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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Lime Rock Park begins 66th season with Trans Am Memorial Day Classic

LAKEVILLE – Tom Sheehan, a New Hampshire resident, used to drive down to Lime Rock Park every Thursday, run his car on the racetrack all day, and then make the three-and-a-half hour trip back so he could go to work Friday morning.

He would come by himself and park his little enclosed trailer with his homemade race car right next to the legendary Paul Newman’s. Whenever Sheehan had to fix something on the car, Newman would send over one of his guys to help him out.

On Wednesday, ahead of the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park that begins Friday, Sheehan’s yellow No. 97 Ford Mustang sat next to a much larger trailer, one that even has room for a hot dog roller grill and a fridge.

He feels a connection Lime Rock Park, which he considers his home track and is where he won his first race.

Trans Am driver Tom Sheehan behind the wheel of Lime Rock Park's Mazda Miata. (Joe Arruda/Hartford Courant)
Trans Am driver Tom Sheehan goes for a ride in Lime Rock Park’s Mazda Miata ahead of the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic in Lakeville. (Joe Arruda/Hartford Courant)

“This was where my passion and drive to just get better and work hard, this is where I sort of made an example of it. I made the effort to get up early, get down here, run my car, get home, be at dinner with my wife. And all I was thinking about was not how tired I was, it was just, ‘Well, this is what I want to try next Thursday,” he said after taking media members for a thrilling ride around the infield course.

Sheehan will be in the field on Saturday to race the 1.53-mile course during the Memorial Day Classic, which marks the start of the 66th season at Lime Rock Park.

“Memorial Day Weekend at Lime Rock Park could not be more special,” Lime Rock Park CEO Dicky Riegal said. “Could not be a better opportunity for families to come out here and enjoy this great facility, our beautiful Litchfield County hillsides.”

Riegal has a photo on his computer of his son Richard, five years old at the time, at the racetrack when he first started bringing his family on Memorial Day weekend more than 20 years ago. Standing on the spectator hillside, Richard turned to his father and said: ‘”Daddy, this is the best day of my whole life.”‘

“Over five years, that’s not a long life at that point,” Riegal quipped, “but the fact that it was his best day and the picture was right there, really obviously tugs at my heartstrings.”

The four-day Memorial Day event celebrates American Horsepower and International Classic cars with variety of races taking place Friday, Saturday and Monday.

On Saturday only, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., the “World of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman” museum-like exhibit will be open to showcase some of the items that will be auctioned off as part of Newman’s estate, including two of his Rolex Daytona watches, a selection of helmets, racing suits and other memorabilia that Newman used during his career. Lime Rock Park is the final stop on the exhibit’s tour as a nod to Newman’s relationship with the racetrack.

There will also be two car shows hosted at the track on Sunday as well as the second annual CT Craft Beer Grand Prix.

“I love Lime Rock, it’s a bullring,” Sheehan said. “It’s a busy lap and there’s another one coming right afterwards – there’s no rest, there’s no breaks at Lime Rock… It’s a war. You’re busy at Lime Rock the whole entire time. If you pit, you’re going down a lap. There’s no strategy other than just get up on the wheel and drive as hard as you can.”

66th season at Lime Rock Park
Trans Am Memorial Day Classic

When: Friday-Monday

Where: Lime Rock Park, Lakeville

Friday: Races begin 10:05 a.m.

Saturday: Races begin 10:05 a.m.

Sunday: CT Craft Brew Grand Prix, two car shows

Monday: Racing begins 9:05 a.m.

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