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News Story
Updated: 03/18/2017 08:30:02AM

Avid fan to rest at Raceway — forever

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PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

'The Pit Crew' for the 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, fueled by 'Fresh from Florida,' carries on the tradition started by George Petrick. They are, crouching, Chuck Whalen and Chris Kinslow, and standing from left to right, Zach Nevlett, Dave Weaver Sr., Chris Goodall, Steve Petrick (George's son), Jim Hoffman, Joe Hernandez Sr., Joe Hernandez Jr., Dave Weaver Jr., Louis Garcia and Dan Coryan.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

Steve Petrick holds two vials of George Petrick's ashes, his father, in preparation to spread those ashes at the Sebring International Raceway start/finish line and hairpin turn after Friday's fireworks display. The elder Petrick, who died Feb. 18, had never missed a race since 1953.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

The Petrick family, center, took pride in its own 'Pit Cruiser,' but loved the strange creations of many other fans at the annual 12 Hours of Sebring.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

George Petrick, second from the right, and members of 'The Pit Crew' with their annual vehicle creation, the 'Pit Cruiser.' Petrick, who never missed a 12 Hours of Sebring, died Feb. 18. With permission from the Sebring International Raceway, he will have some of his ashes spread on the track at the start/finish line and the hairpin turn.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

After his son became of member of the U.S. Secret Service, George Petrick, on left, and his wife, Gail, got an opportunity to visit the White House Situation Room during the Obama Administration. Here they are in the president's chair.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

After his son became of member of the U.S. Secret Service, George Petrick, on left, and his wife, Gail, got an opportunity to visit the White House Situation Room during the Obama Administration. Here they are in the president's chair.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

'The Pit Crew' for the 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, fueled by 'Fresh from Florida,' carries on the tradition started by George Petrick. They are, crouching, Chuck Whalen and Chris Kinslow, and standing from left to right, Zach Nevlett, Dave Weaver Sr., Chris Goodall, Steve Petrick (George's son), Jim Hoffman, Joe Hernandez Sr., Joe Hernandez Jr., Dave Weaver Jr., Louis Garcia and Dan Coryan.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

'The Pit Crew' for the 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, fueled by 'Fresh from Florida,' carries on the tradition started by George Petrick. They are, crouching, Chuck Whalen and Chris Kinslow, and standing from left to right, Zach Nevlett, Dave Weaver Sr., Chris Goodall, Steve Petrick (George's son), Jim Hoffman, Joe Hernandez Sr., Joe Hernandez Jr., Dave Weaver Jr., Louis Garcia and Dan Coryan.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

Steve Petrick holds two vials of George Petrick's ashes, his father, in preparation to spread those ashes at the Sebring International Raceway start/finish line and hairpin turn after Friday's fireworks display. The elder Petrick, who died Feb. 18, had never missed a race since 1953.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

The Petrick family, center, took pride in their own 'Pit Cruiser,' but loved the strange creations of many other fans at the annual 12 Hours of Sebring.

PHIL ATTINGER/STAFF

After his son became of member of the U.S. Secret Service, George Petrick, on left, and his wife, Gail, got an opportunity to visit the White House Situation Room during the Obama Administration. Here they are in the president's chair.

PHIL ATTINGER

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SEBRING — An avid fan who never missed a 12 Hours of Sebring visited again this year to stay — for good.

George “Pat” Petrick of St. Petersburg, who never missed the annual Sebring race since 1953, died on Feb. 18 at age 78. His son, Steve Petrick, also a diehard fan, saw to it — with help from Sebring International Raceway General Manager Wayne Estes — that he could spread some of his dad’s ashes on the start/finish line and hairpin turn.

George Petrick actually didn’t move to Florida until 1964. With dual bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Drexel University, he was an accomplished aerospace engineer who contributed to development of rocket technology for NASA’s early space exploration efforts, satellite communications, and propulsion for the F-22 Raptor. His passions, outside of family, were boating and auto racing.

The father’s love for motorsport apparently established his son’s lifelong friendships. Steve Petrick said his dad first brought him to the race in 1981, when he was in fifth grade. Entering high school, he went from a public to private school and found himself without close friends.

High school friend Chris Goodall said his father first brought him to the race at age 9. While at the race in 1984, at age 14, Goodall said he and some friends came out of the arcade on the Midway to find Steve Petrick, the new guy at school. From then on, the two have belonged to a cadre of five or more inseparable friends.

“It brought us together,” Goodall said. “If it wasn’t for my Dad, I wouldn’t have five of my friends here.”

At Sebring, the Petrick family and friends took the name “The Pit Crew,” with a different vehicle each year called the “Pit Cruiser.” The first year was a Ford LTD, but subsequent years the Cruiser was a cut-down passenger van.

Over the years, Steve Petrick connected to Sebring Raceway in other ways. In high school, he helped build the track at the Tampa World Challenge. When that closed down, he would come over from St. Petersburg to Sebring Raceway to work on weekends. After college, Steve Petrick raced for five years with the SCCA in a 1964 Triumph Spitfire.

Goodall currently owns a different 1964 Triumph — the one George Petrick had when he and his wife first moved to Florida from California. It turns out they moved just one week before the 12 Hours of Sebring. Goodall said George Petrick got a hotel room for his wife and drove alone to the race in that Triumph.

He never missed a race, Steve Petrick said.

George Petrick, who is originally from Baltimore, is survived by his wife, Gail Grimes-Petrick; sons, Steve and PJ; Sister, Betty; and his beloved dog, Max. The family did not hold a service, per se, Steve Petrick said. The ceremony at Sebring Raceway, however, was open to all fans.


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