Don Panoz Named Grand Marshal For 20th Running of Petit Le Mans 

The entrepreneur founded the race at Road Atlanta in 1998.

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Petit Le Mans, the treasured 10-hour endurance race that draws in drivers and fans from across the motorsport community, will celebrate its twentieth running this weekend. Founded in 1998 by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Don Panoz, it has since catapulted American sportscar racing to the level of Europe's most coveted events, strengthening the sport's presence here in the States. Now, to commemorate the man behind it all, officials have announced that Panoz himself will fill the role of Grand Marshal for the 2017 running of the race. 

Panoz, most well known for his patenting of the slow-release formula found in nicotine patches, purchased Road Atlanta in 1996. After two years of preparation, he decided to start the Petit Le Mans event as well as the American Le Mans Series, now known as IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar series

“Before we founded Petit Le Mans, I hadn’t really been around motorsports and had only been to a few races,” said Panoz, chairman and co-founder of Georgia-based Green4U Technologies Inc. and its Panoz and DeltaWing Manufacturing divisions.

“When it came time to launch Petit, I wanted a fan-friendly race much what fans had in Europe," he said.

Panoz built the event around the fans, further involving the crowd in what is now one of the most relished endurance races on any continent.

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Although he has since sold Road Atlanta in 2012 as well as the rights to the American Le Mans Series, Panoz remains involved in activities and is reportedly over the moon about serving as Grand Marshal on Saturday, Oct. 7.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished, and extremely honored to part of the 20th anniversary weekend,” he said.

Geoff Lee, president and general manager of Road Atlanta, expressed his excitement for Panoz's return to the race.

“Don had the vision back in 1998 for Petit Le Mans, and over the years, it has become one of the most recognizable endurance races in the world. We wouldn’t be standing here without Don’s passion and support for the last two decades, and although he has never asked for it, he deserves recognition for his grand contributions to our beloved sport.”

We'll be at this year's Motul Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta, bringing you up to speed with coverage from the track. Paddock analysis and to-the-minute coverage will be aplenty, and if you've got any other questions about the 2017 race, feel free to contact me at caleb.jacobs2@gmail.com.