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2004 Annual Report

2004


Greetings from San Clemente, California

And the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”

 

2004 Trackchasing Annual Report

 

 

 

This past year has been my biggest year ever in trackchasing.  I thank each and every one of you for reading along with me as I visited racetracks all over the world.  As you can probably tell, the hobby for me is more about “The Amazing Race” than the racing itself.  I enjoy the challenge of getting from point A to point B as well as meeting the people along the way. 

 

Have you traveled anywhere out of state this year?  Maybe a time or two?  Starting the first week of March in 2004, I have traveled out of state EVERY week for 46 consecutive weeks.  Forty-one of those weeks included getting a new track (through mid-January 2005).  The other five weeks involved UCLA basketball games, Mother’s Day and a Panama Canal cruise.  Of the records I have set this year, traveling out of state each and every week for 46 straight weeks is probably the most unusual.

 

For some reason, the actual racing entertainment at the tracks has really gone down hill.  I believe the decline in the entertainment at each program is why I switched from being a “racechaser” to a “trackchaser”.  In trackchasing, I can experience the thrill of getting to a new place each time I go to a racetrack.  Many times that thrill fades quickly after the first race is in the books.  That’s OK.  If the track is terrible, I never have to go back. 

 

I still have 1,054 tracks in the United States and Canada that I have not seen.  I should be able to experience that new track thrill for a long time into the future.  That being said, if I keep up with my 2004 pace I would see all of the remaining 1,054 tracks in just about eight years.  Then what would I do?  I guess I better slow down a bit, so I can still be seeing new tracks when I’m 80 years old!

 

I wanted to share with you the highlights of my 2004 record-breaking trackchasing season.  Here they are:

 

Total new tracks seen:  127

Total states visited 23

Total countries visited 3

 

Track breakout

 

Dirt ovals – 68

Figure 8 tracks – 21

Road Course tracks – 20

Asphalt ovals – 16

Kart tracks – 1

Indoor tracks – 1

 

Day/Night doubles – 18

Blended doubles – 11

Same location doubles – 9

Traditional doubles – 2

 

Race days completely rained out – 7

 

There were several states/countries where I established new personal bests for seeing new tracks.  The first number is my track total for this year.  The second number is my previous best number of new tracks in that state:

 

Arizona 5-4

Florida 8-7

Illinois 13-5

Indiana 7-4

Kansas 3-1

Mississippi 3-2

Missouri 7-4

Nebraska 7-3

Pennsylvania 18-5

Tennessee 7-2

Australia 6-1

United Kingdom 11-9

 

I traveled 28,039 miles in a rental car, 995 miles in friend’s cars, 3,729 in my car, 6,431 on a cruise ship and 111,400 miles on an airplane to get to the 127 tracks.  That makes a total of 150,594 miles in total.  Unlike 2003, I did not get any speeding tickets during the entire year.  I spent about 85 nights in a hotel/motel with trackchasing trips.  I’m not sure how much money I spent doing this, but it couldn’t have been that much because I still have three checks in my pocket.

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY, 2004

 

 No new tracks

 

I didn’t see any new tracks in January.  I did make it to Arizona for some winter racing with my brother, Mark, but we went to a track I have been too many times before.  I spent most of my time in January pouring over track websites to find tracks I could visit during the year.  This is a very time consuming process.  Of the 1,054 tracks that I have not been too, 685 of them have websites.  The quality of each site varies dramatically.  However, without the internet, my trackchasing production and strategy would be much different.  As you can see, there is not much trackchasing activity in January by anyone.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – JANUARY
FERRELL

3

   
ESSER

2

   
SMITH

2

   

 

 

 

FEBRUARY, 2004

 

No new tracks

 

When is my trackchasing season ever going to get started?  Again, no new tracks in February.  I didn’t go to any races in the entire month.  I did continue to peruse those track websites.  I also explore race-sanctioning groups for their scheduling information.  NASCAR and the Indy Racing League (IRL) are examples of racing sanctioning groups.  I have 400 or 500 sanctioning group websites in my database. 

