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2012 – Annual Report

Trackchasing takes me all over the world!

Trackchasing takes me all over the world!

Greetings from San Clemente, California

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

2012 Trackchasing Annual Report

Happy New YearThanks, etc.GoalsBest/Worst etc.People & moreRandy said #1Randy said #2

Happy New Year to my trackchasing friends!

For years I carried around a simple piece of white paper in my briefcase.  It had the best piece of wisdom on this subject that I have ever come across.  I don’t expect to really ever reach the “station”.  However, I plan to have more fun than just about anybody I know heading in that direction.

THE STATION

 

TUCKED AWAY in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision.  We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent.  We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination.  On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station.  There will be bands playing and flags waving.  And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true.  So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.  How restlessly we pace the aisles, damming the minutes for loitering, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all.  The true joy of life is the trip.  The station is only a dream.  It constantly outdistances us.

When we get to the station that will be it!” we cry.  Translated it means, “When I’m 18 that will be it!  When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it!  When I put the last kid through college that will be it!  When I have paid off the mortgage that will be it!  When I win a promotion that will be it!  When I reach the age of retirement that will be it!  I shall live happily ever after!”

Unfortunately, once we get “it,” then “it” disappears.  The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad.  Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow.  Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.  Instead, climb more         mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less.  Life must be lived as we go along.  The station will come soon enough.

 

Every year since 2001 I’ve been publishing my “Trackchasing Annual Report”.  This gives me a chance to thank all of the people who helped me out during the year. There were lots of folks who provided support.

 

You’ll read about the great places I visited and the very best hole in the wall restaurants where I stopped to eat.  I’ll also tell you how I did against my goals for the past year and what my trackchasing goals will be for the coming year.  You’ll read about what I thought the “bests and the worsts” were from all of my travels to the tracks and beyond. Finally, you’ll be able to see the most direct comments from anyone in trackchasing about the state of racing, the trackchasing hobby and lots of other things.  I hope you enjoy what you read.  You can visit my website at www.randylewis.org (click the “Annual Reports” tab) to check out any of my previous annual reports.  I’m busy working on an exciting schedule of trackchasing visits for 2013.  I’m happy to have you along for the ride!

 

 

THANKS

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one main person I have to thank when I think about being able to trackchase whenever I want too.  That would be wife, Carol.  She is comfortable going on a trackchasing trip and comfortable if I go on a trackchasing trip on my own.  That’s the best kind of life partner to have.  We’ve just surpassed 40 years of marital bliss (that’s not bad out of 43 years…..just kidding!).  I’m lucky to have a long-term exclusive contract with her.

 

I also want to thank our son, J.J. for deciding to change careers and become an airline pilot.  Just when it looked to my fellow competitors like they might have a glimmer of hope in catching up to my totals, he dumped the ability to fly just about anywhere, anytime and for not very much money on me.  That was quite a trackchasing gift.

 

I want to thank each and every one of you who gives me vital info about race dates, travel destinations and other sundry and various heads ups.  All of your efforts are most appreciated.  It seems that I always get several short emails after each Trackchaser Report offering encouragement and congratulations.  It might not seem like much to you, but it does to me.

 

I thank each and every one of you for reading along with me as I visited racetracks, and lots of other interesting places, all over the world.  I would also like to thank the track announcers, race promoters as well as newspaper and radio journalists that made my season so enjoyable in 2012.

 

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my trackchasing fellow competitors.  Without them (and the rankings) I suspect I never would have approached this hobby with such gusto.

 

As you can probably tell, the hobby for me is more about “The Amazing Race” than the racing itself.  A newspaper reporter asked me, “It’s about the chase more than the race isn’t it?”  She was right.  I enjoy the challenge of getting from point A to point B as well as meeting the people along the way.  I don’t travel to find things, I travel to get lost.  My deal is really about the chase and not so much the race.

 

IN MEMORIAM 

Chris Economaki

Ed Esser

Brian Holmes

Jerry Reigle

Don Robbins

Herb Shannon

Jim Tobin

 

At my age, it’s hard to go through life without losing some people who you were close too and admire.  My 2012 Trackchasing Annual Report is dedicated to those people.  During the year both Brian Holmes and Don Robbins passed away.  They were golfing buddies.  Every time I would see them they always asked about my trackchasing.  Usually, it was a comment like “I can’t believe you travel so much” or “You sure love those races”.  I’ll miss them both.  Don was always telling me “If I had your money I’d throw mine away”.

 

Also in 2012 Jerry Reigle, writer for Area Auto Racing News, died.  Jerry had been a long time subscriber to my reports.  He always listed 50 reasons to support whatever his writing subject was.  Reason #43 was always left open “out of respect and admiration for Richard Petty”.  Maybe that was why I always liked hearing from Jerry.

 

Chris Economaki was called the “Dean of Motorsports”.  He was also the first ever pit reporter on early televised auto racing events.  I never met Chris but we did correspond by mail.  He was the editor of the National Speed Sports News and mentioned my trackchasing efforts in his famous racing column on more than one occasion.

 

News came from the Peoria Old Timers Racing Club Hall of Fame headquarters that Herb (Herbie) Shannon had passed away.  Herb Shannon was one of the leading racers in the history of my all-time favorite track, the Peoria Speedway.  I was not a big fan of Herb’s during his racing career.  However, at last winter’s P.O.R.C. HoF induction Carol and I had the chance to spend several minutes talking to Herb.  He could not have been more of a gentlemen and nice guy.

 

Another Peoria racer, who was inducted with last year’s class, Jim Tobin, died during the past year.  I had never met Jim but at last year’s party I wanted to introduce myself.  During Jim’s induction speech he told a very funny story.  He was explaining how he was taught to drive a racecar.  “You just grab that steering wheel like a big set of tits….real gentle and hold on!” Jim left the building while I was still looking for him.   When you see your friends that you may not see that often, take the time to talk.  Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.  Psalms 144:4.

 

One of the biggest losses in 2012 was when trackchasing friend and fellow competitor Ed Esser died suddenly.  What made his death even more shocking was that just four days before he passed we had spent the weekend together in Canada.

 

This was a most special trip.  I had been asking (bugging?) Ed to trackchase in Canada for nearly ten years.  It always seemed as if I had finally convinced him to go there when whatever get together we were having was ready to end.  He never went….until last February.  By happenstance we ended up at the same ice race in Wisconsin on a cold Saturday afternoon.  I was going to Canada the next day for a new track visit in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.  I asked Ed to come along and he agreed.

 

For the next 24 hours we talked nearly non-stop about our hobby and lots of other things.  At 2 a.m. I had to tell Ed that we had better stop talking.  We had a big day ahead for his first ever trackchasing visit to Canada.  Our day of racing was curtailed, yet still successful, by windy, cold and snowy weather.  The smile on Ed’s face and enthusiasm he showed was priceless.  We were pulled over and delayed at the Canadian border check.  That was perfect.  It just added to his “international experience”.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

 

Ed was a competitive trackchaser.  He kept close track of how he was doing and how his fellow competitors were doing.  However, he never ever showed one bit of jealousy toward those who were ahead of him in the trackchasing standings.  This was so much different than the folks I’ve met in the eastern U.S. who have lovingly come to be known as the “Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers”.

 

During the season I prepared two video tributes to Ed Esser on his last trackchasing visit.  If you would like to see them you’ll find them in the Ontario, Canada tab under Mission Bay Ice Track.

 

I’ll miss all of these fellows.  Every time I saw them they smiled at me and I smiled at them.  Rest in peace gentlemen.

 

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR

 

1.  I ended up traveling 224,406 miles to see the 88 tracks I visited in 2012.  During the past ten years I’ve traveled more than TWO MILLION miles just to trackchase.  How many miles is that?  Let’s look at it this way.  By way of comparison, it’s about 238,000 miles from the earth to the moon.  If I traveled on a jet at 500 M.P.H. it would take more than 166 days (nearly half a year) of non-stop flying to cover the distance I traveled during the past ten years!  Here’s another way to look at it.  During the past ten years I’ve traveled about 700 miles every day.  My travels AVERAGE more than 29 M.P.H. of moving my body from point A to point B for EVERY hour of the day of EVERY month of EVERY year for the past ten years!

 

2.  Since I’ve been producing YouTube under the name of Randy Lewis Racing Films viewership has doubled in the last year.  Through the end of 2012 my videos (normally 5-10 minutes in length) had more than 200,000 views.

3.  This was my 13th straight year of finishing in the top three in my annual trackchasing standings.  This has to stop!

4.  When Carol’s travel totals are added to mine just our airline miles exceed 1.5 million with our airline flying partners since we gained our sponsorship in September, 2006.

5.  My trackchasing travel in 2012 took me to 12 different countries for trackchasing.  These included:

Australia

Austria

Canada

Croatia

Ecuador

France

Greece

Monaco

Peru

Slovakia

Sri Lanka

United States

 

When we go trackchasing internationally, it’s more like taking a vacation with an afternoon of racing thrown in.  I estimate that the mainly one track per weekend of international trackchasing cost me 20-40 tracks that would have been seen had I stayed “local” in the United States.  Trust me; traveling to all of these foreign countries to trackchase was well worth it.

 

6.  I didn’t short change the U.S.  I took in racing in 27 different states.

7.  At the Ancaster Fairgrounds in Jerseyville, Ontario, Canada I saw my 1,800th lifetime track.

8.  My lifetime trackchasing total now stands at 1,813 tracks.  That amount is not very much different that 2,800 or 800 or whatever.  Very few people can get their arms around a trackchasing number this large.  Carol and I joke that her 472 lifetime tracks sounds more realistic than my total.  Fortunately, I don’t get the question “did you see all of your tracks this year” that often anymore.

9.  I completed my second full year with my trackchasing souvenir clothing line.  Sales exceeded expectations.  Check out “The Store” tab at www.randylewisracing.com for more details.

10.  What trackchasing accomplishment am I most proud of in 2012?  For the first time ever I did not have a single weather-related cancellation.  In 2011 I had only one weather cancellation.  That’s a new world record for avoiding bad weather for me.  I trackchased without a rainout 74 days during 2012.  As of January 1, 2013 it has been 578 days since my last rainout!!!

 

 

 

GOALS, GOALS, GOALS

 

For the most part, I’ve been very successful in meeting the goals I set at the beginning of each year.  I am getting much better at “staying home”.  My “Trackchasing Annual Report” is published in January of each year.  It’s very difficult to predict what will happen during the next 12 months of trackchasing.  In 2012, I met or exceeded most of my goals.  However, I missed some too.

 

At the end of the 2004 season, I wrote, “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!”

 

In 2005 I saw 182 tracks, in 2006 147 tracks, in 2007 160 tracks, in 2008 102 tracks, in 2009 117 tracks, in 2010 95 tracks and in 2011 113 new tracks.  With the 88 new tracks I saw in 2012 my combined total since 2004 is 984 tracks.  You would think after seeing this many tracks in the past eight years, my 2004 total of 1,054 tracks still to be seen would be significantly reduced.  I am making progress but probably not as fast as I would like.  By my count I still have somewhere in the neighborhood of 570 tracks in the U.S. and Canada left to see.  More than two-thirds of those race just one time per year.

This year I removed many many defunct tracks from my lists.  However, my fellow competitors and I have been discovering heretofore unknown U.S./Canada tracks so rapidly that I still have more than 500 tracks to see.  However, at the pace I’ve been going even 500 tracks can melt away quickly.

 

Nevertheless, this season was another very fun and productive year.  My international trackchasing makes that statement true.  There is definitely a bigger “rush” when heading toward another new country than my “more normal” U.S. visits.  This is my thirteenth consecutive year of finishing in the top three in the world rankings.  No one has ever come close to doing that.

 

Here’s a summary of how I did against my 2012 trackchasing goals.  These goals were published twelve months ago in January, 2012. 

 

2012 Trackchasing Goal Recap

 

Lifetime trackchaser rankings

GOAL

Increase my lead by as little as one track over my nearest fellow competitor.

 

When I started the year my two nearest fellow competitors were Ed Esser and Guy Smith.  With Ed’s passing that left Guy Smith as my nearest competitor.

 

During 2011 I saw 88 tracks.  During this same twelve-month time frame Guy added 59 tracks.  This was the 13th consecutive year I have bested Mr. Smith.  Some folks think that it’s about time I let him lead for a single year.  Maybe they are right.

 

Foreign country trackchasing

GOAL

Add, at a minimum, 3-5 new countries to my trackchasing list.  This will bring my lifetime “trackchasing countries” total to more than fifty.

 

The year 2012 was another solid year of international trackchasing.  I ended up seeing seven new countries this year.  They are listed below.

Croatia

Ecuador

Greece

Monaco

Peru

Slovakia

Sri Lanka

 

Additionally, I’ve returned to five other countries to see new tracks including:

Australia

Austria

Canada

France

United States

 

Annual trackchaser rankings

GOAL

Finish in the season top 5; I will be satisfied with 50-75 tracks although I may see a few more than that.  I will see all I can in the time I have allotted for trackchasing.

 

I have been attempting to “opt out” of the trackchasing rankings and listings for the past couple of years.  However, Trackchasing Commissioner Guy Smith won’t let me do that.  He controls the lists.  I’ve asked to have all of my listings removed from his website but he won’t do that.  That’s out of my control.  All I can do is tell him I don’t want to be part of his group and ask him to remove my track lists from his site.

 

Nevertheless, I did end up seeing 88 tracks.  I didn’t plan to see that many.  With more than 1,800 lifetime tracks seeing nearly 100 tracks in a single year would have been difficult to predict.   For all worldwide trackchasing totals that puts me in second place behind trackchaser Mike Knappenberger in 2012.  This is my thirteenth consecutive year of ranking in the worldwide trackchasing top three.

 

There’s another reason I really didn’t want to see as many tracks as I have in the past.  I don’t think it’s easy to be “well-rounded” if one spends that much time with trackchasing.  That’s why I set the goal of having a minimum of 22 weekends off from trackchasing for the year.  However, I soon discovered that with my airline sponsorships, and a little extra willpower, I could fly almost every day during a trip.  The tracks soon started to add up.  I found that by averaging nearly three tracks for every trip I took that I could see a lot of tracks and still have plenty of time for my other interests.

 

During the past nine years I’ve held the #1 rank six times.  That’s enough.  Let’s give someone else a chance at the top.

 

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

GOAL

Maintain my leadership position.

 

I was able to maintain the #1 position in the 2012 lifetime NGD category.  I established my all-time lowest NGD score of 5.08.  The lifetime category is one ranking where trackchasers have a difficult time moving up, or down for that matter.  The lifetime NGD rankings along with the “Lifetime tracks” category and the “Foreign Countries Visited” category are the three most important trackchasing comparisons for me.

 

Far Western states lifetime rankings

GOAL

Maintain leadership position in 12 of the 13 Far Western states (x California).

 

I saw racing in Arizona, California, Hawaii, ldaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah this year, all Far Western states.  The Far West is a LONG way from where most of the worldwide top 25 chasers come from.  The tracks in the Far West are few and far between.  Their geographical location does not offer much reward for the traveling trackchaser.  I was able to meet my goal in 2012.

 

Golf

GOAL

Play golf an equal amount of days that I trackchase.  Maintain golf index below 7.0.

