With a little bit of time taken to reflect on Parella Motorsports Holdings’ first major event of the year, Tony Parella says his company’s visit to Sebring International Raceway with Trans Am, the SVRA, and International GT series exceeded expectations.
A storming last-to-first drive to Trans Am victory by Chris Dyson in the TA class, and a similar fight from the tail-end of the TA2 wars (pictured above) for Thomas Merrill that ended in a win were among the highlights for PMH’s opening presentation for its SpeedTour. And as an independent challenger to the likes of IndyCar and IMSA, it was the size of the turnout across all the different racing series under the PMH umbrella that demonstrated the significant appetite that exists among teams, drivers, and fans.
“Honestly, I’m tickled,” Parella told RACER. “First, on the Trans Am side of things, both the TA and TA2 races had a situation where they started dead last and came to the front; both races were just amazing. So that was cool. And then we had something as simple as a car show where we had so many cars participate that it was like being on I-95 with heavy traffic, and then they were going about five miles an hour. We filled the entire racetrack with just under 500 cars for the show and made it feel festive.
“The SVRA group looked fantastic — good clean racing with some really good action. Then in between, we had IGT with I think 38 Ferraris and Porsches in that group. It was exactly what SpeedTour weekends are supposed to be. We were blessed with amazing weather on Saturday and Sunday. Fantastic opening weekend.”
Next on the launch calendar is Formula Regional Americas (F3) and F4 open-wheel training championships, which bring a youthful component to the other PMH offerings.
“A lot of the reason I went down that path is these are young kids that you can shape their life, have an influence on their lives, and that was very attractive to me,” said Parella, who recently launched a new diversity scholarship program for FRA and F3. “It gives me a chance to not just provide a great place for them to go race — and you look at our schedule, it’s super — but it also gives me a chance to try to mentor them, prepare them for business, prepare them for dealing with the media, and just give something back to work with kids.
“One thing I learned through watching ‘Uppity’ and becoming good friends with Willy T. Ribbs is there’s certainly not a lot of female drivers and there’s certainly not a lot of kids of color in our sport. So I talked to Willy and put together a scholarship program and got sponsors behind it.”
Trans Am champion Ernie Francis, young open-wheel talent Emily Linscott, and promising karter Chloe Chambers were selected as the first scholarship award winners, with Francis adding a season of FRA to his calendar while Chambers will step up to F4 with her prize package as Linscott continues her open-wheel education in the same series.
“Ernie’s still very young, and a seven-time champion of Trans-Am, and it’s perplexing to me that he hasn’t gotten to the highest stage,” Parella added. “But this year he got picked up in the SRX series, he’s back with Trans Am, and FRA. We’ve got Emily winning, and Chloe, so we’re going to have three kids that get support. I’m really excited because it’s going to send a message across the sport that we’re really serious about this.”
With new series sponsors named on almost a weekly basis, Parella is feeling confident about PMH’s future as a promoter packaging vintage racing, open-wheel, GTs, car shows, and thundering Trans Am races together at many of its SpeedTour events.
“We try to put as many of our series together at the same time for the fans, which means we’re going to fit a lot into our weekends, that’s for sure,” he said. “And we’re working with all the local safety guidelines with COVID, and try to have fans wherever we’re currently allowed. And in the meantime, we’re live-streaming everything with our new app.
“It all ties to one thing. I’ve said from the first day that I believe we could elevate this to be part of mainstream motorsports. I’m not suggesting for a minute that we’re at the scale of an IndyCar or NASCAR or NHRA, but we’re starting to get noticed in that same sentence of those three prominent race bodies, just because of the reach we have. It’s surprising, it really is surprising. It’s been a fun run so far, it really has.”