 

I’m not even listed in the season standings.  Is it possible that Will White could hold onto the 2004 trackchasing title?  It’s a long season.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – FEBRUARY
WHITE

11

   
ESSER

9

   
ERDMANN

6

   

 

 

 

MARCH, 2004

 

5 new tracks – 1 state – TX

 

 

Finally, I saw my first new track of the year on March 19 in Waco, Texas!  I try to visit as many local attractions as I can on my trackchasing trips.  Unfortunately, I missed the Branch Dividian Complex.  I’ll see that next time.  I also enjoy touring college campuses on these trips.  I was able to tour Texas A&M and Russ Ingram’s Texas Tech.  I listen to the radio quite a bit when I’m driving.  In small markets you get to hear some real down home programs, such as the “garage sale” shows.  People call up and offer their junk to anyone who will buy it.  Maybe this is where Ebay started.  There are also shows that share “good ideas”.  Here’s a memorable one on how to remove the scent of skunk, “Take one cup of urine, one cup of vinegar and one gallon of water and mix”.  I would suggest using a liberal dose of Fabreze (a Procter & Gamble product) if you spill any of the skunk scent mixture”.

 

I saw my first day/night trackchasing double of the season.   This type of double is likely to provide the most and best racing of any of the four major types of doubles.  I also saw my first blended double of the season.  Although controversial to some, I’m confident the BD provides more and better racing at both tracks than most same track doubles or traditional doubles.  The entire Texas trip took 40 hours and 55 minutes of travel time compared to just 8 hours at the track.  That ratio is very typical of most trackchasing trips.  This is why I maintain the hobby is more about travel than racing.

 

At this point in the year with only five tracks, I’m getting my butt kicked.  Ed Esser is the third leader of the 2004 season in three months.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – MARCH
ESSER

19

   
WHITE

15

   
FERRELL

9

   

 

 

 

APRIL, 2004

 

17 new tracks – 3 states – FL, NY, PA and the United Kingdom

 

April began with a golfing trip in Florida.  I went with fraternity brothers Mike Skonicki, Phil Thompson and Bob Vorel.  After golf and a visit to a pipe organ venue, the brothers were willing to indulge me in seeing the figure 8s at Sunshine Speedway.  It was good to get this track as they announced the track would be closing at the end of the 2004 season after more than 50 years of activity.

 

With Carol visiting her mother and Easter weekend coming up, I searched for some activity in the U.S.  There wasn’t any.  So, rather than stay home, I found out that the United Kingdom has all kinds of racing over the Easter holiday.  So, on April 9th, I left for England.  Allan Brown of Comstock, Michigan joined me on the trip.  We saw 11 new tracks in just four full, make that very full, days of touring.  Allan was a great navigator and I didn’t hit anything or get any speeding tickets.  We saw road courses, dirt ovals, asphalt ovals and Autograss racing.  It was a fun trip.

 

At our first U.K. stop, the Bovingdon Circuit, we ran into U.K. trackchaser, Colin Herridge.  It was great meeting up with Colin for the first time.  At our second track, Mildenhall, I met up with U.K. friend, Kath Lomax and track starter Charlotte, a close friend of Graham Alexander’s.  At Silverstone, I was able to distribute some outlawed U.K. currency.  Allan seemed to really enjoy the Silverstone history although the weather was not friendly.  Next at Skegness, we ran into U.K’s Colin Casserly.  Then at Hunmanby, I returned to the only type of racing I have ever done personally, Autograss.  This was Allan’s first ever exposure to Autograss racing.

 

At Blyton, we found our most rundown track of the trip.  That evening we had a difficult time finding the Sheffield Raceway but once we did we met more U.K. trackchasers.  It was our first meeting with Spike Rixon, his lovely wife Linda and well as Mark Kelly and their friend, Tony.  At York, Allan and I found our first traditional English bed and breakfast hotel.  I can still see Allan sitting on the bed Indian style pouring over our U.K. map.

 

At Buxton, I bought Carol a British racing green t-shirt, which will now match the color of her current Jaguar.  Next up was Brampton, home of the pencil thick hot dogs.  We wrapped up this great trip to England with the races at Bellevue.  Here are the reasons I really like U.K. racing:

 

The fields are handicapped with the fast cars staring in the back

They have very few interruptions (yellow flags) during each race

There is no charge to enter the pit area from the spectator grandstands 

There are plenty of cars in each racing class

The heat races generally run 10-16 laps, which are about twice the distance of heat races in the U.S., and heat racecar counts are two-three times those in the U.S.