 

I ended up failing against this goal.  I trackchased on 74 days this year and golfed just one less at 73.  My last day of golf was on November 29, 2012.  I had plenty of time to play another round or two and beat this goal.  I didn’t. The reason?  A bad back!  In 2011 I was on medical leave from my golf club from January 1 to September 30, 2011 with back issues.  I came back to play for nearly a year.  However, my back still bothers me when I play golf.  On December 1, 2012, after 18 years at the Bella Collina Golf Club I resigned my membership.  My travel schedule and the condition of my back just doesn’t make being a golf country club member the right thing to do right now.  Maybe that will change in the future.  I ended my country club golfing career with a 7.6 golf index.  By the way, the condition of my back is not a major hindrance when I travel.

 

Technology

GOAL

Continue to add to my trackchasing technology/information arsenal.  Produce a movie of each 2012 trackchasing day.

 

Over the years I have build up an impressive array of trackchasing technology weapons.  Technology allows me to do more, quicker and cheaper.  I can’t imagine getting the results I do without my iPhone, my MacBook Pro, Garth (my friendly GPS buddy) and J.J. my technology gifted oldest son.  It’s nice to have a “full membership” at the local Apple store as well.  My “Apple Care” membership finds me visiting frequently for training.

 

I’ll end up in an Apple store getting training many times during the year.  I have recently upgraded my Apple photo software to Aperture.  You’ll see the benefit if you view photos from my Trackchaser Reports via Picasa.  I’ve also added the Apple iPhone 5 to my overall technology portfolio.

 

The benefits of the iPhone 5 are almost too numerous to mention.  One of it’s best functions is the GPS capability.  The iPhone is so good with GPS that it has replaced “Garth” my trusted Garmin GPS machine.  My iPhone’s international texting and internet data plan features makes international trackchasing much more comfortable.  Finally the “panoramic” photo feature gives you the best view of the places I visit.  I couldn’t imagine traveling the way I do without a full command of the latest forms of technology.

 

Trackchasing Tourist Attractions

GOAL

Continue to be the leader in the trackchasing hobby when it comes to Trackchasing Tourist Attractions.  Strive to see all kinds of “fun stuff” when I’m away from home trackchasing.

 

In some ways my “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” are down this year.  Why is that?  On some of these trips I fly somewhere EVERY day.  It’s hard to get some sleep, fly on an airplane (or two), get a rental car, drive a few hundred miles, go to Yankee Stadium and return a rental car all in the same day!  However, when I have time I go to as many local places as I can.

 

I was surprised when I sat down to review my 2012 results to see that I had been so many places.  It’s really a lot of fun to take the time to see the local sights.  Our country and the world has so much to offer.

 

Racechasing

GOAL

Go to 3-5 major race shows for the year without regard to existing trackchasing opportunities.

 

This was an important part of my 2012 season.  I wouldn’t say I did as well as I wanted too.  Many of the shows I see in today’s trackchasing world fall far short of what got me interested in “racing” so many years ago.  So far I’ve made it to these major shows or tracks that were important for me to re-visit.  I’d like to go to more but I don’t feel like spending any more days at a racetrack.  There’s too much to do elsewhere.

 

USA Raceway, Tucson, AZ – Winter Nationals

Jackson County Speedway, Maquoketa, IA – Good ol’ Iowa stock car racing

Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, VA – NASCAR Sprint Cup

Perris Auto Speedway, Perris, CA – Turkey Night Grand Prix midget racing

Orange Show Stadium, San Bernardino, CA – Last ever asphalt race

 

Free time diversification 

GOAL

This is my most revolutionary goal for 2012.  I want to average nearly two weekends per month (Weekend = Friday/Saturday/Sunday) away from trackchasing for EVERY month of the year.  My goal is to take 22 full weekends for something other than trackchasing.

 

This was a revolutionary goal compared to what other leading trackchasers do in this area.  I ended up meeting my goal.  I had 22 full weekends away from trackchasing.  I am proud that I had the discipline to see this goal through.

 

Here’s a newsflash.  I’m planning to INCREASE the number of weekends I spend away from trackchasing in 2012.  It just isn’t fair to keep burying my fellow competitors year after year, is it?  They might do better if I take some time off.

 

Have Fun 

GOAL

I saved the most important goal for last.  I plan to see as many new tracks in 2012 as I want too.  If I don’t go trackchasing, it won’t be because of some form of restraint on my part.  It will be because I found something more fun and interesting to do not because I couldn’t find a place to go trackchasing.

 

I still find trackchasing fun.  However, the quality of many shows I see, relative to “traditional racing”, is poor.  For me the “fun” comes in scouting out the opportunities, managing the plan and then implementing the plan.

 

I also enjoy sharing my efforts with my friends and fans at www.randylewis.org.  My website has more than 100,000 photos linked to it.  My videos have been viewed more than 200,000 times.  I continue to average website hits from more than ten different countries every day.  People from more than 140 countries have viewed my YouTube videos.  The hobby remains “fun” or me.

 

Conclusion 

Overall, I am pleased with my 2012 trackchasing season.  I’ve been doing this for a long time now.  I established several “stretch” goals for the year and achieved many of them.  The more “developed” my trackchasing is the more difficult it becomes to continually set more and more stretch goals.  Nevertheless, I’ll continue trackchasing at one level or another until it’s time to take that final checkered flag, which I hope is several laps in the distance.

 

With that said, the staff at RLR – Randy Lewis Racing and I are already busy planning a fantastic 2013 trackchasing season.  My U.S. passport is rapidly running out of the 48 fresh pages I added.  I may need to add more before I need a new one in 2014.  With the support from my current airline sponsors and several additional airlines that are expected to come on board early in the year, my trips will continue to be very creative.  By the time you read this, I will already have already begun my 2013 season.

 

2013 Trackchasing Goal

 

Lifetime trackchaser totals

Stay within 10 tracks of my nearest fellow competitor, Guy Smith.  At that rate it will take him more than thirty years to catch up.  He’ll be in his mid-80s by then!

 

Foreign country trackchasing

Add, at a minimum, four or more new countries to my trackchasing list.  This will bring my lifetime “trackchasing countries” total to at least sixty-seven.

 

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

Maintain my leadership position in the lifetime category.

 

Far Western states lifetime rankings

Maintain leadership position in 12 of the 13 Far Western states (x California). 

 

Exercise

Exercise at least 45 minutes per day on three times as many days as I trackchase.  As an example if I trackchase on 60 days I will need a minimum of 180 days of strong aerobic exercise in order to meet this goal.

 

Trackchasing Tourist Attractions

Continue to be the leader in the trackchasing hobby when it comes to Trackchasing Tourist Attractions.  Strive to see all kinds of “fun stuff” when I’m away from home trackchasing.

 

Racechasing

Go to 3-5 major race shows for the year without regard to existing trackchasing opportunities.  Go to at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup show.

 

Free time diversification 

This is my most revolutionary goal for 2013.  Pursuing any one hobby to the exclusion of others is a bad idea in my opinion.  I plan to take off a minimum of 23 weekends (a complete weekend is Friday, Saturday and Sunday) from trackchasing in 2013.

 

Have Fun 

I saved the most important goal for last.  I plan to see as many new tracks in 2013 as I want too.  If I don’t go trackchasing, it won’t be because of bad weather, a lack of tracks to see or any other form of restraint on my part.  It will be because I found something more fun and interesting to do not because I couldn’t find a place to go trackchasing.

 

 

TRAVEL AND BUDGETING

This season I made it to 88 new tracks.  To get those tracks I traveled just over 224,000 miles in rental cars, trains, ships, taxis, shuttle buses, jeepneys, airplanes and ferryboats.  During the past ten years, my travels have covered a bit more than TWO million miles!

 

I have done my best to manage expenses.  If anyone is going to trackchase to the extent I do, then they had better had their financial ducks in a row.

 

With my trackchasing I have seven categories of expense.  These include airline, airport parking, rental car, hotels, gasoline, food and race tickets.  This is just about the order in which these expense categories would be used.

 

To be frank, I have some significant financial restrictions that most other trackchasers don’t have.  First, I am retired.  What is the significance of that?  I don’t get a paycheck!  Not only do I not get a paycheck but I have never relied on my wife for any financial support.  She has been a homemaker for the past thirty-five years.

 

Additionally, in retirement I have never received a company pension of any sort.  I have never received a six-figure inheritance like some trackchasers.  To add to these financial restrictions I have done more than 90% of my trackchasing while living in California.  This is about the most remote spot that an individual could pick if they wanted to trackchase in the U.S.  Most (80%+) American racetracks are located in the Midwest or Eastern parts of the country.

 

Most of the racing I see happens in the evening.  That almost always means I can’t get home when the races wrap up.  In 2012 I spent 26 EXTRA days just getting home the DAY AFTER the races finished.  I also ended up driving rental cars for a bit more than twice as many miles as I drove my personal car.  During the past ten years I’ve put about 300,000 miles on rental cars.  I’ll use a full tank of gas, on average, every day that I trackchase.  Over the past ten years, I averaged more than 90 days of trackchasing every year.  Had I been using my own car to trackchase I would have easily used up a couple of brand new cars or more.  I’m happy to report I have not gotten a speeding ticket since 2003.

 

You could probably take a guess at how much it costs for me to travel more than 224,000 miles in a year for trackchasing.  Then you might want to tack on another 47,000 miles of travel for “Trackchasing’s First Mother”.

 

I am an “independent” trackchaser.  What does that mean?  I don’t count on, expect or require that another trackchaser pay any of my expenses.  However, I compete against others who DO count on, expect and ultimately require others to pay their trackchasing expenses.  With all of these cost disadvantages it’s a miracle I can even keep up in the trackchasing hobby.

 

Nevertheless, I am blessed with trackchasing sponsorships.  I have “deals” with airlines, hotels, rental car companies, airport parking venues and even temporary office location ventures.  When I’m on the road I’ll pay quite a bit less than retail.  Many of my sponsorships cover the entire expense of my travel.  If I didn’t have these sponsors it would be very difficult to maintain the frequency of trackchasing I have enjoyed for years.

 

So actually how much money do I spend on trackchasing?  William F. Buckley’s brother-in-law once guessed the sum would be about $250,000 per year.  In point of fact, I have never released an exact expenditure amount.  I will tell you this.  In 2012 I spent approximately 50% of what I spent during the 2006 season.  That capability revolved around both the sponsorships and efficiencies I have created from one year to the next.

 

I go about budgeting my trackchasing expenses just like I do our household expenses.  If you don’t have a budget, you don’t know where you’re going.  Without a budget you won’t know whether to celebrate or cry once you reach the finish line.

 

 

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR

This was a fantastic trackchasing season on many fronts.  I saw some 88 new track in 28 states and 12 countries (seven of them for the first time to see racing).  I met and exceeded my goal of “entertainment diversification”.  I saw many old friends as well as lots of family coming or going from the racetracks I visited.

 

However, I would have to say the #1 highlight of the year was getting trackchaser Ed Esser to tag along with me to Canada.  We went to an ice race up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.  What was so special about this trip?  It was Ed’s first ever trackchasing trip to a foreign country after seeing more than 1,400 racetracks in the United States.

 

 

NEW FOREIGN COUNTRY VISITS

I just can’t tell you how much I enjoy visiting new countries for trackchasing.  The enjoyment comes on several different fronts.  The pre-planning is both challenging and fun.  In most cases where I will be traveling has a different language than English.  Just finding and confirming the race date can be difficult.  Then there’s the process of getting there when I fly nearly everywhere on a standby basis.

 

Once in the country I may drive or hire a private driver.  My trips don’t just include a day at the track in the country I will be visiting.  I’ll be in most countries for several days and sometimes for a week or more.  That gives me plenty of time to see the country.

 

I have now seen racing in 63 different countries.  Carol has come along for 31 of those.  Since a single trip to Europe (countries 5-8) I have planned every one of those trips by myself.  That’s so much more fun and satisfying than relying on someone else to do the work and simply “riding along”.  There are fewer and fewer countries for me to see where auto racing in held.  However, I have identified enough future countries to get my total up to around eighty.  We’ll see how that goes.  International travel, planning and trackchasing is the most fun.

 

SRI LANKA #57 

A few weeks before I traveled some 22,000 miles round-trip to Sri Lanka I didn’t even know they raced there!  Then I discovered a website called “WegCircuits”.  That turned me onto racing in Sri Lanka.

 

To add to the uniqueness of this foreign country visit, Sri Lanka operates on a 30-minute time zone.  Sri Lanka is 13 ½ hours ahead of San Clemente.  While in Sri Lanka I hired a private driver for three days.  In Sri Lanka the driver stays with you wherever you go.  My driver’s name was Ariya.  It wasn’t that Ariya was a bad driver.  He wasn’t.  It’s just that he was an “aggressively controlled” driver.  The entire scene was like an “E-ticket” (do people still say that anymore?) ride in a video arcade with shocking electrodes tied to your head that went off anytime you thought you were going to die.  Those imaginary electrodes went off frequently.  Nevertheless, Ariya was a great guy even though he spoke little English.

 

I saw several interesting and educational “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” in Sri Lanka.  The absolute highlight wasn’t in any of the tour guides about this amazing and friendly country.  Ariya, my driver, invited me to visit the home of his sister, Chandra her husband, Lalith and their daughters Ashini and Shehani.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  What happened?  First they showed me their small “batik” factory.  Then they invited me into their home and insisted I have lunch.  They had already eaten but I was prepared a special multi-course lunch with only me eating at the family dinner table.  Then we spent the rest of the afternoon just talking.  This is in the running for best TTA of 2012!

 

The hospitality at the Sri Lankan racetrack was second to none.  They gave me a ride around the racetrack in the pace car.  My main track contact Dinesh, who was also racing, made sure I had the luxury of every V.I.P. amenity.  Everyone I met in Sri Lanka went out of their way to make me feel both welcome and comfortable.

 

ECUADOR #58

Out of the fifty-seven countries where I have trackchased before coming here this may have been the most difficult to actually confirm that a race was going to take place.  After I started my search I had almost no feedback from any source I tried.

 

Once in Ecuador I was taken aback by the lack of English speaking in the entire country.  Nevertheless, I was able to take in several of the most interesting and entertaining activities including a ride on the Teleferico and a visit to the Teatro National Sucre for an opera performance.

 

The restaurants, sightseeing choices and my tour guides were the highlights of this multi-day trip.  My experience at the track was vastly improved by having a Spanish translator as my driver and guide.  With my guide’s help I somehow managed to get a pit pass and full access to the racetrack and its amenities.

 

SLOVAKIA #59

Carol won’t be coming on this trip.  Just twelve days ago she came back from an 11-day trip to Maui, Hawaii.  A week after I return from this trip she will leave with me for a 8-10 day trip on what could very well be trackchasing country #60 for me and #29 or more for her.  I can’t fault her a bit.  She does her part.

 

I stopped over in Frankfurt, Germany on my way to Slovakia.  With just an 11-hour layover I stumbled across the “English Theatre of Frankfurt” (The theatre).  They were having a theatrical run of the 1988 movie, “Rain Man”.  This would be an excellent way to spend my remaining hours in Frankfurt.

 

The travel highlight of my trip to Slovakia was riding an overnight train (sleeping car) from Frankfurt, Germany to Salzburg, Austria. I was very much looking forward to my overnight train ride.  It would rank just behind my staying in a “coffin” hotel (Coffin hotels photos) in Tokyo.  The train ride from Frankfurt, Germany to Vienna, Austria would be about nine hours long covering somewhere around 345 miles.

