LIR Immortalized on Canvas

It's not everyday that your favorite old haunt gets rendered on canvas, but the ghost of drag racing past still remembers Lakeland International Raceway.

Coincidentally, so do a lot of the rest of us. Last Thursday, the civic minded folks at Trustmark Bank, felt it was time to acknowledge their bond with the Lakeland community whose financial needs they've served for the past 25 years. Lakeland has been a unique and growing development due east of Memphis for over 50 years. Trustmark Bank wanted to connect with something that was unique to the area, something that made an impact, something with a true history... and after a little reflection, the natural subject was our long lost drag strip that made life-long race fans out of so many of us in the mid-south. Branch manager Nancy Harrell spearheaded the project and it resulted in a commissioned painting from local artist John Sadowski that brings back a lot of memories for some of us, and is a window into the past for others.

The unveiling of John's painting was made to a select audience that happened to include some of the very individuals that made Lakeland a special place so many years ago. Notice Memphis International Raceway PR director Glynn Williford as he enthusiastically recounts youthful experiences at the traction capital of the south, and acknowledges the presence of funny car pioneer Larry Reyes, and Lakeland co-owner Bill Taylor in the audience. Glynn also asked Bill to give some background information on Lakeland's history to the collected crowd. Then, Nancy Harrell introduced John Sadowski and they unveiled the painting together to a room full of smiles. Looks like a pretty familiar scene to me, from the days when Lakeland was home to the premier race track in the Memphis area, and a little bit more of a rural escape than it is now. John's description of the research he did regarding his subject matter also revealed that he attended races at Lakeland and even witnessed Larry Reyes plying his trade on the storied quarter-mile drag strip. John seemed genuinely pleased and surprised to have such close connections on-hand, and when I spoke to him during mingle time, it appeared that he was actually a closeted gearhead himself. Note the Two-lane Blacktop inspired 55 Chevy vs a Stone Woods & Cook-like Willys gasser representing two decades of purist drag racing on the oil painted canvas. I take this as pretty solid evidence that John understands Lakeland's history. Get an eyeful of John's expressive rendering of Lakeland below, and contact him through his website should you feel a need for a Giclée edition for your own personal art gallery.