They race rain or shine

I also began providing an Ed Esser update at the completion of the U.K. trip.  If I hadn’t made the somewhat aggressive statement that “Ed Esser will never pass me in 2004”, I might never have taken my trackchasing to the next level like I did this season.  Here’s what I had to say about Ed: 

As you may recall I’m trying to keep Ed from passing me in the trackchaser standings during 2004.  I started the season at 682 tracks and a 54-track lead over Ed.  The U.K. trip raised my 2004 total to 699 tracks.  But Ed now has 28 new tracks this year and an overall total of 656 tracks posted.  This gives me a 38-track lead over the Wal-Mart of trackchasing.  I compare Ed to Wal-Mart because he has a commanding take no prisoner’s style that allowed him to dominate the annual trackchasing standings for the past year and a half.  His total of 114 in 2003 stands as a reminder of the power that Ed can wield behind the wheel of his Chevy Blazer.

 

You might think a 38-track lead would be safe during 2004.  My lead will not be considered safe until I pop the cork on a bottle of Champaign this coming New Year’s Eve (which turned out to really be a strawberry daiquiri in Hamilton, Australia).  You see there are really two obstacles I must overcome before I can declare victory over Ed. 

 

First, I have several personal non-racing trips scheduled during the year.  I’ll only trackchase one or two weekends a month through September or so.  Secondly, Ed will go EVERY weekend and during the summer nearly every night.  It doesn’t take long for Ed to erase any lead a competitor may have.” 

 

On April 22, I saw my 700th career track at the Thunder Alley Speed Park in Evans Mills, New York.  I had the pleasure of having Will White and Rick Young enjoy the moment with me on a cool evening.  The next day I ran into Andy Ritter for the first time in 2004 in Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.  On the way to Orbisonia, I was able to visit the Little League World Series baseball complex in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Someday I hope to see a little league world series game there.  After Orbisonia, I was off to a very enjoyable evening of racing at both Shellhammer’s Speedway (we should count all classes of go-karts) and the Mahoning Valley Speedway.  Mahoning Valley announcer, Barry Angstadt, was very impressed with the trackchasing hobby.  He even became a member of the distribution list of these trackchasing reports.  I finished off April at the Pagota Motorcycle Club track where I was treated to the best bean soup I have eaten.

 

The England trip got me listed in the season point championship.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – APRIL
ESSER

29

   
LEWIS

22

   
VANDEN EYNDE

21

   

 

 

MAY, 2004

 

9 new tracks – 5 states – AZ, IA, IL, MS, TN

 

May started out with the wedding of Brian and Melissa Moody in Phoenix.  Any good wedding deserves to be tied into a new track opportunity and the nuptials led us to the Firebird International Raceway-East course.  Later, I saw my first same venue double of the year at the Warren County Speedway in Indianola, Iowa.  Good friend, George Robertson attended with me following our Illinois golf outing with Pryce Boeye.  The place was packed. 

 

Sometime last year the East Coast Trackchasing Cartel (ECTC) decided to outlaw a popular form of Motorsports on the west coast.   That would be off-road racing.  Off road racing would probably fall into the oddball or non-traditional category of racing types.  The ECTC can’t stand to allow any oddball events other than the ones in their own backyard.  It could be argued that figure 8 racing, junk car racing and champ kart racing are all east coast oddball type events.

 

Therefore, I was left with attending a MAORA sanctioned off road racing event where all the cars (just 3-5 of them) do actually take the green flag at the same time.  The event was terrible compared to west coast off-road racing but it was countable.  That evening I went to the Coles County Speedway in Mattoon, Illinois and met up with challenger and fraternity brother, Ed Esser. 

 

Memorial Day weekend found Carol and I journeying to Mississippi for fun.  At the Southern Speedway Carol notched her 150th track and was almost arrested.  We also stumbled across the Louisiana Sister Cajun restaurant in Hattiesburg, which gets five stars from me.  Near Mildenhall, MS, Carol and I saw our first ever “dog-pulling” in sweltering heat of the southern summer.  Where is the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when you need them?  A last minute opportunity took us up to Memphis for an afternoon road-racing event.  We finished up the weekend with a very unorganized track in Baldwyn, MS, before Carol and I headed over to New Orleans and the French Quarter for some non-racing R&R.  Will White was busy being chauffeured around in Guatemala before finding a new track during this weekend.