 

I had reserved a sleeping car.  However, it was not a private sleeping car.  There would be six of us in one compartment.  Our section was not that large.  Check out this link and some train riding advice provided by reader Louis Skypala to see what a compartment with six “couchettes” looks like.

Show me the couchette!

 

The day before the big WTCC race in Slovakia I decided to trackchase in Austria.  By first going to Austria I was adding some risk to the plan to add country #59 in Slovakia.  What if something happened?  It could be a flat tire, an accident or a traffic problem.  However, if I worried about all the possible bad things that COULD happen I would be better off staying on the porch back on the block.

 

I did make it the next afternoon to Slovakia.  Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine.  The highlight for the day was nearly running out of gas in a long line of fans entering the track.

 

Viewing opportunities were so poor I entertained watching the race from outside the fence.  However, I did not come to Slovakia to stand by a fence OUTSIDE of the track for just a glimpse of the racing action…..and no ambience.  When I bought a ticket I still might not get to see much of the racing.  However, I would be like a sponge and soak up the ambience.

 

I go by the adage that “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission”.  Other than with the IRS, and sometimes with Carol, that works pretty well for me.

 

The garage area separated the racetrack from the paddock.  This was off-limits for my “pay grade” today.  However, I could peek in some garages to see the WTCC cars were being gridded for their race.  This was my first time in Slovakia.  It was time to make my move.  What were they going to do?  Put me in Slovakian prison?  If asked, Carol would likely answer “Yes” to that question.

 

By the time I reached the garage area most were empty.  All of the cars and the people were out on the racetrack.  Maybe that was where I needed to be.  Why not?  Soon I was walking amongst the starting grid of WTCC cars and stars.  Every starter had a young woman (don’t miss these pictures!) standing in front of the car with a race flag.

 

I had gone from the option of watching the race from outside the fence to getting a somewhat lowly paddock pass to being on the racetrack with all of the V.I.P. pass holders just ten minutes before the race began.  The WTCC group is, across the world, very much what NASCAR is in the U.S.  Can you imagine pulling this off at Martinsville or Talladega?

 

FRANCE #29 

Carol and I were off to France so she could add a new country to her trackchasing resume.  When I’m on the road on my U.S. based trips I will occasionally take a “12-minute power nap”.  When I do I feel refreshed and good to go.  How tired was I after flying 4,000 miles overnight and then driving eight hours to the evening’s destination in Italy?  I took SIX 20-minute power naps.  I’ve gotten to the point of placing my hands on the steering wheel at the “10 and 2” position while driving.  Then when I begin to fall asleep the weight of my hands falling from the top of the steering wheel wakes me up!  I’m only partially kidding.

 

We would end up at the Circuit Paul Ricard.  This racetrack is in a rural desert type location in Southern France.  The circuit was built in 1969.  It has hosted the French F1 Grand Prix several times the last of which was in 1990.

 

I was surprised to learn Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone’s company owns the track.  He plans to return the French F1 Grand Prix to the Circuit Paul Ricard in 2013.  From there the plan is to race F1 at Paul Ricard in alternating years with the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, a track Carol and I saw in 2011.

 

MONACO #60 

I would much rather see the HISTORIC Grand Prix than the Formula One Grand Prix racing at Monaco for a few reasons.  It would be much less crowded for the historic GP.  Seeing the historic GP would be a lot less expensive too.  Tickets for today’s race was 30 euro.  Tickets for the F1 Grand Prix, for a grandstand seat, would be in the 450 euro (about $500-700 U.S.) range per seat.  That’s beyond ridiculous!

 

Another MAJOR advantage of seeing the historic GP was that we would see cars from many different eras.  The racing in Monaco first began in 1929.  Overall the racing and visit to Monaco was one of the most fun visits of the year.

 

Europe, although expensive is a fun place to visit.  We love Europe.  This was an adventure too.  Just coming and going to Monaco we witnessed a pickpocketing crime and a tear gas episode.  Then when we got back to Cannes another driver ran into us.  That’s a lot of adventure for one weekend.  It’s also the main reason we travel as we do.

 

CROATIA #61

Not many people make it to Croatia to trackchase.  When I reached the Automotodrome Grobnik I asked to speak to the man in charge.  Soon Mr. Zrinko Gregurek, the Secretary General of the CCKF (Croatian Car and Karting Association, came striding down the steps of the Automotodrom Grobnik main office.  It was time to again explain my mission for being in Croatia.

 

Mr. Gregurek was a fit grey-haired man with steely blue eyes.  He reminded me of what it would be like to meet up with Russian President Putin.  He eyed me cautiously.  After he heard my spiel he asked in very direct language, “What do you want me to do for you?”.  It was all I could do to keep from saying in this stern presence, “Just let me get back home to San Clemente!”.

 

However, I didn’t say that.  I simply told him that I was a trackchaser and wanted to move about the track freely taking pictures and videos for you my valued Trackchaser Report readers.  This seemed to make some sense to Mr. Gregurek.

 

In the blink of an eye, as the track workers opened a path for Mr. Gregurek, I was invited into a private meeting with Zrinko, I mean Mr. Gregurek.  After we had been seated a server was summoned.  “What would you like to drink”, I was asked.  I thought about asking for some Russian vodka but that might not be a good idea since we were in Croatia.  Soon drinks were being served and Mr. Gregurek began to tell me about the former Yugoslavia which is now six separate states including Croatia.

Folks you might sometimes wonder about my hobby of trackchasing.  However, it is exactly moments like this that make every mile I travel and every hotel I stay in, etc. etc. more than worth it.

 

Soon I sensed it was time for our meeting to conclude.  Our private meeting had been perfect.  Mr. Gregurek told me I had free run of the Automotodrom Grobnik for the weekend.  With that we shook hands and promised to keep in touch.  This was just another is a long list of international friends I have made with an approach that’s a little more aggressive than most.  It pays to meet the right people.  From there I had a wonderful afternoon watching the races in Croatia.

 

PERU #62

I was “on the case” with the Autodromo La Chutana for more than a year.  Tito, the race group’s president stayed in contact the entire time.  The most difficult part of this trip was just getting our fannies to Lima, Peru.  I was concerned about accomplishing that.  Once I got there I didn’t really care how long it might take us to get back home.  I’m retired.  Every day is Saturday and every night is Friday night.

 

The touring aspect of our visit to Peru was more than outstanding.  Our tour guide, Renato, was the best.  Visits to the Nicolini Vintage Auto Museum, Magical Water Circuit and “Carmen” Teatro Municipal de Lima Peru all in Lima, Peru were some of the most fun and entertaining foreign tourist activities we’ve ever had.

 

The people of Peru were the very best.  We were hosted on race day by Mr. Julio Mickle.  I’ve had some great foreign trackchasing support people.  None were ever better than Julio.  We were treated like V.I.P.s everywhere we went at the Autodromo La Chutana.  We met everyone there was to meet at the track and even had a brief Peruvian TV interview.  A highlight at the track was being introduced to  track owner/driver Salvador Ricci.  Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better we were invited to Salvi’s team victory dinner at a local restaurant.  The hospitality of the Peruvian people including Tito, Salvi and especially Julio was the absolute best.  South America as a continent has provided the most friendly people of any place I have visited.  Good on them!

 

GREECE #63

I had virtually (one brief phone call with a bad connection and major language problems) no help from anyone in Greece on this trip.  Fortunately, Bulgarian friend Lyubomir Simeonov stuck with me and helped over the period of two years.

 

Just getting to Greece required this flight route:  Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Seattle to Frankfurt-Main to Frankfurt-Hahn to Thessaloniki, Greece.  Folks this was one of my more challenging logistical trips….ever.  That’s saying something as I’ve had some tough ones.  The entire proposition was majorly disrupted by hurricane Sandy that hit the east coast just as I would have been connecting in New York or Washington, D.C. on my way to Europe.

 

However, I did get the chance to spend a couple of days in Germany on the way out and a couple of hours in Istanbul, Turkey on the way back from this adventure.  Just “coming and going” is often the highlight of the trip.

 

Possibly the most fun was hanging out (two films) at the 53rd annual Thessaloniki film festival.  Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece.  From what I could see the seaside town was bustling with activity in restaurants and the like on a Saturday night.  There was ZERO indication of any of Greece’s well-publicized economic issues.  In many countries I will see hundreds of police officers in a single day.  In Greece I didn’t see a single policeman during the entire trip.

 

I would never mistake today’s racing with a good dirt late model race like Eldora Speedway.  However, I did not come on this trip for the racing.  I was hear to tour Europe and in this trip’s case, Germany and Greece.  I had already done that.  If the racing were the worst ever it would still be a highly successful trip.

 

In point of fact, car counts were small.  The three races had 11, 12 and 8 competitors.  I arrived nearly two hours early.  This gave me plenty of time to explore and photograph every nook and cranny of the Serres Circuit.  For me it doesn’t really matter what kind of racing I see.  I’m coming all this way just to enjoy the ambience.  If the racing is good that’s a plus but not a requirement.

 

After the races I was surprised to find a GOURMET meal in the Cosmos Shopping Mall BOWLING ALLEY restaurant in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Then I came within a seat or two of being stranded in Istanbul, Turkey.  Actually I would have loved that!

 

 

‘THE ROAD TO 1800″ CONTEST

Oh Yes!  We had a contest didn’t we?  The contest was really rather simple.  All one had to do was provide the city/country quesstimate on where my 1800th lifetime track would be.  The contestants who picked the location closest to the actual location of track #1,800 would be winners.

 

There were many entries.  For some reason quite a few folks thought that track would come from outside the U.S.  Those people were right.  However, it didn’t come from THAT far from my home as many of the prognosticators had predicted.

 

The perfectly correct answer would have been “Jerseyville, Canada”.  No one correctly picked this location.  That meant I would need to use “Google Maps” to determine the exact distance from Jerseyville, Canada to the location that was used by each contest entrant.  Of course, that took the better part of a Wednesday night to do but I loved it.  I was anxious to know who the winners of the contest were myself!  So, without further ado (drum roll please) here are the winners and the distance their pick was from the correct location.

 

FIRST PLACE

Colin Herridge – Milton Keynes, England –

Pick – Akwesasne, New York – 329 miles

 

SECOND PLACE

Paul Weisel – Orefield, Pennsylvania

Pick – Minersville, Pennsylvania – 349 miles

 

THIRD PLACE

George Robertson – Fountain Valley, California

Pick – Rockingham, North Carolina – 789 miles

 

BEST/WORST of 2012

 

Subways ridden

San Francisco, Dubai, New York, Sydney, Australia

 

Airports slept overnight in

Orlando, Florida

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Houston, Texas

Athens, Greece

Atlanta, Georgia

I was ‘forced’ to sleep overnight in my car some 6-8 nights as well.  Alas, I slept overnight on airplanes for several nights this year.

 

Dustiest shows of the year (all three of these tracks are somewhat near each other)

Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex – Markleysburg, Pennsylvania

Tyler County Speedway – Middlebourne, West Virginia

I-77 Raceway Park, Ripley, West Virginia

 

Luckiest tracks to see while avoiding a rainout

Jackson County Speedway, Maquoketa, Iowa – There wasn’t enough rain to wet the sidewalk but they canceled five minutes after the racing began.

Sutton Fairgrounds, Sutton West, Ontario – It poured.  They should have canceled.  However, they don’t cancel.

Somerset County Fairgrounds, Meyersdale, Pennsylvania – It rained all night.  Any other track never would have started the program.  It’s extremely rare for a county fair figure 8 show to cancel.  I can’t recall ever having one of them postpone the show.

Cove Valley Speedway, Martinsburg, Pennsylvania – Track ran a million classes, after starting late, before running a countable event under more than threatening weather conditions

 

Best racing of the year

Tyler County Speedway, Middlebourne, West Virginia (despite the dust)

Archerfield Speedway, Archerfield, Queensland, Australia

 

Priciest shows for what was offered

Stateline Stadium Speedway, Post Falls, Idaho – F8 feature and qualifying support events – $18 U.S.

Duck River Speedway, Wheel, Tennessee – Two support division features and heat racing for other classes – $25 U.S.

Homebush Street Circuit, Sydney, Australia – V-8 Supercars on a street circuit – $70 Australian

 

Tracks where we were given free tickets by fans

Paducah International Raceway, Paducah, Kentucky

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Detroit, Michigan

Blue Earth County Fairgrounds, Garden City, Minnesota (offered but I had already purchased my ticket)

Northern District Fairgrounds – Cadillac, Michigan

 

Terribly late starts

Arizona Speedway, Queen Creek, Arizona

Cherry Raceway, Fife Lake, Michigan

Tucson International Raceway, Tucson, Arizona

 

Fast racing laps of the year

5.6 seconds by karts at the Cerro Gordo County Multi-Purpose Center, Mason City, Iowa

 

Biggest surprise guest at a Trackchasing Tourist Attraction

Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steeler running back) showed up at the Heinz History Center while just 15 guests or so and I looked on

 

The only track I drove from home too

Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, Lancaster, California

 

Biggest hamburger of the year

Automotodrome Grobnik, Rijeka, Croatia – Served on a 10” china dinner plate the burger itself was some 8” in diameter!

 

Biggest dual airport in a single city surprise

Discovering that Frankfurt’s two airports (Frankfurt Main and Hahn) were 72 miles apart (it made for a nice bus ride)

 

Most interesting airline seatmate

“Ron” a Carnival Cruise Lines singer and his great travel stories including getting pulled over into “secondary” inspection nearly every week for two years upon re-entering the U.S.

 

Tracks I finally made it too

Daytona International Speedway (road course) – Daytona Beach, Florida

 

Best new international trackchasing tools

iPhone 5 international GPS

International ‘data roaming’ plan

 

Favorite track signage

Onaway Speedway, Onaway, Michigan – Race car perched on a large pole, painted in the Darrell Waltrip Western Auto NASCAR paint scheme.

 

Best at the track interview

Bob Leyden – Archerfield Speedway, Archerfield, Queensland, Australia

 

Most out in the ‘boonies’ track location

Oregon Raceway Park, Grass Valley, Oregon – At one point we came across a sign that read, “Next services – 83 miles”.  Folks when you seen a sign like that you would be hard-pressed not to check your gas gauge!

 

The “almost missed” tracks

Turkey Trot Raceway, Fort Edward, New York – Just one countable class, senior champs and just two competitors

 

Best source for travel advice on the net

www.tripadvisor.com

 

Biggest field of cars for a feature event

81 – Daytona International Speedway (road course) – Daytona Beach, Florida

 

Most unusual track markers

Christmas trees – Lake Dubay Ice Track, Knowlton, Wisconsin

 

Most unusual racing class for me to see

Outlaw golf karts!   Cerro Gordo County Multi-purpose Center, Mason City, Iowa

 

Best fighting at the track

Uwharrie figure 8 track, Troy, North Carolina

 

Most unusual car dealerships to see

Ecuador – Great Wall (Great Wall Motor Car Limited) and Chery Automobile Company LTD (Chery).  Both are Chinese car manufacturers.

 

State with the best short track dirt racing

Iowa

 

Most draconian international airline policy

Size and weight restrictions for carryon baggage

 

Best at the track translator

Ricardo Villalobos – Ecuador

 

Where are the nicest people in America?

Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota

 

Best concession value

Cerro Gordo County Multi-Purpose Center, Mason City, Iowa – Carrot cake and chocolate cake – $1.00 each

 

Places where I hired a driver

Sri Lanka, Ecuador

 

Most difficult Trackchasing Tourist Attraction ticket to locate

Teatro National Sucre (opera) – Quito, Ecuador

 

Coolest/hippest foreign event

Historic Monaco Grand Prix, Monaco – Happens just once every two years

 

Only overnight accommodations to have bunk beds

Sydney (Burwood), Australia

 

Pace car rides

Pannala Race Track, Pannala, Sri Lanka

Mission Bay Ice Track, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

 

Most unusual racing flag

Blue flag used at Crystal Lake Ice Track, Merrifield, Minnesota signifying one lap to go.  They don’t use a white flag because it can’t be seemed amongst the ice and snow!

 

Most expensive and annoying toll road areas

Chicago, Illinois area

 

Best website for identifying which airlines fly into foreign country airports

www.skyscanner.com

 

Most off the beaten path foreign hotel

Ivy Banks Exclusive Tourist Guest House – Sri Lanka.  If Osama Bin Laden had stayed at the Ivy Banks Exclusive Tourist Guest House the Navy Seals never would have found him.

 

Good use of intermission time

Onaway Speedway, Onaway, Michigan – For Memorial Day event used U.S. Military trucks to transport fans around the speedway.

 

Most unusual reason to evacuate the train

 

Some juvenile delinquent youths dropped tear gas in our train car forcing the train to stop and us to evacuate on the way back to Cannes, France.

 

Longest amount of time it took a track to answer my email

Four years!  Fantasy Speedway, Unity, Maine.  Once they did answer I made a visit to their track and found the most friendly people ever.

 

Best theatrical ticket buying outlet

TKTS – New York, New York

 

Biggest airport bathrooms

Philadelphia International Airport

 

Friendliest chain restaurant staff

Waffle House, Chick-Fil-A

 

Foreign countries where I returned to trackchase

Australia, Austria, Canada, France

 

Nicest racetrack folks

There were lots of nice folks to meet who run the world’s racetracks.  I hesitate to mention some for fear of omitting others equally deserving.  Nevertheless, the people at the Fantasy Speedway, Unity, Maine and Autodromo La Chutana, Lima, Peru were the best.

 

Best travel advantage added to my portfolio

Global Entry Program – TSA Precheck

 

Watching a passport be stamped for the first time ever

Ed Esser passport leaving Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

 

Only track that rented a car and provided a driver for us to visit the track

Autodromo La Chutana – Lima, Peru

 

Best gift entering a track

Two big ol’ Kentucky boys gave me a free ticket on my way into the Paducah International Speedway

 

Most efficient racetrack operation

Paducah International Speedway, Paducah, Kentucky

Arlington Raceway, Arlington, Minnesota

 

One of my best trackchasing efficiency strategies

One-way car rentals

 

Who knows the most heavy hitters in auto racing?

Tim Frost, whom I met up with at the Autobahn Country Club race facility

 

Best 1950s track re-enactment

Fantasy Speedway, Unity, Maine

 

Best website for booking foreign hotels

www.booking.com

 

Best international souvenir

Leather jacket – Ecuador

 

Best airport pricing

Hopkins (Cleveland) International Airport

 

Best rental car option

Slovakia – When I stopped at traffic lights or whatever the engine automatically shut off to save fuel

 

Highest altitude of the year

Quito, Ecuador – 9,300 feet

 

Best trailer race

Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, Lancaster, California

 

Most unsettling moment

Being rear-ended while stopped in Cannes, France

 

2nd Most unsettling moment

When our car wouldn’t start on the way to a race meeting in France

 

3rd Most unsettling moment

When my car wouldn’t start after the races in Archerfield, Queensland, Australia

 

Biggest ‘bucket list’ item checked off

Gondolier ride along the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy

 

Lucky with the ice racing

First three ice tracks of my season either canceled the week before or the week after I attended their races

 

Biggest international travel triumph of the year

Beating those miserable #$%&# international airlines out of their exorbitant bag fees!

 

Most unusual item seen on the ice this winter

“Tip-Ups” used to alert ice fishing aficionados they had a bite

 

Best foreign city visit during an international trackchasing trip

Venice, Italy

 

Most unusual small town claim

Marshall County Fairgrounds, Blue Rapids, Kansas – Blue Rapids claims to be the smallest town in the U.S. to have hosted a national league baseball game. On October 24, 1913, more than 3,000 fans watched the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants play a world tour exhibition game on the local ball field that is still in use today.

 

Best major city road system in the U.S.

Los Angeles, California

 

Best “in race” ride along

 

Allouze Bay Ice Track, Superior, Wisconsin

 

Worst mosquitos

Venice, Italy

 

Most unusual concession item

Fried bologna sandwich – Millbridge Speedway, Salisbury, North Carolina

 

The only track to add sales tax to even dollar amounts for concession items

Snydersville Raceway, Snydersville, Pennsylvania

 

Most expensive gasoline

Italy – $8.55 U.S. per gallon

Slovakia – $7.96 U.S. per gallon

 

Pay toilets at racetracks

Nordring, Fuglau, Austria

 

First time I had seen this promotional idea on a broad scale

Mid-Nebraska Speedway, Doniphan, Nebraska – An entire section in the middle of the grandstand for “V.I.P.” fans

 

Most expensive toll bridge

Confederation Bridge – $44.25 U.S. leaving Prince Edward Island, Canada

 

Best asphalt vintage oval racing

Autodrome Montmagny, Montmagny, Quebec, Canada

 

Most fun boat ride

Waterbuses in Venice, Italy

 

Best football game to listen to on radio while at a racetrack

Capital City Speedway, Ashland, Virginia – UCLA 38 – usc 28

 

Tallest people in the country

Kansas.  I’m guessing the average young woman goes about 5’10” and the guys come in at about 6’3” or 6’4”.

 

Best burger of the year?

Merritt Speedway, Lake City, Michigan (it made up for the lamest figure 8 event of the season!)

 

My favorite non-oval type of racing

Stadium Off-Road Racing

 

My only Atlantic time zone trackchasing visit

Oyster Bay Speedway, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

 

Most embarrassing moment at the track

Marshall County Fairgrounds, Blue Rapids, Kansas – Young woman singing the national anthem forgot the words and walked off behind the horse barn!

 

Most beautiful trackchasing sunset

The skyline was dotted with hot-air balloons as the sun was setting in the west.  It was a beautiful sight.

 

Most unusual on ice track concession offering

Allouze Bay Ice Track, Superior, Wisconsin – Beer! From Gronk’s Grill & Bar (Gronk’s)

 

Most uncomfortable (cold) weather of the year

Mission Bay Ice Track, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

 

Worst tracks for viewing the racing action (all street circuits)

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Detroit, Michigan

Baltimore Grand Prix, Baltimore, Maryland

 

Race venue at the largest island city park in the United States

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Detroit, Michigan

 

Most crowded event of the year

Deseret Peak Complex, Tooele, Utah

 

Only new state or province added this year

Prince Edward Island – Oyster Bay Speedway, Charlottetown

 

Most unusual county fair food concession trailer name

“Fried Fantasy Foods”

 

 

Most unbearable heat and humidity

I-77 Raceway Park, Ripley, West Virginia

Fillmore County Fairgrounds, Geneva, Nebraska

 

Biggest rip-off

Fine for not having a “driving sticker” in Austria – 120 Euros (about $160 U.S.)

 

Most hapless hotel

Days Inn just off the freeway in Clearfield, PA

 

Best foreign host

Julio Mickle and his friends from Autodromo La Chutana, Lima, Peru

 

Most favorite trackchasing iPhone app

Track Guide powered by National Speedway Directory

 

Longest border stop of the year

Re-entering the U.S. following trip to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada with Ed Esser

 

Friendliest promoter at a track where I didn’t see any racing

Stan Caroline, Blairsville Speedway, Blairsville, Pennsylvania

 

Biggest international toll road rip

We paid EXACTLY $5.68 U.S. less on tolls than we did on diesel fuel for the entire trip while in France!  We paid 17.7 cents U.S. PER MILE to use the toll roads.

 

Best foreign transportation event

Overnight train ride from Frankfurt, Germany to Salzburg, Austria

 

Easiest hotel/motel reservation system to work with

Motel 6

 

What animal caused a post race highway accident

Black bear following racing at Cove Valley Speedway, Martinsburg, Pennsylvania

 

Best foreign tour guide

Renato from “Taxi Lima Peru, Lima, Peru

 

Best airline movie documentary on the way to a foreign track

Jerry Weintraub life story:  His Way

 

Best demo derby by a long shot

Deseret Peak Complex, Tooele, Utah

 

Best webcast trackchasing interview

KWS Tonight with George and Gary

 

Most impressive kart racing group

Young Guns – www.younggunsseries.com

 

Worst road system of any major city in America

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

 

Longest weekend flying trip

Out Thursday night, back Monday morning to Australia – 16,132 miles

 

Dumbest thing I did during my trackchasing travels

Soaked my pants, along with my Lexus ‘smart key’ in water overnight

 

Best new alcoholic drink discovery

Pisco Sours, Lima Peru – uno mas, por favor

 

Biggest hassle at the U.S. border

From a bored U.S. border agent in Caribou, Maine.  I didn’t think he would ever let me pass

 

Best negotiated ticket deal

Grand Prix of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland – Best box office ticket price – $57, purchased same class ticket from scalper for $22, then after the first feature event sold THAT ticket to a fan for $15, net ticket expense $7

 

My biggest tip of the year to the people who served me

Stay in school!

 

Best ever airport parking sponsorship

Los Angeles World Parking Group, Los Angeles, California

 

Most unusual trackchasing locations back to back on the SAME trip.

North Carolina and Croatia

 

Best piece of technology

iPhone 5

 

City where I’ve seen the most tracks

Las Vegas, Nevada – 10 tracks – Las Vegas Convention Center, Outdoor track added this year with rallycross

 

Most favorite airport for sleeping overnight

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

Best foreign hotel stay

 

Sheraton, Lima, Peru

Sheraton, Quito, Ecuador

 

The item I brought home most often for those twin grandbabies

“Timbits” from Tim Hortons

 

Best track at listening to the consumer

NOLA Motorsports Park, Avondale, Louisiana – When I explained to the ticket taker that I was only coming for the Friday afternoon event, he waived the entire weekend ticket price requirement and admitted me for free.

 

Most unusual trackchasing buddy experience

Mike Skonicki, Chicago city boy, taking a tour of the hog barns at the Jackson County Fair, Maquoketa, Iowa

 

Most lame (by far) figure 8 racing (possibly the most lame ever)

Merritt Speedway, Lake City, Michigan

 

Best weather weekend

Quebec & Prince Edward Island, Canada

 

Luckiest track to see based upon circumstances

Clinton County Speedway, Mackeyville, Pennsylvania – arrived just as the last race of the night AND the last race of the year was taking the green flag

 

The only parking lot that is always jammed during my travels

Wal-Mart

 

Most exciting, nerve-racking trip to get the last seat on the plane and make it at the last minute

There were so many!  If I had to pick one it would be on the outbound flight from Los Angeles to Sydney

 

Best ‘butter tart’ are a racing event

Fenelon Fair, Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada

 

Most food choices at a county fair

Woodstock Fair, Woodstock, Connecticut

 

Best iPhone 5 features

GPS!!!

Panoramic photo capabilities

 

Most productive racechaser met this season

Dave Garrison, reigning amateur racechasing champion of 2011 – 156 tracks

 

One of my most used travel websites

www.sleepinginairports.net

 

Most unusual thing to see along the trackchasing highways

Moose walking along a two-lane highway in upstate Maine on a beautiful sunny day

 

Most ice racing states/provinces/countries by a single trackchaser

Alberta, Canada

Andorra

British Columbia, Canada

Finland

Maine

Manitoba, Canada

Michigan

Minnesota

New Hampshire

New York

Ontario, Canada

Quebec, Canada

Vermont

Wisconsin

RANDY LEWIS RACING SPECIAL REPORTS 

Where do “flat karts” belong in the hierarchy of trackchasing?

Reported in Cerro Gordo County Multi-Purpose Center, Mason City, Iowa Trackchaser Report

 

And you wonder why I voluntarily “opted out” of participation in the Pennsylvania trackchaser track listings…….

Reported in Crystal Lake Ice Track, Merrifield, Minnesota Trackchaser Report

 

Would Mitt Romney invite Newt Gingrich over to play canasta?

Reported in Mission Bay Track, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada Trackchaser Report

 

2011 Lifetime National Geographic Diversity (NGD) results

Reported in Texas Thunder Speedway, Killeen, Texas Trackchaser Report

 

Randy Lewis Racing Charitable Gift Giving Program

Reported in Roaring Know Motorsports Complex, Markleysburg, Pennsylvania Trackchaser Report

 

Are U.S. gas prices really high?

Reported in Monaco – Part 2 of 3 Trackchaser Report

 

Coming back to Canada today brought back special memories.

Reported in Autodrome Chaudière Trackchaser Report

 

The go-kart trackchasing proposal.

Reported in the Detroit Belle Aisle Grand Prix Trackchaser Report

 

My brother needed a new car and I made sure he got it.

Reported in the Tucson International Raceway Trackchaser Report

 

Trackchasing is the most fun when it’s not just about trackchasing. 

Reported in the Arlington Raceway Trackchaser Report

 

Enjoy a walk back in time with owner’s manuals from cars from the past. 

Reported in the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds Trackchaser Report

 

It’s not about the money…..it’s about the money.  There IS a difference.

Reported in the Needmore Speedway Trackchaser Report

 

 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES/DISAPPOINTMENTS 

There were not very many missed opportunities in 2012.  With the amount of advance planning I put into each trip, not very many things go wrong.

 

RAIN OUTS

1.  I normally lead off this section with a recap of where I was rained out for the year.  Given how far I travel to see each race getting rained out is a bummer.  However in 74 trackchasing days for the year I DIDN’T GET RAINED OUT A SINGLE TIME!!  That’s a new record for me.  I will never be able to beat it but I guess I could tie that achievement.  As a matter of fact, I have not been rained out since June 3, 2011.  Even that rainout was sketchy.  I arrived at the Whiskey Lake Speedway in Junction City, Kansas on a Friday night under beautiful blue skies.  It had not rained in more than 48 hours.  Nevertheless, there was not a person in sight.  Today that track has closed down.  Was I rained out on June 3, 2011 or the victim of a poor racetrack promotion?

 

NO COUNTABLE CARS

2.  From time to time I will visit a racetrack and there are not any “trackchasing countable” cars.  That would normally happen at a go-kart show.  This year I showed up at the newly located I-35 Speedway in Elm Mott, Texas.  Alas, they had flat karts and caged karts driven by kids.  None of that is countable.  Don’t blame me for the rules.  The “founding fathers” came up with these ideas.

 

I had been interested in just two classes, the adult box cars and the adult cyclones.  I saw these two classes race at the old I-35 Kartway.  Last week, the track had two competitors in each countable category.  I figured that at least one of those classes would have their competitors come back this week.  Maybe even more of those machines would show up at the season progressed from opening night.

 

Folks, I am so far ahead on the “luck” side of trackchasing that I could have this kind of thing happen 50 times and I would still be ahead of the game.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t a total shutout as I had a track on that evening to see in the Lone Star State.

 

In April, Greg Robbins and I headed up to Versailles, Ohio.  We were hoping to see some countable racing at the BMI Indoor track.  Unfortunately, no countable racing machines showed up.  We turned our bad racing luck into a lovely dinner at Tony’s Italian Kitchen in Englewood, Ohio.

