Representatives of the Panoz family and members of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s executive board of directors jointly unveiled the new Don Panoz Endowment during Tuesday’s 35th MSHFA Induction Ceremony presented by Toyota Racing.
Made possible by the Panoz family, the endowment brings valuable funding for the MSHFA’s ongoing and non-profit mission of preserving the legacy and history of all facets of American motorsports. The generous gift provides a lasting memorial of the late Dr. Don Panoz in the MSHFA Museum, which is located on the grounds of Daytona International Speedway (DIS) and just across the street from headquarters of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).
The Panoz family members taking part in the announcement included his son Dan and two of his daughters.
“I and the Panoz family are proud and honored to help support what we like to think of is the ‘Church of Motorsports,’ which recognizes all forms of motor sports history,” said Dan Panoz, who with his dad started the Panoz journey into motorsports.
“The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America pays the greatest tribute to any and all forms of motorsports. It is amazing to see the depth of subjects covered under one roof. I know that Don Panoz himself would be a huge fan and a patriot of the efforts going on there.”
The endowment additionally calls for a new and long-term display at the MSHFA Museum titled ‘Don’s Garage’ that will showcase Panoz race cars and memorabilia from the decades of Panoz involvement in motorsports.
In a preview of things to come in Don’s Garage, the first two vehicles to be displayed are already on location at the MSHFA. The duo is the popular Stars-n-Stripes Panoz LMP1 roadster – that constantly harassed and occasionally beat the factory Audi LMP1 cars – and the revolutionary Stars-n-Stripes Deltawing.
“A major goal of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America after joining the world in enduring the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was the establishment of a significantly funded endowment to provide the MSHFA with unprecedented financial stability,” said MSHFA President George Levy.
“We are honored and humbled that the Panoz family has agreed to provide this major gift to the MSHFA and look forward to showcasing the amazing accomplishments of ‘Dr. P’ in the exciting new Don’s Garage display.”
Although Panoz entered the arena of international sports car racing relatively late in life, he came in with a typical ‘all-in’ approach that saw him touch and ultimately improve every side of the sport.
His cars and teams combined for four Indianapolis 500 victories, two IndyCar Championships, 24 Hour Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring GT wins, and championships in Trans Am and SRO Motorsports America GT4 competition.
He also acquired and improved through redevelopment some of the most revered road courses in North America, including Sebring International Raceway, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and Mosport Raceway in Canada, which is now know as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Perhaps his greatest achievements, however, were the resurrection of IMSA, the creation of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and later joining with NASCAR and IMSA leader Jim France in unifying the sport a decade ago to restore IMSA to its true role as North America’s premier road racing sanctioning body.
Panoz and France already have a place in the MSHFA after being awarded the Hall’s prestigious Bob Russo Heritage Award in 2014 in recognition for their landmark achievement in unifying sports car racing under the IMSA moniker. Panoz enlisted his longtime ALMS President Scott Atherton to lead the day-to-day operation and management of the series with NASCAR’s Ed Bennett.
A year after Panoz died in 2018, Atherton retired from his position as IMSA President and now serves as an active and highly involved member of the MSHFA’s Board of Directors.
“Don played a key role in essentially saving IMSA and returning the organization to the solid foundation on which today’s sport is built,” Atherton said. “His efforts also fostered an unprecedented relationship with the ACO and 24 Hours of Le Mans that remains as strong as ever today. It was an honor to work with him so closely for so long and to be able to work with the Panoz family and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in making this generous endowment a reality.”
While the Panoz family has generously provided the initial founding gift, additional gifts are welcomed, encouraged and being actively pursued. The ultimate goal is to grow the Don Panoz Endowment to at least $10 million.
Ongoing coverage of tonight’s 35th Induction Ceremony can be seen in a pair of livestreams produced by Vid Monster and sponsored by Speedvision. The Main Stage feed airs now on the MSHFA Facebook page at 7:40 p.m. while a behind-the-scenes Back Stage show, hosted by Ryan Myrehn, is on the MSHFA YouTube Channel.
Highlights from all three 35th Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Induction Ceremony presented by Toyota Racing online programs will be featured in an upcoming one-hour special on Speedvision, which is scheduled to premiere in April.
The MSHFA is housed in Daytona International Speedway’s Ticket & Tours Building located in front of the famed 2.5-mile DIS tri-oval. Access to the MSFHA museum is included with every Daytona International Speedway tour, which run throughout each day, or as a museum-only ticket. The museum is open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. nearly year-round except major holidays. It is visited by more than 100,000 guests each year from every state in America and countries all over the world.