A different type of Sebring tradition

12 Hours of Sebring is all about tradition.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida is all about tradition. Which means different things to different people.

Over in Turn 3 Saturday, a family was gathered once again, having returned to an event that annually supplies several days of healing.

Trackside ambiance
Trackside ambiance

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

They come every year to the Twelve Hours for their own tradition, honoring the memory of Edwin P. Lawrence, an aspiring road racer from Clarkston, Mich., whose name has become part of Sebring International Raceway lore for the most unfortunate of reasons.

In March 1959, during night practice for the race, Lawrence zipped off pit road for his first-ever lap on the historic circuit -- and never came back. After approximately 90 seconds of track time, he lost control of his Maserati approaching the then-notorious hairpin and flipped eight times. The car explored in a fireball. The inferno was so severe, safety workers never had a chance to get to Lawrence.

Lawrence left a wife, Joan, and three sons, back home in Waterford, Mich. Years later, Joan got remarried to another racer and a friend of her late husband, Dean Voltmer. In 1995, Joan and Dean moved to Sebring. Soon, the tradition began: the family rolling into town and everyone camping outside of Turn 3. And on Thursday night of race week, during night practice, they started going over near the hairpin, taking champagne, toasting Edwin P. Lawrence. Several years ago Joan said she felt that "every time we go over to the hairpin, Ed's watching over us."

This past Thursday night, the tradition was renewed -- without Joan. She died last May at the age of 82. Her children did what they felt they must. In the chill of a Central Florida night, they walked quietly out to the hairpin, wiped away tears and spread some of Joan’s ashes across the grass.

"She would want that," said Scott Lawrence, who was only five weeks old when his father died. He expects the family tradition, now and forever a toast to both his parents, will continue.

"Have to be here…have to be," he said.

NASCAR Wire Service

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About this article
Series IMSA
Drivers Eric Gilbert
Article type Analysis
Tags ben keating, matteo malucelli, sebring 12, tusc