Since moving to the United States 25 years ago, Johan Schwartz has created a karting series and entered the Guinness Book of World Records. But it wasn’t until this year that the Huntersville resident added an SCCA driving championship to his racing resume.
In Schwartz’s first full season in the Sports Car Club of America’s Pirelli World Challenge, the Denmark native claimed the TCB championship for production cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic, which he piloted. The 48-year-old Schwartz plans to return to the Pirelli World Challenge Series in 2016, but looks to move up to either the TC or GTS class.
“I would also like to do Global Rallycross or Trans-Am,” said Schwartz, a two-time champion in the National Auto Sport Association.
Schwartz began his racing career on the family farm in Denmark after the fields were harvested and the ponds frozen.
“I drove a lot on ice,” Schwartz recalled. “My dad was not fond of cold weather. He would ask me to go out and warm up his car (on cold mornings), so I would take it out on the ice and drive on it until he waved me in. Sometimes it could easily be an hour until he would flag me in. I had some good times on the ice there.”
While living in Europe, Schwartz competed in Rallycross and Formula Ford 1600. After serving two years in Denmark’s military and completing two years of college, he decided to finish his college education in the United States, settling on Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. He went there for two reasons: He liked the school and it was near Daytona.
Upon his arrival in the U.S., he introduced a lap-timing product to several NASCAR drivers who used it as a stopwatch in their cars in the early 1990s. Schwartz installed the system in cars driven by Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Alan Kulwicki.
After Schwartz acquired his MBA at the University of Massachusetts, he worked for Fidelity and Mullens Advertising, but a full-time job in racing kept tugging at him. While writing articles about racing schools in the U.S. for a Scandinavian magazine, Schwartz decided in 2001 to create Endurance Karting, an arrive-and-drive program with events on the East Coast.
Schwartz operated Endurance Karting for more than a decade before selling it in 2013 to a Georgia company. He was competing in Grand-Am’s ST class at the time and wanting to spend more time with his family.
“There are only so many things you can do on a weekend,” the father of two said.
About the same time at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, S.C., Schwartz set the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous drift – 51.278 miles. The precision driving instructor for BMW kept the car sideways for that long on the skid pad at BMW’s South Carolina facility where he works 10-12 days a month.
Even though Schwartz possesses a world record and three championships, there are still a few achievementsthings in racing he would like to accomplish. One is competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
“That was the first race I attended when I came to the states and I knew I wanted to do it,” Schwartz said. “I have done some 24-hour races at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and some go-kart 24-hour races in France, England and Portugal. A lot of different car races, but not the Rolex.”
Haas Says More Development in Kannapolis Possible
When race team owner Gene Haas was asked why he based his Formula One operation in Kannapolis, he said it was a “great working class community” and there’s even more future development that his company could pursue in Cabarrus County.
The industrialist also said he had been in the county for more than 10 years and the land was available.
“Our experiences in Kannapolis have all been very positive,” Haas said. “We built the F1 shop before we obtained our (Formula One) license. We employed a lot of people in construction. We also employ people in the UK and Italy. Initially, our expectations were to do everything out of Kannapolis.”
However, that changed as the Formula One team developed. Still, Haas believes as everything progresses more employment will return to the Kannapolis F1 facility, but at a slower pace than anticipated.
“Right now we have some pretty high engineering people here,” Haas said.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.