Don Panoz Speaks at National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
BRASELTON, Ga. (February 20, 2002) -- Dr. Don Panoz, founder of the American Le Mans Series, was a guest speaker Wednesday at one of America's most prestigious and exclusive locations, the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
In a venue that has been the site for addresses by world and national political leaders, famous entertainers and Hollywood stars, as well as war heroes, corporate executives and even some sports celebrities, Panoz spoke to the membership of the Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA).
The nation's capital will be the site for the July 21 National Grand Prix of Washington, D.C., the first major auto race in the city. American Le Mans Series cars will race on a temporary circuit constructed adjacent to RFK Stadium. Interest by the membership of the WAPA in the event led to Panoz' invitation to speak to the group at the National Press Club.
Panoz, a successful entrepreneur, described to the WAPA audience the circumstances that led to him founding the American Le Mans Series. His involvement in racing came as a result of his son Danny's building and selling of the Panoz Roadster sports car through the family-owned Panoz Auto Development. Father and son agreed that sports car racing could be a way of infusing heritage into the Panoz automotive emblem and launched a racing team. The Panoz GTR-1 started racing in 1997 and Panoz found that his new racer was penalized under the ever-changing rules in sports car racing at the time.
His frustration with the state of the sport led to his founding of the American Le Mans Series, with a license granted by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizer of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. The license granted the use of ACO technical rules, which would be in force without constant changes, and the Le Mans name. The first use was the inaugural Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in 1998, and the series launched the next year.
After Panoz spoke to the WAPA group, Chris Lencheski, Founder and Chairman of National Grand Prix Holdings, described the multi-year process involved in bringing racing to Washington. Panoz and Lencheski answered questions from the group at the conclusion of their remarks.
The National Press Club, located on 14th Street off of Pennsylvania Avenue, has been a fixture in Washington since 1908. Seventeen consecutive United States Presidents have been members, and many have spoken at the club. Some of the speakers scheduled in February include former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton and author/comedian Al Franken.