 

I’ve slipped to third place.  Roland Vanden Eynde is a trackchaser from Belgium.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – MAY
ESSER

40

   
VANDEN EYNDE

36

   
LEWIS

31

   

 

 

 

JUNE, 2004

 

12 new tracks – 4 states – IL, MO, IA, NE

 

I only had seven days where I was completely rained out.  June was my worst month for rain and three full days of trackchasing were wiped out by the wet stuff.  My most disappointing rainout was for the All-Star sprint car show in Eldon, MO.  I had planned to attend with Bud Heineman.  Bud and I did have a chance for a little golf and I very much enjoyed the overnight stay with both Bud and his wife, Florene.  Next summer maybe we’ll make a race.

 

I was nearly rained out at Highland Speedway before seeing Kenny Schrader race on a great quarter-mile bullring.  During my rainout days following Highland I made it to the International Bowling Hall of Fame in downtown St. Louis.  I recommend it.  I also visited the Budweiser factory and sampled their products at the end of the tour. 

 

Roger Ferrell (I think he will still admit to this) made me leave Frederickton, MO earlier than I planned to begin a blended double.  In hindsight, his judgment was good because the track we left for Doe Run Speedway was the better of the two shows.  Earlier in the day I had been to the Auto World Car Museum in Fulton, MO.  This is a sleeper and I recommend it.

 

A rare non-new track visit took friends Jim Sabo and Ed Montgomery and me to see The Dream at Eldora Speedway.  This was Earl’s Baltes’ last year of ownership.  Therefore, we may take a break from Eldora for a while.  Eldora needs to remove the racecar haulers from their infield pit area.

 

It took me 38 hours to get to the Charleston Speedway-Road Course from Doe Run.  Once there Roger Ferrell and I visited through an extremely boring program.  Next, I was off to Belleville, IL for a new track and a round of golf with former R-V friend, Ron Otto.  I also experienced my best ever customer service experience at McDonalds in Terre Haute, IN.  I returned from this trip to see son J.J., graduate from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA with an MBA.

 

I closed out the month of June with a trip to Nebraska.  The Junction City Speedway in McCool Junction, NE just may have the best facilities of any dirt track in the U.S.  It ranks right there with Perris Auto Speedway in California. 

 

On the way to the Speed Bowl in Red Cloud, NE, I stopped in Omaha and saw my first ever college world series baseball game.  It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to see a game at Rosenblatt Stadium.  Texas and Georgia was my game and I enjoyed it very much.  The Speed Bowl was a dust bowl but I was interviewed by announcer, Wayne Dade, who is one of the most professional announcers I have met in trackchasing.

 

After a rainout in Columbus, NE on a perfectly nice day for racing, I turned to the golf course in Columbus,  I met a local and we had a fine day on a “California perfect” weather day.  I was then off to a figure 8 event in Aurora followed by some very good racing in Rising City, NE. 

 

I would finish June in Iowa but not before stopping and playing the 5-star Golf Digest rated Woodland Hills Golf Course in Eagle, NE.  I had some wonderful playing partners and a great day.  Then I was off to Adel, IA for some very fast figure 8 racing and my first ever taste of fried Oreos.  They weren’t as good as I expected but I had to try them.  My final day in Iowa saw me get a day/night double figure 8 show in Ft. Dodge, IA and Butler, IA.  I witnessed two youth baseball coaches fighting in my motel parking lot.  I came as close as anyone could to being rained out in Butler before they finally got the show in.  On this double day, I also celebrated my second full year of retirement.  Try it, you’ll like it!

 

Half of the year is now complete.  I’m within striking distance of the lead, but Ed Esser is relentless especially as we approach the dog days of summer.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – JUNE
ESSER

53

   
LEWIS

43

   
VANDEN EYNDE

40

   

 

 

 

JULY, 2004

 

26 new tracks – 8 states – NE, MO, KS, OK, TN, IL, MO, MI

 

July would be a turning point in my chase for the 2004 championship.  On July 8, I embarked upon a trackchasing trip that would net me 17 tracks at 16 venues in 11 days.  What made this trip somewhat difficult to begin is that Carol had her rotator cuff surgery on July 6.  But, with the help of our children and painkillers, Carol gave me the OK to head out on my busiest trackchasing trip of the year.

 

I started with a double at the U.S. 30 Raceway in Columbus, NE.  I was interviewed by the Columbus Gazette and a nice story in the paper appeared the next day about our trackchasing hobby.  Next followed a double at Urbana and Bolivar, MO.  The Bolivar track was counted as a dirt track after also seeing it as an asphalt track in 2000.  On July 10, I followed with another double at Adrian and Nevada, MO.  Earlier in the day I got on the plush Millbrook Country Club golf course in Springfield, MO.  There were some beautiful homes that lined this golf course and they were CHEAP by California standards.

