By Holly Cain
Inspiration was not a problem for renowned Atlanta artist Ashley Dopson. Commissioned by IMSA to paint a mural at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta honoring Hispanic sports-car drivers for Hispanic Heritage Month, Dopson says she had the best of all worlds: the ultimate combination of a worthy subject and iconic images to depict.
The result of her work is a massive, colorful celebration of IMSA’s Hispanic diversity over the years, which highlights four of racing’s heroes – former IMSA GTP driver Juan Manuel Fangio II, of Argentina; IMSA GTO champion Luis Mendez, of the Dominican Republic; three-time IMSA champion and current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM points leader Antonio Garcia, of Spain; and one of the all-time most versatile racing superstars, reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, of Colombia.
Their cars, set against the famed Atlanta skyline in the background, are depicted in a vibrant nod to the important and diverse contributions from Hispanic drivers over the years of IMSA competition.
The artwork makes its much-anticipated debut this week at the Motul Petit Le Mans, the famed 10-hour race that features a wide array of racing talent from multiple series and diverse backgrounds.
"When I do Spanish art, there is always a lot of color and the style has a lot of geometric triangles and repeating lines, so I put that in the background to kind of show this rising Hispanic sun behind the city,” Dopson explained of her work. "The colors are an important deal to me because I feel whenever I think of Hispanic culture, I think of how vibrant it is, how colorful it is. That’s the first thing that comes to mind is all the colors.
"I hope they like the mural. I wanted to do them justice.”
The result of Dopson’s inspired artwork – a 15-hour project painted under the track’s Fox Bridge using exterior latex paint and gloss – is a celebration of the Hispanic talent that has long existed in the IMSA paddock. The artwork’s unveiling comes at the October 15 conclusion to the annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated in the United States.
"Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta has been fortunate enough to see some of the biggest international names in motorsports compete at this racetrack over the decades,” said Rick Humphrey, Michelin Raceway president and general manager.
"In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the diverse backgrounds of the legends who have raced here, we’re proud to display this Hispanic heritage mural for the teams and fans to see as a tribute to Hispanic and Latino culture. Hispanic drivers and racing personnel are a part of Michelin Raceway’s history, and we’re thankful for the impacts they have made and continue to make."
Although Dopson has never previously attended a race at Michelin Raceway – any race, for that matter – just learning about the competitors and cars she painted and enjoying the unique scenery of the beautiful race course north of her Atlanta hometown has resulted in another important creation for the artist. She enthusiastically designated herself and her brother Jason, who helped her on the project, as new race fans.
"Everybody there was so nice, and we thought this is fun and kind of really cool,” she said. "My brother and I were like, ‘We want to go to a race.”’
Most importantly, Dopson is hopeful her inspired work will be a reminder of the major impact that Hispanic drivers and their culture have had on auto racing.