The history of the MARRS Series is a fascinating story. Like so many SCCA accomplishments, MARRS owes its creation in 1976 to a corps of dedicated members who were searching for a way to add glitz and glamour to a marginal Regional racing program at Summit Point.
Racing in the Washington, D.C. Region began in 1955 at a new road course, Marlboro Motor Raceway, in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The so-called Tobbaccoland Circuit was originally 0.7 mile but was quickly lengthened to 1.6 miles. In 1960, the D.C. Region decided to establish a Regional Championship racing program that would give depth and continuity to the schedule of local racing. Regional Championship programs in all the popular classes were created. Points were awarded in each class and year-end Championship honors went to the highest placed driver.
Regional racing then consisted of a somewhat loose series of events conducted at Marlboro at monthly intervals throughout the year. The “season” regularly commenced with the Refrigerator Bowl races each January and concluded with the Turkey Bowl races the following November. At the top of the Marlboro heap was the annual National Championship event. For awhile this race was graced by the awarding of the President’s Cup to the winner of the feature race (the first time it was given at the White House). Later, it was transformed to the Governor’s Cup with the presentation held at the Maryland Governor’s office in Annapolis. Up until 1960, there were only twelve or so such distinguished events throughout the U.S., and the Washington D.C. Region and Marlboro were fortunate in snagging a coveted sanction.
In 1960, SCCA launched a new Divisional Championship series with races spread among tracks in each of the Club’s geographic divisions. In an effort to broaden the sport and increase the acceptance of Club racing, it was decided to have a National series for champions from each Division, rather than from a select but limited number of national races. For example, at that time there were several H Production Champions, each recognized by his SCCA class and Division. All of this helped set the stage for a new expanded and more dynamic program of Regional racing.
With the demise of Marlboro Motor Raceway in the late 60’s, the home track for the D.C. Region became the new Summit Point Raceway in Summit Point, WV. The first event was held there in 1969. The owners of Summit Point who threatened to shut the track down unless more revenue was soon forthcoming precipitated the clamor for more spectators and more entrants. This ultimatum sent the Washington D.C. Region on a frantic search for new ways to bring in more spectators, more drivers, and more publicity to the West Virginia circuit. The answer came in the form of the new Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series, or MARRS, which was essentially a new name with wider appeal for the former Regional Championship program. The new name was designed to add spice and awareness to the racing - and wonder of wonders, the new title worked. It took a lot of hard work to market the new name and series, including setting up a network of advance ticket sales outlets, searching for air time to promote the series on the radio, designing and distributing posters about MARRS events, and promoting car shows revolving around the MARRS theme. To add further appeal to what was considered a somewhat routine program of 5 and 15 lap races, new 25 lap features were added to the weekend race program for various classes, such as Showroom Stock cars, the 2.5 liter Challenge, Formula Fords, and others. Gradually, but surely, the luster of MARRS racing caught on throughout the Northeast as drivers migrated south to Summit Point for coveted points, a season-end championship in an important series, and the then novel concept of “hassle-free” racing. Entries that had averaged about 125 cars prior to 1976 began to grow. A new financial break-even entry of 140 cars per race was soon reached and then extended. By the late 1990's, entries had grown to over 275 cars per event.
The expansion of the series beyond Summit Point added to the success of MARRS. The record shows that the Western New York Region organized the first out-of-Region MARRS race on May 26-27, 1979 at Nelson Ledges. Thereafter, several other Regions regularly began to bid for the privilege of holding a MARRS race in anticipation of larger entries (which meant more revenue). Tracks used during the history of the series include not only Nelson Ledges, but also Watkins Glen International Raceway, Pocono International Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Connellsville Airport in Connellsville, PA, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and most recently, Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Danville, VA.
For the first three years, all MARRS races were held at Summit Point, and the first one, MARRS I-I, was held April 24-25, 1976. Ed Barbour, who won the opening 15-lap race on the program in his FVee Link, accumulated the very first MARRS points that weekend. Some of that weekend’s other competitors are still contesting MARRS events. Names you might recognize include Rod Larson who won both the 5 and 15 lap races in H Production. Skip Reber placed third in C Sports Racer in a Lotus. Dave Roethel placed fifth in Showroom Stock B in the MARRS race and third in the 25 lap feature in an Opel Manta. There were four other MARRS races in 1976. That total of five grew to as many as ten per year in later years. Full fields and close racing in all the groups is a hallmark of the series.
Today, the MARRS series has between seven and nine events each year. Most are held at Summit Point Motoraports Park, but two or three events are held at other tracks to add some variety and challenge to the Championship. A spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship is prevalent at all the races and it binds the community together. A good time at the track is virtually guaranteed at a MARRS event.
MARRS is a proven winner and deserves congratulations on its success. Word of the series has spread far and wide and it is applauded and envied across the country. The secret to the success of the series is the hard work, dedication and, most of all, the participation of the D.C. Region members.
Special thanks to Dave Roethel, D.C. Region Historian, for providing his valuable input on this piece.