 

The Heartland Park dirt road course must not have been that exciting because I spent most of my trackchasing report explaining the golf handicap system.  That Sunday evening I make it to Valley Center, KS and met noted late model driver and now track promoter, Larry McDaniels.  The next stop was Tulsa, OK.  Tulsa looked really dilapidated.  I will give Tulsa Speedway credit for having the most beautiful women at any track I saw all year.

 

On Tuesday, in Pocola, OK the heat index was 106.  This is an oil town.  Nearly everyone in the entire place was wearing full-length blue jeans on the hottest day of my trackchasing season.  It was a mere 467 miles over to my next track in Clarksville, TN.  Clarksville had some of the best racing I saw all year and also featured NASCAR stars, Kenny Wallace and Ken Schrader.

 

The Music City Motorplex show on the inner oval in Nashville, TN was a real clunker.  Carol and I have seen several excellent Winston Cup races on the outer oval.  This made my Nashville visit to the inner oval especially disappointing.  While in Nashville, I played the two Hermitage golf courses that were in excellent condition.

 

The Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, IL ruined my chance at a blended double by starting too late to meet BD requirements.  On Saturday afternoon I made it over to the Soggy Bottom Raceway.  This was another terrible MAORA sanctioned show.  The silver lining in this trackchaser cloud was getting to meet P.J. Hollebrand for the first time.  P.J. and I have been ranked in the top 10 for years without ever meeting.  We had a good time chatting about our common interests.

 

On Saturday night, the Montgomery Speedway in New Florence, MO offered an unusual event to the program.  At intermission three racecars drove slowly onto the track.  The first car had a large sign with the name “Jenny” on it.  The second car had a sign that read “Will you” and the third car’s sign said, “Marry Me?”  Jenny, will you marry me?  She said yes!

 

The highlight of my race at the Heartland Motorsports Park was not the race or the track but the motel I stayed in.  I think they were having a reenactment of “A day at Ellis Island” at this fine establishment.  The last track of this long trip was one of the best.  The stock car racing at Deshler was great.  I ended up driving 3,852 miles on this 11-day trip and spending $1,726.  I was glad to get home.

 

I was home for 10 days before venturing out to Michigan.  In the Spartan state, Allan Brown and I ran into Andy Sivi and Rick Schneider.  Rick didn’t show very good manners by declining an invitation to have his photo taken with us.  I also met Allan’s brother, Adrian.  I enjoyed the hospitality of Allan and Nancy in Comstock Park as well as the round of golf with Allan on a very pretty and wooded course in Michigan.  Allan and I closed out our trip with a visit to the Munger figure 8 track and then the same venue double at Auburn, MI.  It was fun seeing the world headquarters of the National Speedway Directory. 

 

In mid-trip, Carol joined me for a double at Roseville, IL.  This is about the weakest same venue double I’ve ever seen, but I guess they all count.  As trackchasers, we received a very warm welcome from the fans at this very small county fair.  On the last day of the month, we spent a warm afternoon at the Gateway International Raceway in East St. Louis, IL.  That evening we ventured over to Jeffersonville, IN for another same track double.  The highlight of the evening was trying to make it a quadruple for the day by driving to Salem, IN.  We gained an hour by driving from the eastern time zone to the central time zone.  The road, especially at night, is one of the trickiest highways in the U.S.  Once in Salem, which is a small town, we had a very difficult time finding the track in the dark.  We finally located the facility but they were cancelled by rain on what looked like a very nice evening.  I was surprised this year at the number of tracks who cancelled early in the day only to have the evening turn out to be beautiful. 

 

This month’s heavier than normal trackchasing activity vaulted me into a tie for the season championship.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – JULY
ESSER

69

   
LEWIS

69

   
VANDEN EYNDE

50

   

 

 

AUGUST, 2004

 

18 new tracks – 5 states – OH, PA, NY, NV, DE

 

Carol and I started off the first day of August with lunch at Walt’s Hitching Post in Covington, KY.  This is one of my worldwide top 10 restaurants based upon their salted rye bread alone.  We were then off to a Sunday day/night double in rural southern Ohio.  I had been trying to get Ninety-Three Speedway for years.  Once I got there I had this to say, “Just like Glad Rag, the facility was a pigsty and everyone moves at a snail’s pace.  Ninety-Three Speedway is fully deserving of tying the Glad Rag Speedway (when it was dirt) for the worst facility I have ever visited.”  I’m glad Carol was there to see this dump.