 

POOR TRACK ORGANIZATION

3.  On my way to Slovakia (country #59) I stopped in Austria for some rallycross and autocross racing on two different tracks.  Due to poor racing organization on the first day I was there they raced only on the rallycross track.  If I wanted to see autocross racing I would have to return the next morning.  However, I needed to be in Slovakia for the World Touring Car Championship racing in the afternoon.  I was in Europe to see racing in Slovakia.  Nevertheless, I risked getting to Slovakia at all by driving nearly 125 miles out of my way to see the morning autocross race in Austria.  Then I “beat feet” toward Slovakia and made it!

 

UNEXPECTED INTERNATIONAL REVENUE GENERATORS

4.  This one came out of left field!!  When the European Union came about European countries relaxed their borders.  People could travel freely (fairly freely anyway) from one country to the next.  It’s somewhat eerie to cross from one country to the next and see these hulking mostly empty buildings that used to house border control agents.  It’s where the bureaucracy that was embraced by each individual country in the old days, which really aren’t that old, operated.

 

I have probably been to Europe more than fifty times.  On most of those trips I have rented a car.  However, nothing on any of those other trips was as problematic as what I experienced today.  This trip began in Germany.  When I left Germany and entered Austria I did so at 65 M.P.H.  Yes, there was NO border check simply a blue “country” sign that told me I was entering Austria.

 

I was stopped at the Austrian border entry.  “Is this a rental car?” the agent asked.  I told him it was.  He asked to see my rental contract.  Then he laid the bad news on me.  “You don’t have a sticker?” he said in Austrian accented English.  I was somewhat baffled.  I was now being pulled over for “secondary screening”.  Yes this was going to be problematic.  “You don’t have a sticker.  A sticker is required to drive your rental car in Austria,” he told me.

 

No I was not going to prison.  I was going to a small VW mini-van for “processing”.  Was my Croatian trackchasing adventure in trouble without my ever getting to Croatia?  When we got to the van, the agent’s English became much better.  “You are driving your car in Austria without a sticker.  You must have a sticker to drive your car in Austria.  It’s going to be 120 euros (about $150 U.S.)” he said.

 

Even though his English was better now I wasn’t sure I was hearing him right.  “It’s 120 euros for a STICKER?” I cried.  Soon it became clear it was not 120 euros for a sticker but the FINE for not having a sticker was 120 euros.  Wow!  Yikes!  #$%$$$!

 

The agent’s next reply was, “We take Visa”.  “I’m sure you #$%%^$ do” was the first thought that came to my head.  I looked around.  What choice did I have?  Out came the Visa credit card.  The agent conveniently had a portable credit card machine in his van.  Soon our “transaction” was completed.  Can you spell R I P O F F!!!

 

INABILITY TO GET TO A TRACK YEAR AFTER YEAR

5.  I’ve had my heart set on watching the mid-week racing at the Coos Bay International Speedway in Coos Bay, Oregon.  This year Carol and I were all set to go.  However, it rains a lot up in the Northwest.  For yet ANOTHER year we had to pass on Coos Bay because of liquid sunshine.  I ended up going to a race in Nebraska and Carol stayed home.

 

LACK OF PROPER CREDENTIALS

6.  I did have one major near catastrophic event happen this morning.  When I reached the airport I discovered I didn’t have my driver’s license.  That was more than problematic.  Last night I stayed in a Howard Johnson’s motel near the Detroit airport.  When I checked in the desk clerk needed to make a photocopy of my driver’s license.  Nobody ever asks to do that.  Of course, I only stay at a Howard Johnson’s about once every ten years.

 

Not having a driver’s license is a showstopper for my trackchasing.  No driver’s license means no rental cars.  No rental cars means no way to get to the track.  After the initial wave of panic had subsided, I retraced my mental steps to see where my license might be.  That’s when I discovered the desk clerk took it last night.  Of course an alert desk clerk THIS MORNING would have noticed the error on THEIR part when I checked out.  Alas, I called the hotel.  Yes, they had my driver’s license.  My flight was leaving in seventy minutes.  Could they get my driver’s license to the airport before my flight left?  Yes, they could….and they did.  I rushed into the terminal clutching my driver’s license only to learn the flight to South Bend was delayed three hours.

 

Losing my driver’s license would have been more than inconvenient for the rest of this trip.  When I reached Minneapolis I asked the rental car agent if they would have rented me a car if I didn’t have my driver’s license.  The answer was, “No way”.

 

I don’t have a “normal” driver’s license.  I can’t tell you much more than that.  My driver’s license is designed for efficiency and cost effectiveness.  To replace my license would cost most people well over $1,000 U.S.  It would even cost ME a lot of time and money.  I’ll be even more protective of it from now on.

 

LACK OF SUITABLE OVERNIGHT ACCOMODATION

7.  Just before getting to the State Line Stadium Speedway we stopped at Subway.  There I popped open my laptop to secure a hotel room for tonight.  I wanted to get something special for Carol.  However, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.

 

With Priceline.com I went all the way up to $100.  I never bid that high.  On Priceline a $100 bid should get you a $150-200/night hotel.  No luck.  Then I went over to Bidding.com.  I’ve been using this site a lot lately.  There was something funny going on.  They only had THREE Spokane hotels listed.  Normally, they would have 20-30 places for a city the size of Spokane.

 

When I had booked the Days Inn in Spokane on Booking.com I was told it was the last room available.  When we entered the hotel lobby the desk clerk “looked up” our reservation.  “We don’t have a reservation for Lewis” she told me.

 

“Wait!” she told me.  We have three Booking.com reservations that came in late after we sold our last room.  “Maybe you’re in there” she said.  You guessed it.  We WERE in that pile.  What did this mean?  It meant we had a reservation but they did not have a room for us.

 

However, I still had two choices up my sleeve.  These were more appealing to me because they WERE choices.  Reality was now sinking in on Carol.  My last two “choices” were not what she would consider “choices”.  I was a Marine.  Anything is a choice.  Carol was not a Marine.

 

The choices were sleeping in the airport or sleeping in the car.  I checked my source, www.sleepinginairports.net but the review was not positive for sleeping at the Spokane International Airport.  Apparently, they close the terminal overnight.  The only place to sleep would be near the ticket counters.  That’s not a good choice.

 

This left the rental car.  Yes, the National Rental Car Racing Toyota Camry could also be the National Rental Car Toyota Camry “magnificent luxurious omnipotent hotel” or whatever.

 

Carol did not think much of this idea.  She had never slept overnight on a trackchasing trip in her life in a car.  “I have to brush my teeth” she cried.  I could never imagine saying to my Marine Corps drill instructor during a nighttime forced march, “Sir, Private Lewis platoon 1119 requests permission to stop and brush my teeth”.  That question might more likely get your teeth knocked out rather than brushed.

 

Our car was already parked in the Days Inn parking lot.  Carol was concerned about being kidnapped.  I figured a jam-packed hotel parking lot would be about as safe as anything.

 

“The car’s going to be too small to sleep in” Carol continued.  I considered putting her in the “back bedroom” aka the trunk!  However, you can go to jail for doing things like that.

 

WHERE TRACK OWNERS AND DRIVERS CAN’T WORK IT OUT

8.  Greg Robbins and I went trackchasing in Kentucky.  Although it was a beautiful sunny day a dispute between drivers and the track’s management cancelled the program.  Greg joined me for two trackchasing outings in 2012.  Neither one would end up meeting trackchasing’s guidelines for countability.  I hope Greg can get back into the trackchasing countability ranks in 2013.

 

WHEN MEDICAL NEEDS TRUMP TRACKCHASING

9.  Carol and I had originally planned to Lancaster, California for the county fair figure 8 racing.  That’s before she decided to have arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday.  She’s been having some pain in her knee for a few months.  We decided that given all of our other upcoming travel commitments that this would be the best time for her outpatient surgery.

 

Her surgery went well.  I’ll have her tell you sometime how I saved the life of the recovery nurse in the hospital following the surgery.  I figured it was the least I could do under the trying circumstances of the moment.  When you see Carol ask here how it all came down.

 

Nevertheless, with Carol now having her leg elevated for the next two days I knew she would be forced to slow down.  Just before I left for the race I placed some food within her reach.  Then I took a package of Oreos and put them JUST BEYOND her reach, and with a kiss headed out the door.  Everyone needs some motivation in life right?

 

OPERATOR ERROR

10.  Going into the Las Vegas Convention Center rallycross race I had purchased two tickets for what I thought was a one-day event.  When my Vegas buddy couldn’t attend I figured I would just sell his ticket.  Unfortunately, this was a TWO-DAY event and I have printed only MY ticket for both days.  Without a printer at the track I was forced to eat the other unused and unprinted ticket.

 

Another example of operator error occurred in Archerfield, Queensland, Australia.  After the races my rental car wouldn’t start.  I feared the portable GPS unit had drained the battery.  In reality I had placed the automatic transmission in neutral before heading out to the track.  That was an embarrassing discovery with a man from Archerfield Speedway who had gone out of his way to help.

 

 

AT THE TRACK (ON THE WAY TO THE TRACK) PEOPLE VISITS

Paul Weisel – Florida

Rodd and Todd Pickett – Florida

Wayne Breeden – Florida

Ed Esser – Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada

Tim Frost – Joliet, Illinois

Mike Skonicki – Maquoketa, Iowa (twice)

Greg Robbins – Versailles, Ohio

John Sullivan – Bangor, Maine

Mark Virt – Tucson, Arizona

Roger Ferrell – Marne, Michigan

Rob & Emily Palmer – Clinton, Minnesota

Pryce Boeye – Illinois

Mike Owens – Illinois

Kyle Ealy – Maquoketa, Iowa

Bob Vorel – Arlington Heights, Illinois

Phil Thompson – Arlington Heights, Illinois

Dave Garrison – Wheel, Tennessee

Jim Lewis – Hawaii

 

 

PEOPLE WHO HELPED ME AT/WITH THE TRACKS

Leon – Lake Dubay Ice Track, Knowlton, Wisconsin

Brian Kaufman – Mason City, Iowa

Kent Erlandson – Crystal Lake Ice Track, Merrifield, Minnesota

WegCircuits website from the Netherlands

Malaysian race driver – Dilantha

Subscribers of the www.autolanka.com racing forum

TripAdvisor.com folks such as Hans, Erik and Sandya, David, Travelkar88, DBM24, Aussie Cowboy, Sirene777 and Tharindu with my Sri Lanka search

Dinesh Deheragoda – Ceylon Black Tea Company

Niroshan Pereira – President of the Ceylon Motor Sports Club

Anura, manager Tourist Driver’s Association Sri Lanka airport

Ariya aka “Quarterman” my Sri Lankan private driver

Rob Palmer – Upper Midwest

Unique Motorsports – Michigan

Jean”.  Head of Auto Sport Quebec (ASQ)

Paul Weisel – Pennsylvania

Louis Skypala – Slovakia and other areas

Ed Reichert – Allouze Bay Ice Track

Darin Meierotto – Allouze Bay Ice Track

Members of the ‘trackchaser” Yahoo group

Gary Adomko – Mission Bay, Ontario, Canada ice racer

Curtis Stieh – Thunder Bay Ice Racing Club president and Mark Stewart, Mission Bay, Ontario, Canada ice racer and Ray Dorvall, track announcer

Irina – From the local Ibarra tourist association (Ecuador)

Ricardo Soler – Colombian friend and racing contact

TripAdvisor – Ecuadorian contacts

Tim Frost – Track Guide iPhone app

Lincoln Guaman and Ricardo Villalobos – Ecuadorian tour guides and drivers

Mark Basso – Autobahn Country Club race facility

Mike Skonicki

John Sullivan – Maine

Sanja – Automotodrome Grobnik, Rijeka, Croatia

Mr. Zrinko Gregurek – Secretary General of the CCKF (Croatian Car and Karting Association, Croatia

Peter Dumoulin daughter Shaylee – Mission Bay, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

David – Slovakia

Christian and staff at Autodrome Chaudière

Will White’s Autoracingrecords.com site

Kyle Ealy – Iowa

Canadian Thrill Show Productions

Fox Motors – Michigan

Stan Caroline – Blairsville Speedway

Tito, Julio, Salvi and many more great Peruvians – Autodromo La Chutana, Lima, Peru

Lyubomir Simeonov – Greece

Mike Kitchens – Hawaii

Bob Leyden – Archerfield, Queensland, Australia

 

Please accept my apologies if I left anyone out.  I didn’t mean too.

 

 

TRACKCHASING TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Grand Prize Winner – Full afternoon of lunch and visiting in the home of my driver’s sister, Chandra in Sri Lanka

International best – Nicolini Vintage Auto Museum, Lima, Peru 

Domestic best The Henry Ford – Detroit, Michigan

 

When I am out on the trackchasing trail, I am always on the lookout for local attractions to visit and enjoy.  Finding such places is even more enjoyable when Carol or another member of the family is with me.  During the course of the year, we’ll get to touch and feel lots of cool places.  I call them Trackchasing Tourist Attractions.  Here are the major TTAs we visited in 2012 during our trackchasing travels.

  

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Game (UCLA vs. Illinois) – San Francisco, California

Orlando Jai Alai, Casselberry, Florida

Sri Lanka Elephant Orphanage

Kandyan Dance Show – Sri Lanka

Royal Botanical Gardens of Sri Lanka

Full afternoon of lunch and visiting in the home of my driver’s sister, Chandra in Sri Lanka

Temple of the Tooth – Sri Lanka

Negombo Fish Market – Sri Lanka

Mall of the Emirates – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Million Dollar Quartet – New York, New York

Film Forum – New York, New York (Michael)

Memphis! – New York, New York

Harley-Davidson Factory Tour – Kansas City, Missouri

Madison Square Garden – New York, New York (UCLA vs. St. John’s)

Teleferico – Quito, Ecuador

Old Town – Quito, Ecuador

Teatro National Sucre (opera) – Quito, Ecuador

Otavalo Marketplace – Otavalo, Ecuador

English Theatre of Frankfurt – Frankfurt, Germany – Rain Man

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada Walking Tour

Green Gables – Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Stewart-Haas Racing – Kannapolis, North Carolina

Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona – Oakland A’s vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Henry Ford – Detroit, Michigan

Comerica Park – Detroit, Michigan – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Detroit Tigers.

Oakwood Country Club – Coal Valley, Illinois – Golf foursome of Pryce Boeye, Mike Skonicki and Mike Owens former Bradley University star of 1960.

