944Fest is coming up over Labor Day Weekend – a couple of weeks. We have been a part of this event for the past couple of years, but unfortunately we cannot make it this year. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU CAN’T GO! The event features a track day on Friday coupled with other activities continuing into the weekend. Or you can continue with a PCA Driver Education weekend for even more track time. And it’s not too late to make the trip to Northeastern Ohio and Nelson Ledges Race Course – go to 944Fest.com and start packing!
The 944Fest is an annual event bringing people and cars together from across the continent. At 944Fest, attendees have the opportunity showcase their Porsche 944s both on and off the track. You will see everything from the rarest 944 examples to the funkiest home-built restomods. All are welcome and appreciated. Activities include an on track HPDE event, Poker Rally, Tech Talks, A Car Show, Camping and Food.
The 944Fest is held at the legendairy Nelson Ledges Road Course, the very racetrack where the 944 Turbo made it’s US racing debut. You can feel the weight of history as you stroll the same paddock where Rick Hurst and Freddy Baker went head to head in some of the first Porsche 944s. You may even find yourself chatting it up with some of the crew, they’ll be there.
Nelson Ledges Race Course
Nelson Ledges Race Course is a historic race track that curiously hosted the first event where a 944 competed. Located in northeastern Ohio. Nelson Ledges Road Course was constructed in 1958 on a small rural potato farm outside of Warren, Ohio. There was no design plan, no million-dollar study, and no million-dollar contracts with architects, engineers or planners. It was two men (Marvin Drucker and John McGill) and a bulldozer with an idea to build a race track. The original track was dirt and only 1 mile in length. Paving came next and then the addition of “The Carousel” in 1962. Later the bridge was added, the pit lane was extended and paved, and the tires were added for barriers around the track. It is considered one of, if not, the fastest tracks in the country.
SCCA’s Trans Am series made 3 annual visits to the track in 1975, 1976 and 1977. John Greenwood, George Follmer, and Bob Hagestad won these prestigious events with the likes of Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood, Bob Tullius, and Al Holbert in quick chase.
A couple years later, John McGill, Grover Griggs, Ann McHugh, and a whole slew of other instigators had a crazy idea to hold a 24-hour race for purely showroom stock vehicles. Hence, the Longest Day of Nelson was conceived in 1980. The list of competitors over the next 16 years reads like a who’s who of North American motorsports. Hurley Haywood would return. John Greenwood would return. John Heinricy, Andy Pilgrim, The Archer brothers, John and Jeff Andretti, Parker Johnstone, Price Cobb, Mark Dismore, Janet Guthrie, Danny Sullivan, and the Nonnamaker family all put in a lot of laps at night around this track.
Micheal Andretti went to his SCCA driver’s school here as well as Peter Cunningham and Micheal Galati. Also, Nelson is not absent of celebrity appearances. John Oates (of Hall and Oates) Tom Cruise, and even Steve McQueen have made appearances behind the wheel here. But Nelson is most revered by the visits from Paul Newman. Many people can remember many evenings after the racing was done for the day, the spectators were gone for the evening, and the beer was being swilled. This was when Mr. Newman himself would come join the communal campfire with the workers, racers and officials.
Nelson Ledges is one of the very few of its kind left in the country. Most tracks today have changed and lost their original character. It’s a herald back to classic race tracks not cookie cutter designs that we see today. Bridgehampton, Stardust, and Meadowdale are long since gone but Nelson has remained Nelson, and will continue to be a Nelson forever.
Thursday September 1st:
12:00 PM – Early arrival begins, overnight camping available
7:00PM – 944Fest event tent setup (Come lend a hand if you’re early)
Friday September 2nd:
7:00 AM – Track vehicle tech begins
8:00 AM – Driver / Instructor meeting at the tech shed
8:30 AM – First 944Fest DE sessions begin
12:30 PM – Break for lunch, pizza provided at the tech shed
1:30 PM – Track sessions continue
5:00 PM – Last track session ends
5:30 PM – 944 on track photo sessions and parade lap (all 944s welcome)
9:00 PM – Bonfire in camping area
Saturday September 3rd:
8:30 AM – 9Fest DE Sessions continue
9:00 AM – Poker Run meeting at 944Fest event tent
9:30AM – Rally teams start heading out
3:00 PM – Car show around 944Fest event tent
5:00 PM – Brisket Pork and Ribs & Nelson Ledges Tech Shed
6:00 PM – Door prize drawings and awards at 944Fest event tent
9:00 PM – Bonfire & Beer Swap in camping area
Sunday September 4th:
8:30 AM – 9Fest DE Sessions continue
Have a BEER OR THREE FOR US!
We lived 20 minutes from that track for 42 years. Drove that track often for 30 years as instructor with my 944. Now we live in Ormond Beach and the 944 is retired and sleeping in my garage.
Fred Baker ( I see him several time, last month at Mid Ohio ) won the 24 HR race in an 83 944. Also written up by Popular Mechanics. I have pictures someplace? My friend Dave Pierson was the mechanic with Porsche support and still has a lot of stuff at his house. Fred Baker used to own a Porsche Dealership, now owned by Roger Penske.