 

On August 9th I headed out for a nine track, seven-day trip where the weather cooperated perfectly.  My first stop was the Butler Farm Show figure 8 promotion.  Paul and Eleanor Weidman were awaiting my arrival with a top row seat reserved.  I got a kick out of hearing Paul talk about the “old days” of trackchasing.  Obviously, his early beginnings were before the internet took over.  I asked him how he found the tracks.  His answer, “Racing papers, I even called fire stations and ambulance companies looking for tracks”.

 

A rare Tuesday afternoon show allowed me to visit the Pocono International Raceway – East road course.  The real highlight of this day was meeting Andy Ritter’s wife and daughter, Kristey and Natalie aka Baby Bugsy.  They provided some great hospitality for the #1 trackchaser living west of the Mississippi.  Next, I was off to Palmyra, NY for the fair figure 8 show.  Trackchaser P.J. Hollebrand had a booth at the fair selling his racing collectibles.  It was fun to see P.J. at work.  Thursday it was on to the Cuyahoga County Fair in Berea, OH.  On a cool evening I sat with the bundled up Weidmans while I wore shorts.  Eleanor Weidman is the most enthusiastic person about county fairs I have ever seen.

 

Friday saw me at Motordrome Speedway where I just beat the weather.  Saturday provided a trackchasing triple for the day.  I saw both the road-racing course and the go-kart course at BeaveRun.  This was my first and only champ kart-counting event of the season.  I enjoyed it.  Following those afternoon shows, I ventured up to Jennerstown for an evening show for ASA stock cars.  ASA is not what it used to be.  I froze my butt off at Jennerstown, which is a very nice facility. 

 

My last day of the trip took me to the Sportman’s Speedway where the show had constant delays.  Nevertheless, with my 80th track of the season in the books, I announced I would try for 100 tracks in 2004.  My best ever total previously was 76 tracks.  A highlight of the trip was being able to talk my way onto the course at the Latrobe Country Club.  The golf course has been owned by Arnold Palmer for more than 30 years.  Although I had to play by myself I had a wonderful time.

 

Following a Lake Tahoe trip with our friends the Moodys, Carol and I stopped in Tonopah, NV for a solo track visit.  Tonopah is nearly a ghost town and the track may not be in the middle of nowhere but you can see it from there.  We were very fortunate to get the track in as a mountain storm nearly cancelled the races.

 

After a couple of days in San Clemente, it was back on the road for a four-day six-track trip to the east.  My first stop at Farmington Speedway found a very rural operation.  I also met Mike Leone for the first time.  Mike works in management at Mercer Raceway Park and was taking a busman’s holiday.  I really enjoyed meeting Mike and talking race management with him.  Friday I paid a return visit to Selinsgrove Raceway Park after getting rained out there in April. 

 

Saturday afternoon took me to Nazareth Speedway on a very warm afternoon.  This was Nazareth’s last weekend of racing after 50 years in the business.  The highlight of the day was meeting Guy Smith’s mother and her sister Virginia.  It was also fun to talk with Pam Smith.  A bad weather forecast for central Pennsylvania pushed me down into Delaware for a very well run program at Airport Speedway on Saturday evening.

 

The final day of the trip allowed me to see more police involvement at the dingy motels I stay at.  This time the Willow Hill Motel was the seen of some domestic disputes amongst some motorcycle people.  Nelson Ledges ran in the rain.  Dog Hollow was my final track of this trip and like many others events this season I was lucky to beat the rain.

 

This is the first month this year that I’ve led the season track championship standings. 

 

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – AUGUST
LEWIS

87

   
ESSER

81

   
VANDEN EYNDE

64

   

 

 

SEPTEMBER, 2004

 

9 new tracks – 3 states – FL, IN, IL

 

Carol and I started out the month by stopping in Florida on the way to our two-week Panama Canal cruise.  We were landing on the west coast of Florida just as Hurricane Frances was hitting the east coast of Florida.  Our Friday night track was cancelled on a beautiful evening because the hurricane was forecasted to come through the area in about 36 hours.  We then went even farther north and west to catch a rather ordinary show in Milton, FL.  That’s where ordinary ended.  Our drive the next day to Miami took us through the backside of Hurricane Frances.  We nearly regretted that, but we made it with good stories to tell!

