CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF RACING EXCELLENCE
bypass the chicane before The Keyhole)
remains the same flowing and undulating
ribbon he cut into the clay in the fall of ’61.
With only a gravel base laid, the Ohio
winter called a halt to the work, but the
hands-on Griebling and every volunteer he
and his friends could muster started again in
March of ’62, building four miles of spectator
fencing, a two-story cement block timing and
control tower, a technical inspection area
and a rudimentary, but lighted paddock.
Coming from hardy, eastern European
farming stock, Griebling wasn’t afraid to
throw himself into whatever manual work
was required, but even he drew the line at
laying the 3,400 tons of asphalt... A pro
crew set to work on that in the final week
of June and, July 1, 1962, America’s newest
natural-terrain road course was ready to go.
First event was the inaugural race
school, with 60 entries flooding in for the
two days of intensive instruction on the
2.4-mile, 15-turn track. The sun shone, the
rain poured – typical Mid-Ohio weather,
“It keeps you thinking,
it’s physically demanding.
It’s definitely one of
America’s classic tracks”
really – and choking dust turned to mud,
but the layout drew rave reviews.
A Northeast Ohio SCCA regional on July
18-19, attracting an eclectic entry, was the
first real race meeting. Afterward, the
consensus was that Griebling had pulled
o; something very special indeed. As
SCCA’s SportsCar magazine succinctly put it:
“Lots of entries...people...dust...fun.”
It didn’t take long for the track to become
a fixture in some of North America’s biggest
touring series. In 1967, the muscle cars of
Trans-Am paid their first visit, Jerry Titus’
hairy Mustang heading o; pole-sitter and
moonlighting NASCAR legend David
Pearson in a Mercury Cougar.
In 1969, the big-money,
big-banger sports cars of the Can-Am
Challenge Cup shook the Mid-Ohio
earth for the first time, Denny
Hulme heading them home in his
thundering McLaren M8B-Chevrolet.
In a golden era for both series in
the late ’60s and early ’70s, June
at Mid-Ohio meant Trans-Am,
while August was Can-Am time,
with 40,000 fans regularly packing
the place to see the likes of Hulme,
Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue,
George Follmer and Jackie Stewart
hustling their mighty machines
through The Carousel, The Esses
and The Keyhole.
Formula 5000, 1974: Mario Andretti
leads the eventual winner, Brian Redman.
Mid-O Highs: Three-time Formula
5000 winner (1974-’76) and
1981 IMSA GTP winner
For some reason, Mid-Ohio was the
luckiest track for me in the world. For
a long, long period of time, I finished
either first or second – I couldn’t go
wrong. It was a great track for me.
It’s a challenging track and not an
easy one to overtake on. I always tried
to set a car up with as little downforce
as I could comfortably manage in order
to have straightaway speed and make
my moves at the end of the straight.
Mid-O Highs: Three-time
IMSA GTP winner (1984-’86,
co-driven by Al Holbert)
My first race there was in ’73. Lothar
Motschenbacher asked me to drive
his McLaren Can-Am car, so why not?
At the end of the first heat, I was
absolutely exhausted and I had to lay
on a bed of ice to bring my body
temperature down. I had no energy, I
was absolutely wiped out, and I just
remember thinking, “Bloody hell,
we’ve got another race in an hour!”
RACER.com MID-OHIO@50 3