formula 5000.

“Tony Adamowicz personified the passion that built sports car racing in its early days,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “His colorful career spanned some of the most exciting decades in the history of the sport.

“Long after his retirement, he continued to be active in vintage competition and attended many IMSA events as a fan. His contributions will be long remembered, and his engaging personality will be missed.”

Adamowicz was a 12-time competitor in the 24 Hours of Daytona, roughly spanning his professional career from 1968 through 1989. He won his class twice among six overall top-10 finishes. Adamowicz won the GT2000 class in 1969, finishing fourth overall with Bruce Jennings and Herb Wetanson in a Porsche 911T.

Two years later, he placed second overall with Ronnie Bucknum in a NART Ferrari 512S. Adamowicz again finished second overall in 1979, winning the IMSA GTO class with John Morton in a Ferrari 365 GTB owned by Otto Zipper, who died of a heart attack the eve of the race.

In the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Adamowicz and Sam Posey placed third in 1971 in a NART Ferrari 512M, breaking the lap record in the early stages of the event. His best finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring was seventh in 1984, co-driving a Chevrolet Lola T-600 with John Morton and Tony Garcia.

His accomplishments included winning the SCCA Trans-Am Under 2-liter class in 1968 driving a Porsche 911, and the Formula 5000 championship in 1969, driving a Gurney Eagle.

He also was the only American to drive the Porsche 917K in international competition. Other classic sports cars raced by Adamowicz included the Gulf Mirage, Lola T600, March GTP, Jaguar XJR5, Nissan GTP ZX Turbo and Greenwood Corvette.

Following his distinguished career in professional racing which ended with the 1989 Daytona 24, the New York-born Californian won four consecutive Historic Formula 5000 titles in his 1969 championship-winning Eagle.

The legend of “A2Z” extends beyond the race track. Adamowicz joined Oscar Koveleski and Brian Niemcek in founding the Polish Racing Drivers of America.

The three teamed up in a PRDA Chevy Sportvan loaded with 55-gallon drums of gasoline and kielbasa and competed in the 1971 Cannonball Run. Driving from New York City to Los Angeles in 36 hours, 47 minutes, they finished second behind a Ferrari Daytona co-driven by Dan Gurney and Brock Yates.

Last week, Yates died at the age of 82 in Batavia, New York.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Mike S.

    October 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Wow what a diverse and storied racing career. The article itself shows his love for the sport in the vast cars and events he drove. RIP

  2. panoz

    October 12, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    That was a great history story right there. I think he was at Daytona 24 hours for the interview about the Greenwood Corvette this year or last. Tears

  3. TomE

    October 13, 2016 at 2:27 am

    A fine racer and a true gentleman, Tony always had time for you. I recall chatting with him in Monterey a few years ago, just before he drove the 512S with open exhaust right onto the RM auction stage in the Portola ballroom. And they thought he was going to let them push it on? Fabulous! I know this past year has been rough for Tony and his family. RIP my friend.

  4. Jettrd

    October 15, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Wow is right…what a story and what a career. I grew up watching him race (starting with 1969 24 Hours of Daytona), but i had no idea he had such a varied and succesful career.

    And so many interesting stories…the only American to drive a 917K in international competition(never realised that) and i love the tale about the Canonball run….great idea (i think) with the 55 gallon drums.

    Thank you John for posting this…

    My condolences to his family and friends.

  5. Phil Egebrecht

    October 16, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Tony was a Patriot and a real gentleman. I met him with a friends a few years ago at the Vintage races @ Road America and he was so enjoyable. The next year, he said, “Hi Phil” like we had known each other for years.

    He was knowledgeable, engaging, smart, and, a Nice Guy! He will be missed, but not forgotten by race fans. RIP, Tony, you will live on.

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