 

Following the cruise, there was no more racing until the end of September.  That final September weekend yielded eight tracks in three days.  Friday gave just one track, the extremely high-banked Anderson, IN figure 8 location.  Saturday would be productive and controversial.  I was expecting the Illiana small oval and figure 8 tracks which I got.  What I didn’t bargain for was the Illiana Hound n’ Hare race run on a road course at Illiana.  There was much discussion about this track before trackchaser commissioner, Will White, ruled in favor of the track.  This was all seen in the company of Roger Ferrell.  Roger and I then went about eight miles to see the quarter mile action at the Crown Point Speedway.  This was some of the best racing I saw all year.

 

Sunday supplied three more tracks.  Roger and I saw the Clay County Speedway oval and figure 8 tracks on a warm sunny day.  On Sunday evening, I made a return visit to Lincoln Speedway after being rained out there earlier in the year.  It was a great trackchasing weekend that was capped off with me running out of gas near Indianapolis on Sunday night.  Not to fret, I was only a couple blocks from a gas station and the delay was minimal.

 

At the end of September, I was only four tracks short of my season goal of 100.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – SEPTEMBER
LEWIS

96

   
ESSER

85

   
VANDEN EYNDE

74

   

 

 

 

OCTOBER, 2004

 

11 new tracks – 5 states – PA, VA, AZ, FL, TN

 

I had no idea I would be spending October in Pennsylvania.  Normally by this time of year I’ve either stopped chasing tracks or gone to warm weather locations.  Mike Leone of Mercer Raceway Park convinced me to come to the Keystone state.  There was a huge field of cars at Mercer for day one of a two-day show.

 

The next day on Saturday afternoon I saw an excellent figure 8 program at the Bloomsburg Fair in Bloomsburg, PA.  They have the best ever-fair food.  I had two of their huge and delicious strawberry shortcakes.  At Bloomsburg, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time both Pat and Bruce Eckel.  That was a treat.  The Smiths, Guy, Pam and Mom were also part of our group along with Aunt Virginia.  Rounding out the group were trackchasers #2 and #3, Allan Brown and Andy Sivi.  A major highlight of the day was being part of the crowd that sung happy birthday to Andy Sivi and having Andy scratching his head on how I knew it was his birthday.

 

Saturday evening I tried to outrun the rain.  I came within an eyelash of getting my 99th track of the season at Clinton County, but I ended up getting washed out.  Finally, I made my way down to Virginia later that evening to catch some stock car action.

 

On Sunday, October 3, I saw my 100th new track of the year.  I also was able to see young Andy Ritter drive the #86B in action.  He won his heat race and started on the pole of the feature.  A very good day for the young chauffer.  Mike and Mary Skonicki along with Allan Brown joined me on this special day.

 

Following shoulder surgery, I was back on the trackchasing trail with brother Mark.  We dined on cocoa and Schnapps at Prescott Valley and then sunned ourselves at the Firebird International Raceway Firebird course.  It was during this weekend that I established a new trackchasing goal.  I was going to try to win the 2004 trackchasing title (second place was the best I had ever done previously) and break Ed Esser’s all-time record of new tracks in one season of 114.

 

The next weekend I started in Jacksonville, Florida.  I was able to visit good friends Jane and Jim Sabo and stay overnight in their beautiful new home.  At Bronson Motor Speedway, I met Maryland native Paul Rodis and saw some very fine school bus figure 8 racing.  Following the Bronson race I did something I had not done at any time during the year, past or present.  I slept in my car overnight.  I don’t like doing this but about once a year, it’s the only choice I have.

 

I dodged raindrops to get one of two planned races for the day.  The Cleveland Speedway is an excellent facility but they could use more passing from their nice appearing racers.  Sunday afternoon and evening I went to a marathon event at the Atomic Speedway.  Can you spell s….l…..o…..w?

 

For the last weekend of October, I made a brief return visit to Blythe, CA for my only California race of the year.  That’s unusual.  Blythe led me to Chandler, AZ and my third visit to the Firebird International Raceway and my third new track at that desert multi-purpose facility.