Toronto Blue Jays baseball – Toronto, Ontario, Canada – New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Urban Institute for Contemporary Art – Grand Rapids, Michigan

Heinz History Center – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

PNC Park Tour (home of the Pirates) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Boston City Tour (North End Neighborhood) – Boston, Massachusetts

Angels Stadium – Anaheim, California – Texas Rangers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Nicolini Vintage Auto Museum, Lima, Peru

Magical Water Circuit, Lima, Peru

“Carmen” Teatro Municipal de Lima Peru, Lima, Peru

53rd annual Thessaloniki Film Festival, Thessaloniki, Greece

New York City and Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn, New York

 

 

RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Restaurant Money Back Guarantees

Grand Prize WinnerLa Rosa Nautica – Lima, Peru

International best – Tie – Segundo Muelle – Quito, Ecuador

 and Universal Café (Read the reviews) breakfast – Montreal, Quebec

Domestic best – Tie – Charlie’s Steak House – New Orleans, Louisiana and Northwestern Steak House – Mason City, Iowa

 

Harlow’s Café – Tempe, Arizona 

Daytona Brickyard, Daytona Beach, Florida

Northwestern Steak House – Mason City, Iowa

Trattoria Trecolori restaurant (The Eatery) – New York, New York

Mooncake Foods (Mooncake) – New York, New Yor 

Daniela’s Trattoria (Daniela’s) – New York, New York

Five Guys – New York, New York (when In N Out Burgers is not available)

Universal Café (Read the reviews) breakfast – Montreal, Quebec

Restaurant Holder (Reviews) – Montreal, Quebec

My Sisters Place – Grand Marais, Minnesota

Segundo Muelle – Quito, Ecuador

II Risotto – Quito, Ecuador

La Marquesa Restaurante (The reviews)Cotacachi, Ecuado 

Tony’s Italian Kitchen – Englewood, Ohio

Spice – Frankfurt, Germany

Romano’s – Philadelphia, Pennsylvani 

Dysart’s Truck Stop – Bangor, Maine

Bar Le Casino De Mirabel – Mirabel, Quebec, Canada

Buffet Fu Lam Wok & Grill – Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Tucson Tamale Company – Tucson, Arizona

Misty’s Steakhouse and Lounge – Lincoln, Nebrask 

Lucy’s North China Cuisine – Fargo, North Dakota

King Buffet – Yankton, South Dakota

Tim Hortons – All over Canada

Hires Big H – Salt Lake City, Uta 

Burgerville – 39 stores primarily in Oregon and southwest Washington

Jonny B’z Dogs and More – Grand Rapids, Michigan

Dusmesh – Cincinnati, Ohio

Quinet’s Court Restaurant – New Martinsville, West Virginia

La Summa Cucina Italiana – Boston, Massachusetts

La Rosa Nautica – Lima, Peru

Charlie’s Steak House – New Orleans, Louisiana

Waffle House – At every exit all over the Southeast

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck – Las Vegas, Nevada

Cosmos Shopping Mall bowling alley restaurant – Thessaloniki, Greece

Roberta’s – Brooklyn, New York 

Sydney Dumpling King – Sydney (Burwood), Australia

St. Louis Drive-In – Honolulu, Hawaii 

 

 

 

RANDY SAID THIS IN 2012.

Each of the following quotes appeared in the yearlong RLR Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Reports of 2012.

 

January 1 – Thank goodness for sponsors.  They helped so much on this trip.  “By the way, my sponsor Priceline.com got us into the Hilton for just $44 when the least expensive AAA rate was $95 plus tax.  Of course being a season UCLA football ticket holder got us a nice discount on the football tickets.  Then National kicked in so it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been for a last minute one-way car rental.  Finally, my airline sponsors made it affordable to do some flying on this trip.  Oops!  I would be remiss to not mention that the Sunrise Airport Parking concession gave us a discount on airport parking.  I can fully appreciate those NASCAR drivers who need to mention each of their sponsors without taking a breath.”

 

January 27 – Regarding the Florida Jai Lai betting window ticket seller who messed up my tickets.  “He examined the tickets.  “This three-dollar ticket is not for team #5” he told me.  Say what?  He had punched in the wrong information.  He ADMITTED he had entered the wrong team to win.  “What could we do about it” I asked.  “It’s your responsibility to check your tickets before you leave the window” was his monotone response.  I was about ready to say, “It’s your $%^&# responsibility to do your silly ass job right.  You CAN be replaced by a machine you know.”

 

However, I looked around.  I was on the East coast.  The Jai Alai fronton was probably owned by the mafia, the East coast mafia.  Was it really worth raising an issue over $14 U.S.?  Maybe, but I chose to return to my seat.”

 

January 28 – Regarding the “new flat kart trackchasing rules proposal”.  “Guy Smith doesn’t know if he should support this rule or not.  If he supports it now and the proposal is approved, then I will begin seeing my fair share of flat kart tracks almost immediately.  It would actually come at a very good time for me as my “available” track list is getting smaller and smaller every year.

 

However, if Guy waits a long time for such a proposal to pass, he can both benefit and possibly lose some support.  He stands to benefit by putting off the “adding of all karts” for as long as possible for one distinct reason.  I’m not getting any younger.  I could probably add 200-300 flat kart tracks in the next five years if the proposal passes now.  That would add another 3-4 years before Guy could ever hope to pass my trackchasing totals.  That can’t be good for Guy Smith.

 

However, he is getting heavy pressure from his trackchasing “sponsors” to get that rule passed NOW.  These are the people who pay Guy’s trackchasing expenses week in and week out.  They have pull.  I suspect a rule’s proposal will be made in the next couple of months if Guy can’t hold off his backers any longer.  Of course, Guy will “reluctantly” go along with the measure so he can pretend to play both sides of the street.

 

If the flat kart rule does pass I will be given “new” trackchasing life just as I was when I gained my airline sponsorships in 2006.  Stay tuned, this could get interesting.”

 

January 29 – Part of my trackchasing strategy is to keep up my “average tracks per trip” number.  That way I can see the same number of tracks in far fewer trips than my fellow competitors.  This gives me more time at home as well as more time to pursue my other hobbies.

 

One of the better strategic outcomes from ice racing is that they almost always race in the day.  From many locations this allows me to get back home after the race.  When the warm weather comes, racing will be at night.  That means, for most trips, it will take me an extra day to get back to California.

 

February 4 – I had long felt that flat karts should have been a countable class from day one.  However, I was not a member of the original voting group.  When I explain to people what counts and does not count I always get a “raised eyebrow” when I tell them flat karts do not count.  I usually look down at my shoes after this explanation.

 

About ten years ago, I made the bold statement that when trackchasers ran out of ovals and road courses to see they would want to add flat kart tracks.  A few years ago, this appetite for “more, more, more” was temporarily satisfied by Allan Brown’s proposal to add figure 8 tracks to the countable track list.  However, now most of the leading trackchasers have seen virtually every figure 8 track going.  They need “fresh meat”.  Fresh meat means flat kart tracks.

 

You should know that I am no longer a member of the trackchasing group.  I have voluntarily asked to have my track lists removed from the group’s website at www.roamingtheraceways.com.  It can accurately be stated that I don’t care for the management and/or the politics of the group.  Do you feel my pain?

 

February 5 – This is Super Bowl weekend.  Nobody, for the most part, travels over Super Bowl weekend.  I love that.  It meant I wouldn’t have to worry about those always full Sunday night flights.  Super Bowl weekend is one of the very best weekends for standby flying of the year.

 

February 12 – I will be traveling “solo” on this trip to Sri Lanka.  Carol and I have a loose agreement that she will take one cross-country or international trip per month with me.  Those trips usually last from three days to nearly two weeks.  She chose the “40th wedding anniversary” trip later this month rather than take the trip to Sri Lanka.

 

I can’t blame her.  If all goes well, I will return home to San Clemente for about 24 hours before taking my bride back across country for nearly a week’s celebration in New York City and beyond.  When we’re there we will see our UCLA Bruins play the St. John’s Red Storm in Madison Square Garden.  We’ll see a couple of Broadway plays and eat some great food.

 

On playing the lottery.  Frankly, I have about all of the material things I need.  I don’t play the lottery.  I invest my money for a rainy day.  I do know two things, maybe three about lotteries.  First, you can’t win unless you own your own bowling shoes (remember much of the humor you read in these pages in on the subtle side), secondly you’re chances of winning are roughly the same whether you buy a ticket or not.  Finally, most people who win the lottery are too old to enjoy it.

 

The one thing I guess I don’t have enough of is experiences.  I can’t imagine ever maxing out in this area.  My mission is simply to keep accumulating new experiences until I can’t do it anymore.

 

February 19 – Back in February 1972 a young yet to be “Trackchasing’s First Mother” married an up and coming trackchaser.  I was home on a ten-day leave following completion of my Marine Corps boot camp training in San Diego.  We went to Disneyworld for our honeymoon and then saw each other for only a weekend for the next three months of our marriage while I continued my “government” job.

 

Why did she marry me?  People have been asking that question for forty years.  She certainly couldn’t have married me for my trackchasing notoriety.  At the time I had only 25 lifetime tracks.   She couldn’t have married me for my money.  Our wedding cost $500 U.S. on the nose.  We paid for the whole thing.  We borrowed $200 and took the other $300 from our savings.  Maybe it was my good looks.  O.K, stop laughing!  We’ll just say she had her reasons whatever they were.  Why did I marry her?  She was the prettiest and the smartest of the litter.  That’s what I always tell her.  Pretty romantic huh?

 

This week Carol and I are celebrating our 40th year of wedded bliss.  I don’t know of any trackchasers who have been married longer.  When people ask me what my advice is for such a successful run I simply reply with a three-word answer, “Don’t ask me”.  I can’t really take credit for that line.  I got it from Kenny Schrader the NASCAR driver.

 

February 25 – I get a good deal of recognition just about everywhere I go because of my trackchasing hobby.  However, that recognition is misplaced in some ways.

 

First of all, I get almost all of my ideas from other people.  Granted I do try to take someone else’s idea and adapt it for my own use.  However, without the original idea I would probably just be staring blankly off into space.

 

Without my sponsors paying many of my bills I could not go trackchasing nearly as often as I do.  Without the help of people who live locally, near the tracks I might be visiting, I would miss out on several opportunities.  That was the case with this weekend’s trackchasing.

 

I grabbed a Minneapolis area Motel 6.  I would not be checking in until about 1 a.m.  I would have to be on the road no later than 9 a.m.  It is times like this that a Motel 6 works perfectly.  Last week Carol stayed (me too) in Westins and the like during our trip to New York and Montreal.  I enjoy staying in budget hotels when I’m by myself.  They offer me everything I need, especially when my stay is short.  If that helps me afford to put Carol in the very best places then I simply consider that as a reward she earns with all of the things she does back in San Clemente.  Make sense?

 

Folks, I travel the country nearly every weekend.  What have I noticed about Wisconsin?  They are the biggest beer drinkers by a factor of a six-pack when it comes to downing their brewskis.

 

There was no admission price.  Spectators simply drove their vehicles up to the edge of the viewing space, only 30-40 yards from the track, and found a good place to watch.  I pulled the National Rental Car Racing Ford Fusion right to the rear bumper of Ed’s motorhome.  When he looked up in his rearview mirror to see what all of the commotion was I was taking his picture!

 

In a minute or so, Ed was leaving the comfort of his vehicle to join me in mine.  Long-time readers know that Ed and I are fraternity brothers.  Of course, he went to a better school than me, but we were still brothers.  We exchanged our super secret handshake and began to renew our acquaintances. 

 

February 26 – (On my last trackchasing visit with Ed Esser) Ed and I would end up spending the next 24 hours together.  Of course, I had to be careful.  If I wasn’t careful Ed could steal the many trackchasing logistical secrets I have developed along the way.  I showed him a few things but kept the important stuff under “lock and key”.

 

You can imagine that during a 24-period, of which about ten hours were spent in the car that lots of things can be talked about.  I cannot share Ed’s and my discussion about our fellow competitors.  Sorry, I just can’t.

 

Ed had stories about attending his granddaughter’s basketball games.  One of the most recent games was a real barnburner.  He told me he couldn’t view my videos because he has a dial-up internet connection.  I told him to take the gas money from one trip to New Mexico and invest in a high-speed internet connection!  Ed described the agony of waiting nearly thirty seconds for a single picture to download.  He said when his son gets a new computer then he gets the old one!  Surprisingly, he told me he still doesn’t use GPS.  In many ways, Ed is “old school” but with an attitude that allows him to understand and value newer ways of thinking.  Some folks are just stuck at “old school”, but Ed is not.

 

I couldn’t help but ask Ed about one claim he makes on his website.  The claim in question reads, “Now first overall in the USA trackchaser standings, Ed has over 1,423 tracks that he has visited.”  How could this be?

 

His first explanation was “It means I’ve seen more tracks than anyone else for a trackchaser who has never trackchased outside the U.S.”  I was no English major but I had to say to Ed, “It doesn’t seem to me that your website statement really means what you just told me”.

 

I looked over at Ed.  He gave me that sly grin he is so famous for.  Then Ed seemed to squirm in the passenger’s seat just a bit.  We still had a long way to drive.  I questioned him further.  Finally he admitted he was really first in the “Pennsylvania based trackchasing standings”.  That made a lot more sense.

 

I guess I could be called an “encourager” of my fellow trackchasers.  I remember time and again encouraging trackchaser Mike Knappenberger to get his track list together and become an official member of trackchasing.  He was always a little hesitant.  “Those guys have never given me the time of day” was his loosely worded reply.

 

I have long encouraged Ed Esser to try his trackchasing hand in Canada.  It wasn’t until today that he ever attempted to see a race outside of the U.S.  Can you imagine that?  He has seen 1,429 tracks and every one was in the 44 states of America…..until today.

 

March 11 – Today is the first of four full days in Ecuador.  Recently I had a friend, who I don’t see that often, ask if Carol was going on this trip.  I told him that she was not.  He seemed to raise an eyebrow and asked “How many times do you do that?”

 

I do get this reaction from people from time to time.  They can’t seem to imagine a wife not going with her husband on a vacation trip.  For a while that type of question bothered me some.  Then I gave the question just a bit more thought.

 

Most people take one or maybe two flying vacations each year.  Heck, I would imagine a healthy share of Americans don’t take any long trips from home all year.

 

I average 35-40 trips that most people would think of as a “major trip” every year!  I get to do this for three main reasons.  First, I am retired and gave some extra thought to financial planning while I was working.  Secondly, I don’t have any responsibilities at home except making certain we can afford to pay our monthly expenses.  Thirdly, and probably most important, I love doing this!  Carol, being the good wife she is, comes along on a dozen or more trips each year.  She will travel about 100,000 miles doing it.  She’s willing to take twelve major trips a year but not forty.  Does that help anyone better understand the situation?

 

March 30 – I am not responsible for any other trackchaser’s actions be they personal, financial or otherwise.  If any of my fellow competitors make inappropriate trackchasing decisions, while trying to keep up with my track totals, and which may or may not result in their financial demise they cannot blame me for it.  Most of my fellow competitors are still “working for the man”.  As most everyone knows a dollar spent today is FOUR DOLLARS that won’t be available for retirement in fifteen years.  Lots of money can be wasted on trackchasing.  If any of my fellow competitors run out of money, have to work longer or both it’s on them and not me.

 

The lawyers are telling me to wrap it up.  According to them I have satisfied my “legal requirements for full disclosure and liability limitations” for another year.

 

Astute readers will note that I have mentioned state names in this Trackchaser Report rather than track names in my planning process.  Why?  Folks, often time “prying eyes are watching”.  I’m not here to give my fellow competitors a COMPLETE understanding of what it takes to be successful in this hobby.  They should have to do some of the pre-planning stuff on their own right?  Heck, even if I told them what to do I’m not sure they could do it.

 

March 31 – Many years ago, I imagined a retirement and a big motor home.  Carol and I would follow the World of Outlaws sprint cars wherever they went was the main imagination in that retirement plan.

 

Today I probably wouldn’t walk across the street to see winged sprint cars like the World of Outlaws.  A motorhome is much too slow and expensive for my travel tastes and the amount of miles I travel.

