For decades, Jim Pace has been one of racing’s most appreciated personalities and respected wheelmen. The Mississippi native was generous in offering an encouraging smile; long considered one of sports car racing’s most approachable “good guys” in the paddock and equally well-respected for his huge talent on track.
On Nov. 13 – on the eve of the 2020 running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts – word came that Pace, 59, had died of COVID-19 complications. The heartbreak – felt from trackside to paddock, grandstands to pit lane – was evident at Sebring last weekend, a place where Pace earned two of his most celebrated victories and where a moment of silence was held in his memory prior to Saturday’s race.
Lyn St. James, a longtime racing icon, recalled time spent with Pace over the years as she was being inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame during the race weekend.
“Jim was just a larger-than-life personality, very kind and smart,’’ St. James said. “Being here at Sebring and inducted into the Hall of Fame here today, I can’t equate it in my head. He was young and he was vital. I don’t understand it. It’s a huge loss, not just to the racing community.
“He was just a super, super guy, one of life’s people that makes things happen.’’
Pace indeed spent many days and years at the venerable track in Central Florida – racing and winning himself and also teaching the craft to scores of aspiring drivers. In a career that spanned four decades, he was as beloved by those he taught as by those he raced against – no small feat in and of itself.
Initially, Pace had planned to become a doctor and even completed three years of medical school in his native Mississippi. But his fondness for racing and natural ability behind the wheel of a race car compelled him to fast track another career.
Pace started racing professionally in the Barber Saab Pro Series, then made his way…