 

At this point I had 107 tracks.  I’m only eight tracks short of breaking the all-time season record and I’m starting to put a little distance between me and my pursuers for the 2004 trackchasing title.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – OCTOBER
LEWIS

107

   
ESSER

96

   
VANDEN EYNDE

83

   

 

 

NOVEMBER, 2004

 

10 new tracks – 6 states – NV, GA, TN, FL, SC, NC

 

My first track in November was with Carol in Las Vegas.  It was a bad day weather-wise but road racing races in foul weather.  We had a fun time in Vegas seeing the Danny Gans show among other things.

 

November began a string of rainy racing days.  Bad weather chased me down to Cochran, GA for a poor program.  The next day dawned sunny and cool but yielded two tracks.  The Riverview Speedway Park was an unexpected jewel.  That evening’s Spring City Raceway was a well-deserved dud and nominee for worst ever track.  It was cold, but the mountain view was unique.  Finally, a very long drive took me to Wewahitchka, FL where the string of inefficient programs I’ve been exposed to this season continued.

 

During the third weekend of November torrential rains cost me a track on Friday night.  Next, I had to talk my way into a non-spectator facility before adding Roebling Raceway to the master list.  That evening a long drive to Myrtle Beach, SC added that state to the 2004 fold.  Finally, I had to walk the finest of lines before the weather finally cooperated to get my 115th track of the season.  I had broken the all-time new tracks in a season record.  I have never had a track come closer to raining out than the Carolina Speedway, my record-setting track.

 

For the first time ever, I went trackchasing every weekend in November.  I started the racing weekend off with a delicious dinner with good friend, Kin Powell.  My stepfather and I journeyed to the Sebring Raceway.  It was impressive for the amount of racecars in attendance.  They had the highest number of cars I had ever seen at any road course in my trackchasing life.  Bad weather, which was not expected, cancelled the Saturday night school bus figure 8 show at Desoto Super Speedway.  That meant rescheduling it for Sunday and taking a rain check on Ocala Speedway.

 

The all-time record for new tracks in one season now resides in the city by the sea.  The 2004 trackchasing title looks like it may go to the #1 trackchaser living west of the Mississippi as well.  What’s left.  How about trying to make the season new track record a little bit higher so the next person who tries to break it will have more of a challenge.

 

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – NOVEMBER
LEWIS

117

   
ESSER

100

   
VANDEN EYNDE

84

   

 

 

DECEMBER, 2004

 

10 new tracks – 3 states – FL, AZ, OR and Australia

 

Normally, you won’t find me doing any trackchasing in December.  In fact, I have only seen three new tracks in December in my entire life.  But, when you’re motivated you can do just about anything.

 

Although I was rained out after going all the way down to McAllen, TX, I salvaged the weekend by getting a new track in Pensacola, FL. 

 

The next weekend I nearly missed my flight waiting to see a figure 8 show with brother Mark at the Canyon Raceway in Peoria, AZ.  That show ended with the most spectacular crash I had ever seen in a figure 8 automobile race.  Following the Arizona trip, I jetted back to California, waited three hours, and then flew overnight to Fort Lauderdale, FL.  I was in time to make the road race at Miami Homestead Speedway on a beautiful day.  I made it back to Los Angeles that evening.  L.A. to Phoenix to L.A. to Ft. Lauderdale and back to L.A. in about 36 hours.  Try it, you might like it.  Well, probably not.

 

My last pre-Christmas race, and #121, took me up to Oregon.  I saw my first indoor track of the 2004 season and prepared for one final trip to this record-breaking year.  It’s almost over.

 

Following Christmas, Carol and I saw seven Australian racetracks in six days of racing.  The racing was very competitive on some tight little dirt bullrings.  It was a pleasure to meet up with Pennsylvania based trackchaser, Paul Weisel.  It was also rewarding to have a large newspaper story, complete with color photograph, in southwest Australia’s only daily newspaper The Standard.  The Standard has a circulation of more than 150,000 subscribers. 

 

Carol and I had a lovely time touring all over Australia with beautiful weather.  Our next trip to this part of the world will be to neighboring country, New Zealand.  Maybe, we’ll do that in 2006.  You might look for me to venture outside the United States this coming year in search of new tracks.

 

2004 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – DECEMBER
LEWIS

127

   
ESSER

100

   
VANDEN EYNDE

86

   

 

 

In summary, thanks to everyone who reads and comments on the Trackchaser Reports.  Your interest and support is very gratifying.  Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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