Al Holbert

Motor Sports

Legendary IMSA, NASCAR and Indy-Car driver

Typically, an individual is inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame because they have accomplished one of three things: They performed at an elite level in their sport over several years; they had such an impact on their sport that they changed its very nature; or they built a successful team and elevated the performance of everyone around them. What makes Al Holbert extraordinary is that he did all three. Even more remarkably, he accomplished all three in a relatively short time frame: Al Holbert was tragically killed six weeks shy of his 42nd birthday when his plane crashed in Columbus, Ohio, on September 30, 1988. The Warrington, PA, native was a brilliant racing car driver. He began racing in 1971 with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Holbert won his first International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) championship in 1976 and continued racing with various organizations until his final race in August 1988. While he was still an active racer, he became the first Director of Motorsports for Porsche North America. He ran the highly successful Holbert Racing team and managed one of the first Porsche dealerships in the US. The three most challenging endurance races in the world are the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Holbert won all three, multiple times. He is one of only two drivers in history (with Hurley Haywood) to win all three of these races more than once. Holbert was an IMSA series champion five times. He also raced and had multiple top ten finishes in NASCAR. In 1984, he finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500. In 1986, he set a land speed record in a Porsche 928 S4 on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He was one of those rare drivers that could successfully race any type of car on any type of track. Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell once said of Holbert: “In the overall picture, to me, Al was the greatest all around driver I could have ever wished to drive with in my career. It's astonishing. He was so versatile. He was so quick as well.” Judged solely on his achievements as a racing car driver, Al Holbert is a Hall of Fame talent. But he was much more than just a (talented) driver. He left an indelible imprint on the sport of racing as well as the famous sports car maker Porsche. It is not hyperbole to suggest that Porsche would not be the company it is today without Al Holbert. The Holbert Racing team was one of the most successful teams in sports car racing history. As Director of Motorsports for Porsche North America, Holbert set the direction for all Porsche racing activities in North America. In summary, he helped build Porsche into the racing juggernaut that it is today. In 2021, Porsche Motorsport North America announced that the championship trophy for the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands would be known as the Al Holbert Cup. Series Manager Brian Blocker said: “The choice for the naming of the trophy was obvious: One of the people most associated with Porsche motorsports in North America – Al Holbert.” Al Holbert was an incredible racing car driver and a pioneer in the racing business but he was also a fantastic teammate that made everyone around him better. Two-time Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Daytona winner Al Unser, Jr. said of Al Holbert: “He just took me under his wing, and I got to know him as a man. He definitely helped my career. It wasn’t just winning Daytona twice and other races. He taught me so much when I was driving for him. And I was very young, 24 or 25 years old. Things that he taught me are still with me today, and he taught me as a person too.” Statistics and trophies and awards make it obvious that Al Holbert belongs in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. But these statistics, trophies, and awards only tell part of Al Holbert’s story. Ask any of his co-drivers, racing rivals, business partners, or Holbert Racing team members. They will all tell you the same thing: Al Holbert was a Hall of Fame man. By Joe Kucinski

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Charter Class (2004)

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