 

What did I learn from that change of plans?  It’s hard, no it’s virtually impossible, to predict the future and what you might want and need for that future.  If too many of your plans point you in a single direction and then the plan changes you’re going to be in the wrong zip code.  Luckily, one of my main retirement plans was to simply accumulate cash.  Cash is not only king, it is also multi-directional in the future planning process.  Don’t forget I’m throwing “pearls” your way.  You just need to bend over to pick them up!

 

Tonight at the Texas Thunder Speedway I did notice the beer garden.  The two servers, obviously female, were wearing the skimpiest of halter tops on this warm evening.  Let’s think about this.  We males are warned, chastised and even arrested for making unwarranted advances towards people of the opposite sex.  On the other hand, ladies like those at the beer garden tonight are permitted to dress in their underwear.  Is something out of whack here?

 

April 1 – Folks, I don’t relish sleeping in Wal-Mart’s parking lot.  I know that several of our trackchasers have done this routinely.  Ed Esser would sleep “out in the wild” in Wal-Mart parking lots and such well over 100 times every year.

 

I worry just a little bit about the security of this approach.  Then there are the “bathroom needs” of such an activity.  I frequently share my trade secrets on how I make this hobby happen on a near weekly basis.  However, in order to maintain some level of decorum, I will refrain from telling you how “biological functions” are satisfied.  Remember, my Trackchaser Reports are meant for both your parents and your kids.

 

On getting the very last seat on the flight to Omaha today.  No paying passenger came to claim seat #67.  Why not?  I don’t know.  Maybe they won the big lottery and decided to not show up for work in Omaha on Monday morning.  Maybe they were on their early morning walk today and were attacked by a savage and rabid dog.  On the other hand maybe they were too lazy to get out of bed.  I didn’t know why that last person didn’t show and I didn’t really care.  I was going to be passenger #67.

 

During hot laps the classes with the youngest drivers came out first.  Folks, this type of racing is just like little league.  The youngest competitors were about five years old.  Just like in little league I did see a father or two that was a “little rough” on his son for missing a beat or two.  One youngster came to the starting line but forgot to put his foot on the brake to get his racer stopped in the right place.  The father got on his case pretty good for “forgetting where the brake was” and “forgetting everything I told you”.  That wasn’t a good thing.

 

On the other hand, I don’t support the philosophy that “every kid gets a blue ribbon” either.  That’s good for the blue ribbon manufacturers but not very good for a child’s development in my opinion.  There must be a happy medium between berating your child and diminishing the value of a reward.  When I played little league baseball we got a soda if we won (I always chose McGrape’s Grape soda) and a “see you next time” if we lost.  I liked that reward system.

 

April 20 – I’m happy to announce that a promotion I created in the middle of 2010 has yielded a $715 contribution to the Salvation Army.  I agreed to double the value of all senior discount ticket savings I received for every new track I saw from July 1, 2010 through the end of my 2011 season.  During that time I added 165 new tracks to my totals.  Then a few of my Trackchaser Report readers jumped on the bandwagon.  They volunteered to make a cash contribution for each track I visited from during this time frame.  The net contribution from everyone to the Salvation Army totaled $715.

 

Most racetracks I visit offer “senior discounts”.  I really don’t know why they need to do that.  My experience says that most “seniors” are better off than the majority of “juniors”.

 

Folks, you know I don’t think seniors should get special rates.  Most seniors are retired or work only part time.  Most people who are younger than “senior age” work full-time.  Why do people work?  They need the money.  Why do seniors retire?  They don’t need the money!  Why don’t they give the senior discounts to the people who are working because they need the money.  However, my grandpa always taught me to bend over and pick up a stray penny.  If they are going to give me a savings just because of my age I would be foolish to not accept it.  Someday I’m going to keep track of my “senior savings”.

 

 

Airline flight loads are just beginning to emerge from the more than formidable shadow of spring break.  It’s difficult to use the benefits of my sponsors at Christmas and Thanksgiving.  Summer can be tough especially to Europe.  However, spring break is probably the longest (about six weeks) and toughest (kids are flying everywhere) of any limitations on my more than generous airline sponsorship program.

 

April 21 – Carol and I have a “loose” agreement that she will travel overnight somewhere with me about 75 nights each year.  For the fellows reading this report I think you would have to agree that is a pretty strong level of matrimonial support.

 

During the same time I will travel overnight about 160 nights a year.  That’s a difference of about 85 nights a year or 1-2 days per week.  That’s about the same amount of business travel away from home that I did during my 30-year business career.  I’ve flown on an airplane virtually every week since I was 23 years old.  That’s forty years!  I’ve been doing it for a long time and I still love it.

 

Carol doesn’t share the same love for travel that I do.  Once she gets out on the road I think she likes it but since she is responsible for everything back home being away is a bigger hurtle for her.  Nevertheless, I could never fault a spouse who is willing to “hit the pavement” seventy-five nights a year

 

Carol will normally pick our resort vacations (Hawaii) and family events first.  With the time left over she will go with foreign trackchasing trips next.  Did you know that only two trackchasers have seen racing in more foreign countries than her?

 

April 28 – On my way to Austria for some rallycross racing I stopped in Frankfurt, Germany.  There I saw the play “Rain Man”.  The German audience puzzled me to some degree.  Within each act their were several scenes where the lights went dark and the set was rearranged.  These would have been perfect opportunities for the crowd to applaud the actor’s performances.  However, the audience did not applaud a single time until the entire production was finished.  Then they kept applauding until the actors had made five curtain calls.  Surprising!

 

April 29 – Frankly, I never would have come up with some of the rules that our trackchasing “Founding Fathers” did or even several of the ones that modern trackchasers have approved.  However, I do my very best to trackchase according to those rules.  Why?  It allows the observer of the hobby to compare the results of one trackchaser and another.  As an example, I have now seen 1,745 tracks.  No one else, working under the same rules that most trackchasers follow, has come within 300 tracks and climbing of that total.

 

You should know that my ongoing policy is never to get gas until that little orange low fuel light comes on.  I do it on my trackchasing trips and on my personal driving back in SoCal.  I do this for efficiency.  I learned it from watching NASCAR.  You won’t hear Jeff Gordon radio the pits and say, “I just fell below half a tank.  I think I’ll bring her in”.

 

May 12 – The main event for this trip will be seeing the Historic Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  The undercard for this week’s trip will be a special race in France.  If all goes well Carol will be trackchasing in countries #29 and #30.  Monaco will make it #60 for me.  The Monaco Historic Grand Prix races just every other year and then for only one day.

 

Traveling to Europe is a piece of cake compared to Asia, Africa or South America.  Western Europe requires no special visas to enter the continent.  We’ll use the new “TSA Precheck” program to pass quickly through airline security in the U.S.  Then we’ll use the “Global Entry” program to make clearing customs back into the U.S.A. a snap.  I’ve tried to use the P&G mantra of “continuous Improvement” is all aspects of my trackchasing.  This makes everything easier and more convenient each time I do it.  Reapplying much of what I learned in the corporate world to my personal life is a real benefit.

 

Carol and I are “active seniors”.  Truth be told I don’t really think of us as seniors.  However, I have discovered that the world seems to take pity on us “experienced” folks.  They give us special seats on buses, discounts we don’t need and the like.  If folks want to treat us that way I’ll just quietly go along.  As long as I can still shoot in the 70s on the golf course I won’t really consider myself a senior.

 

Regarding our overall trip to Venice, Italy on the way to France….I loved every minute of this adventure.  It truly was an adventure.  Carol was minorly less enamored by the whole affair.  As a used car salesman once told me “there’s an ass for every seat”.  Folks, those are words to live by.

 

May 13Fuel prices in the U.S.A. have been on the rise for a long time.  California fuel is some of the most expensive in the nation.  Maybe that’s why I like to travel.  I can “drive around” in Illinois or Georgia or just about anywhere for the weekend a lot cheaper than I can in California, the Golden state, yes the Golden state.

 

Average gas prices in American right now are about $3.75-$4.00.  People are screaming bloody murder about that.  I say “relax”.  At four bucks a gallon we’ve got it made.  According to a recent fuel expense survey of 141 countries the U.S.A. ranks at #100 with the cost of fuel.  Folks, you need to know when you’ve got it good!

 

To make the point even stronger we ran into an English couple, now living in France, during the trip.  They have been to the U.S. to vacation.  The Englishman, said with a grin, “You Americans are giving gas away”.  He made a good point relative to the fuel situation in Europe.

 

“Randy, I think you’ve totally lost it now.  You just told us how expensive fuel is in Europe.  Now you’re telling us that it’s actually cheaper to drive the streets of Venice and Paris than it is in California?” the seemingly stunned reader could likely comment.  O.K., Venice doesn’t really have streets but canals.  But you get the point.  Yes, that is EXACTLY what I’m telling you.

 

Permit me to provide you with supporting data.  As a former employee of Procter & Gamble no one was allowed to make any argument without “supporting data”.  You could tell someone it was raining outside and their comment might very well be, “Where’s your data?”.

 

Our Avis sponsored Volkswagen Golf 4-cylinder diesel-powered car gave us 43.4 M.P.G. during this trip.  Even though we averaged $7.81 U.S. for diesel fuel on this trip (we got some “buys” a couple of times getting fuel away from the toll road) our cost per mile was 17.97 cents.

 

The Lexus Carol so generously allows me to drive gets about 21 M.P.G. around the streets of San Clemente.  Of course the Lexus requires that we pay extra for premium fuel.  Premium in California currently sells for about $4.75 U.S. per gallon.  That gives me an average per mile fuel expense of 22.61 cents.

 

There you have it.  Even at nearly $8.00 U.S. per gallon for diesel fuel in Europe it’s cheaper, on a per mile basis, than it is in California.  Actually, it’s almost 26% MORE expensive for California gasoline with a Lexus that it is for a diesel powered VW golf is some of the most expensive fuel countries in Europe!

 

May 18I will tell you this.  It does irk me to have people counting down their working days from many years out.  One of our trackchasers does this.  If you want to retire so badly that you need to talk about it 5-10 years from the time it is actually going to happen you might need a new line of work.  My experience tells me that folks without a SPECIFIC NEAR TERM retirement date are just “whistling in the wind” when it comes to having any kind of a firm retirement plan.

 

May 19At every turn I try to use the systems I have in place to minimize my travel expense and generally just make life easier.  I’ve been doing this for quite a few years.  Every time I’ve run into a problem I’ve tried to implement a solution that prevents that problem from happening in the future.  Over time that has eliminated just about every problem that used to be a stumbling block.  Systems baby!

 

A few dollars saved here and a few saved over there can add up to a pretty healthy amount when one travels as much as I do.  The headline of this section, “Your system will give you the results it is designed for” applies to EVERYTHING in life.  Remember these reports are not really about racing.  They are about life and how to manage life.  Remember, nobody gets out alive.

 

However, on the money front, I don’t save money to hoard it.  Money by itself isn’t worth a thing.  If I can save a little in places where it won’t affect me in anyway then there is that much more to spend on things that WILL affect my lifestyle (or others) in one way or the other.  Does that make sense to you?

 

I’ve discovered that lots of track owners and operators are more than pleased when a visitor travels a long way to see their “little baby”.  They are just like proud parents.  They want to show off their handiwork.

 

May 20While I’m driving down the highways of trackchasing I see lots of motorcycle riders.  I call them “donors”.  Today I saw a couple (man/woman) riding along on what looked to be a long distance trip.  Wouldn’t that be most uncomfortable as well as somewhat dangerous?  Every time the motorist uses the windshield wipers the motorcycle rider has to stop to put on raingear.  Every time the motorist adjusts the air-conditioning the motorcycle rider/passenger has to add or remove a jacket or gloves.  This doesn’t even consider the wild texting motorist who doesn’t see the motorcycle rider until it’s too late.

 

May 21Going into this season Carol and I had both seen racing in eight of ten Canadian provinces.  I wanted us to see racing in PEI and then the final province, Newfoundland and Labrador, to complete the Canadian “ten-pin” (province) strike.

 

However, last week’s trip to Italy, France and Monaco precluded Carol from making this trip.  With good weather and a special Monday Victoria Day race date in PEI I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  Now Carol has fallen behind my Canadian province pace.  That’s O.K.  As a “fellow competitor” she can find her own way back to PEI!

 

My “non-Carol” Booking.com strategy is to sort the hotels by price (low to high) and pick the highest consumer rated of the lowest priced hotels.  That would be called “value pricing” in my world.  It normally yields very comfortable and clean accommodations for a most reasonable price.

 

I don’t consider my hobby that unusual.  I know that about 95% of my readers (99%?) would not agree with me.  Border agents side with my readers!

 

Border agents, both U.S. and Canada, just can’t seem to wrap their arms (or their minds either) around my trackchasing behaviour.  Their most common question is “You came all the way from California to HERE to see a car race?”.  Yep, I did.  This activity along with a passport that is as thick as their Harry Potter paperback book prompts a series of questions that backs up the line of cars behind me.  However, I have patience (it’s keeps me out of trouble) with my border agent friends.

 

May 25I woke up this morning in San Clemente, California.  I went to bed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  This is what today looked like.

 

I know that some of you might turn up your noses at sleeping overnight in an airport.  All I can say is “don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it”.  I would also say “don’t knock it if you don’t know how to do it”.

 

They say you only “get one chance to make a good impression”.  I think a lot of tracks fail to make that good first impression with their fans.  Why is that?  This might happen for one of two reasons or both.

 

The promoter stands in the middle between the competitors and the fans.  If the promoter does things to help out the competitors (time trials, yellow flags, etc.) it might (and does) disappoint the fans.  I’m not sure a track can be too “fan-friendly” even though a race promoter once told me that “he can put on a race without fans but not without racers”.  I would concur that can happen FOR A WHILE but it the long run it is the fans that pay the profits.

 

From most fan’s point of view time trials are a waste of time.  I think the same could be said for heat races.  In today’s racing world the average track will have 5-6 divisions racing.  If I had to guess I would say the AVERAGE car count for all divisions I see over the past couple of years is about ten cars.  Some have more and some have less.

 

If a track has ten cars in a division you can bet they will divide those cars into two five-car heat races.  Folks a 5-car race for 6-8 laps just isn’t very interesting.  I would much rather see all ten cars in a division race in one or two longer distance races with a “one-spin” and you’re out rule in the first or even both races.

 

My only recommendation to both tonight’s track and most small oval tracks is to run a “features only” program.  I know these tracks have been racing heat races, in some cases, for fifty years or more.  Too bad.  It’s time to stop doing that.  Small tracks are failing at an alarming rate.  They better make more changes, big changes or this industry will be down the tubes within five years.

 

May 26Today I was seeing just my third trackchasing double of the year after nearly five months of trackchasing in 2012.  I love trackchasing doubles but they’re getting harder and harder to get.  Why is that?  Because for years I focused on doubles and there aren’t than many workable combinations left!

 

There is no doubt about it in my mind.  Europeans are better drivers that Americans.  They don’t “park” in the passing lane on interstates.  Americans often do.  A European driver will only venture into the passing lane to pass!  When the pass is completed they get back in the slower lane.  I see a lot of younger female drivers “parking” in the passing lane.

 

This group (TORC) does several things that are meant to be fan-friendly.  These folks don’t have needless mind-numbing yellow flag delays.  When a truck/buggy becomes disabled on the track they throw a “corner yellow”.  This tells the other racers to “keep an eye out” but keep on racing.

 

Most races are about 20-30 minute long.  Just after halfway, when the racers are getting spread out, they have a “competition” caution.  This allows the competitors to bunch up behind the race leader.  Then they throw the green flag and off they go with all of the action that comes from double file restarts.

 

These events always feature strong P.A. systems, quality enthusiastic race announcers and lots of upbeat music.  Stadium off-road racing has always attracted a much younger hip group who drink more than their share of energy drinks!

 

May 27Long ago in the corporate world I discovered that it’s nearly always a good idea to make contacts.  I’m talking about contacts with people.  Sometimes, after you make a contact you wish you didn’t but then you just never know.

 

As most tracks I visit I make contact with the key management people or at a minimum the track announcer.  Then, as a common courtesy between the racetrack industry and the trackchasing community, I will often get a “trackchasing mention”.  This is simply the racetrack letting their fans know that a “trackchaser” is in the house.  I think the track is proud that a trackchaser and in my case, the World’s #1 Trackchaser, has taken time out of their busy schedule to make a stop at their track.

 

When I started doing this I didn’t anticipate an additional benefit.  When such an announcement is made, folks that I know and/or who know me know that I’m at the track.  Sometimes, but usually not, crowds can number in the thousands.  With a crowd of that size it would be easy to overlook someone you knew and might like to say hello too.

 

I’ve read report after report where trackchasers bemoaned the fact that their “friend” was in the house and they didn’t know it until weeks later!  Probably the most unusual outcome of my way of doing it occurred in Australia.  The announcer welcomed Carol and me to the track.  It just turned out on that evening that Pennsylvania trackchaser, Paul Weisel, was in Australia on his own trackchasing adventure.  On that night Paul and I met and since then we have both visited each other’s houses and met at the tracks many times.

 

Ohio seems to have a “no-helmet” law for motorcycle riders.  That can’t be a good idea…..for us taxpayers.

 

June 2While riding the shuttle bus (Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix) I initiated a discussion with the young woman who was helping organize the shuttle bus operation.  This conversation evolved into some discussion about where we were from and my hobby of trackchasing.  I mentioned that we would be buying our tickets at the gate.  This prompted the man in the row behind to offer us (for free) two $25 general admission tickets to the event.  Folks, it pays to talk to people.  Because when you do you begin to “know” people.  That works itself into it’s “not what you know but WHO you know”.  Folks, these are truly pearls of wisdom.  Don’t miss ‘em.

 

On June 2, 2012 coming into this trip Carol and I flew on our 1,000th flight with our airline sponsors.  Son J.J. has been a commercial airline pilot for nearly seven years.  We have been a major beneficiary of his career choice.  Good on J.J.!

 

There was another major positive that came from today’s event.  Detroit is home to a major population of African-Americans.  Seeing an African-American at a local short track race in the U.S. is about as rare as finding a twenty-dollar bill in the seat cushions of your sofa.  It just doesn’t happen.

 

However, today African-Americans made up a major portion of the crowd.  I also saw fathers and very young sons (both black and white) sitting in the grandstands enjoying the flavor of what is now American street course auto racing.  I didn’t want to ruin there day by telling them they should hightail it to the Peoria Speedway to see what REAL American racing is all about.  Sadly, they will never become a fan of this type of racing and will drift off to other forms of entertainment that don’t include auto racing.  They won’t be the first.

 

June 3Quebec is the only mainly French-speaking province in Canada.  Boy, are they strong on French.  I think fewer people speak English in Quebec than they do in France!  Nevertheless, that doesn’t hold Carol and I back.  We marched into this morning’s restaurant with all the confidence in the world.  Our confidence might have been shaken a bit when the restaurant’s menu was ONLY in French.

 

When it came time to leave Montreal for first Philadelphia and then Los Angeles I noticed a problem with my boarding pass.  It had the dreaded “SSSS” printed on it.  I knew what that meant.  It meant I would have to have “enhanced” security when heading to the airplane.  This is a random thing.  Carol didn’t have this restriction.  I sent her on her way to the plane and “took my medicine”.

 

Nevertheless, traveling has never been easier for me.  Over the years, I have used “continuous improvement” strategies to anticipate and eliminate problems.  While traveling frustrates many it doesn’t bother me at all.

 

June 8A race, good weather and a way to get there.  Seems pretty simple this trackchasing business doesn’t it.  All I need for success is to confirm a race is going to break out under sunny skies with a way for me to get my bee hind from California to wherever.  In some ways it IS easy and in some ways it ISN’T.

 

Carol and I try to stay busy when I’m/we’re not trackchasing.  With just two full days at home that didn’t give us much time.  During those two days I played golf twice, we went to an Angels game AND we went to Disneyland.

 

The Charlotte airport is, obviously, a southern airport.  They still stick with some southern traditions that I haven’t seen in ANY other airports in today’s world.  They have “attendants” in the bathrooms.  These folks stand ready to hand you a towel, give you a cup of mouthwash or whatever.  Of course, the “tips” jar is never faraway.  This service does harken back to days gone by.

 

Kart racers are people too.  However, you wouldn’t know it based upon the rules set up by trackchasing’s forefathers.  For some reason they decided NOT to have most kart racing be a countable class when they drafted the first set of ‘guidelines’.  Using the benefit of hindsight I think that was incorrect thinking.  I truly do wish that karting had counted from the very beginning.  Karting is a much more professional and competitive division of racing than many of racing machines that ARE considered countable.

 

June 9I just never know where I will end up.  The plan for this weekend was to trackchase in Montana and Canada.  However, bad weather there drove me to North Carolina for some Friday night racing.  Then while fiddling around on the internet in NC on Friday afternoon, I noticed the Tucson International Raceway was running the next day.  And, then the NEXT day after the racing in Tucson they were having a major league baseball game in Phoenix.

 

I’m big into analyzing my various options.  This type of “analysis” is something I do multiple times every day.  I figure the “plusses and minuses” of doing one thing vs. another.  I feel if you make these “mini” decisions for the best in areas of your personal, family, financial and health life they will all add up to a very happy, healthy and successful life.  Of course the proverbial bus COULD hit you.  If that happens then you just get to “watch the action” from a grandstand seat up in the clouds.

 

Tonight we would sit through a track drying delay.  Then we sat through a long “hot laps” delay before we finally got started.  After nearly two hours of sitting my butt was swearing at the trackchasers who so dearly wanted to see racing on inner ovals.  Nevertheless, I am a trackchaser and I do what trackchasers do.

 

June 20If you were CEO of an airline would you rather carry mail/cargo that pays a pretty penny to get on the airplane……or a wayward trackchaser, albeit the “World’s #1 Trackchaser” who might not be paying full fare?  If you answered “Let’s carry the mail and collect $200” then you are definitely CEO material.

 

One more point.  It’s funny how some people view my airline sponsorship program.  Some couldn’t be happier to see me having the chance to pursue my hobby.  If I ever win the Powerball lottery those people will be taken care of first.

 

Others seem a bit resentful/envious.  I had a fellow golfer ask me “How do you get to fly so much?  Are you independently wealthy?”.  When I told him about my sponsorship program he nodded his head and smiled as if to say, “I knew it.  You’re not so special.  You’re not a millionaire.  You’re just some lucky fellow who has a son who is a commercial airline pilot”.  Then he walked away with a look of self-satisfaction.

 

Too bad for that fellow…..especially is I ever win the Powerball lottery.  I have often been accused by those “Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers” as being some rich guy.  One fellow, not a DECT member, even called me the “Bill Gates of Trackchasing”.  So far financial statements have never been required to be part of the trackchasing hobby.  If they were I’d probably rank far down the list.  As my fellow golfing competitor (who I usually beat when we play together) correctly surmised, “I’m not so special but I am a lucky fellow to have a son who is a commercial airline pilot”.

 

June 23The dollar is getting stronger.  That means the dollar buys more when I travel to Europe.  Is that a good thing?  Not really.  I have a relatively large (for a struggling retiree) amount of money invested in U.S. based companies who do half or more of their business in foreign countries.

 

I can tell you this.  It will cost me a lot more via declining stock prices (a whole lot more) because of the currency translations than anything I will gain by having a strong dollar in Europe while I’m on vacation!  Lots of people don’t think about the strong dollar in this way but they should.

 

Regarding household chores and advice….Of course, I am always available to “counsel” Carol regarding her approach to her daily list of activities.  I am constantly preaching the mantra of Procter & Gamble (eliminate, standardize and mechanize).  This advice is commonly ignored, sometimes sneered at and often refuted.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t offer my “systems” advice from the peanut gallery.  Carol has a high degree of patience with me and continues to work her butt off.  I’m just lucky she doesn’t know how to delegate!

 

On the way back home from Croatia I stopped overnight in Frankfurt, Germany.  I did see some “characters” in my hotel neighborhood.  They didn’t look German.  They also didn’t look like they worked for Procter & Gamble (short haircut, buttoned down shirt with a crisp blue or grey business suit).  These were “street” people.  They conversed under streetlights, had some pretty unusual handshakes and weren’t the type of folks you would want to make eye contact with.  Not a problem.  I kept my head down and kept on walking until my hotel was in sight.

 

I guess you could say I travel a good deal.  By my own best estimate I traveled 1,184, 284 miles for trackchasing from 2007-2011.  I keep track….so you don’t have too.  Everyone knows there are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week and 52 weeks in a year.  Do you know how many hours there are in a 5-year period?  The answer is 43,800.

 

Do you know how many miles per hour I travel every hour?  The answer is 27 M.P.H.  Folks, that’s not 27 M.P.H. for just one hour or every hour for a day or every hour for a week or every hour for a month or every hour for a year.  During the past five years my body has traveled an average of 27-MILES PER HOUR for EACH and EVERY hour for a period of FIVE YEARS.

 

June 30At the beginning of the year I budgeted for 55 trackchasing days.  That’s a far cry from my results from 2005-2007.  In 2005, my record-breaking year where I saw 182 tracks, I went trackchasing on 115 days!  In 2006 it was 121 days and in 2007, my first full year of airline sponsorships I hit the road for 119 days.

 

I fully expect to exceed my ’12 budget of 55 days.  However, it won’t be by too much.  During all of those years, when I trackchased over 100 days a year and when it has now become less, I have maintained my other hobbies and interests.  Of course, this includes golf, movies, Angels games, UCLA football season tickets and Bruin basketball.  Throw in a couple of weeks in Hawaii, some other non-trackchasing travel and I have a pretty busy schedule in retirement.  It does make it difficult to keep up with those trackchasers who have far fewer hobbies and interests and go trackchasing nearly every week there’s a track to visit.  Yes, it’s difficult but not impossible.

 

I don’t go shopping very often.  I don’t need much.  I read somewhere that men stop advancing with clothing styles at some point in life.  I don’t know when I stopped but I did.  If I could wear sockless deck shoes, cargo shorts and an Aloha shirt “16/8” (get it?) for the rest of my life I would be happy.  That’s about as comfortable as I can get.

 

I have pleaded with trackchasers ever since I became aware of the group to post more about their results.  Especially with today’s technology posting a few pictures, maybe a video and at least a brief review of the racing would be helpful to all trackchasers.  NOBODY except me posts any photos or videos.  Only a few write a summary of their trackchasing night’s activity.  That’s a shame.  These folks are not sharing for the benefit of others.  I don’t like that type of behavior.

 

Yes, trackchasing’s forefathers missed the boat by not allowing karts to be counted from the beginning.  I am also starting to think that go-kart proponent Mike Knappenberger has a good idea to add go-karts now.

 

I used to think this was a bad idea because of its impact on the older mostly retired from the hobby trackchasers.  However, since so many of THOSE people didn’t even bother to vote on the recent “go/no go” go-kart proposal my allegiance to the their plight has lessened.  I’ve been writing in support of their cause for years and now they don’t even show up to support their own situation.  Maybe if Mike can get “Trackchasing’s First Mother” reinstated then he will have another voter to support his proposal.

 

I’m usually pretty good at predicting how these things will “come down”.  I’m the only trackchaser who predicted that when folks started running out of more traditional racetracks they would want to add go-karts.  That’s exactly what happened.  Now I’m predicting trackchasing’s commissioner, Guy Smith will “reluctantly” (that’s what he calls it when he changes his mind on an issue) come out in support of adding go-kart racing to the trackchaser menu.  I don’t think that will happen for a few years, it might occur sooner, but it will happen.

 

 

RANDY SAID THIS IN 2012. 

Each of the following quotes appeared in the yearlong RLR Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Reports of 2012.

 

July 1Make no mistake about it.  A trackchaser is not a racechaser and a racechaser is not a trackchaser.  “But Randy, I admit I’m not much of a race fan so I guess I don’t know the difference between a trackchaser and a racechaser”, the long-time Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Report reader might reasonably be heard to exclaim.  Permit me to clarify.

 

Let’s say you were a baseball fan.  You just loved to see baseball being played.  If you were a real fan of baseball I would submit you’d probably be more interested in seeing a game at Yankee Stadium that watching the neighborhood kids play in a nearby sand lot.  If you were a theatre goer a Broadway play might be a more attractive alternative to watching the neighbor’s kids put on a “show” with sheets from the local clothesline (yes, ‘clothesline’ is a Midwestern thing) acting as the playhouse curtain.

 

In racing there are bigger competitive events as well as outings similar to watching the neighborhood kids put on a baseball game or a theatrical production.  This is one of the things that puzzles me about trackchasing.  The “ardent” trackchasers call themselves “race fans”.  What a travesty!  They are NOT race fans.  They are simply people willing to see ANY kind of “racing” event.  If you define being a “race fan” as willing to watch four clunkers drive around a track at 20 M.P.H. then excuse me you ARE a race fan.  However, that is not my definition.

 

What can we conclude from this?  Anyone can SAY they are a race fan.  I could tell you that I’m a rocket scientist or an NBA player.  Of course, if you know that I’m not, then it just makes me look silly right?  If I based my being a race fan on how many inner oval races, senior champ kart events or country fair figure 8 races it would make me look silly right?  That would be especially true if I PASSED UP racing at all of the events and places listed above in order to go to an inner oval hornet race or a county fair figure 8 race.

 

Remember a trackchaser is not a racechaser and a racechaser is not a trackchaser.  Regardless of whether a person is a racechaser or a trackchaser they CAN be a race fan.  However, in order to be a REAL race fan they need to see the REAL racing not the marginal hokey and often times “made for TV” race events that make up far too much of the trackchasing hobby.

 

July 13This has been my longest layoff during the summer season.  From now through Labor Day I will be “under the whip”.  The county fair racing season maxes out in July and August.  Now is the time to make hay from the country based county fairs….pun intended.

 

In the middle of July I have two primary trackchasing options.  I can visit a regularly scheduled track that races 20-25 times per year or a track that races just ONE time during the year.  All things being equal I’ll pick the place that is racing once a year.  By the way, “all things” are never equal.

 

Tonight’s figure 8 show at a rural county fairgrounds in Kansas is their big summertime event of the year.  They do it just one time per year.  After I knock this track off I will still have those 20-25 race dates available at the regularly scheduled track that I bypassed tonight.  If I did it the other way around and saw the regularly scheduled track tonight I would have to wait a full year for the one and only race date at the location that races just one time per year.  Make sense?

 

A young local woman sang tonight’s national anthem.  I would guess she was about twenty years old.  I attend so many sporting events that I’ll admit I don’t always listen that closely.  Tonight I did notice the singing was a bit off key but I just chalked it up to being in a small town where the competition wasn’t that great to sing the national anthem.  However, in the middle of the song the words stopped coming.  After a pause, the singer told the crowd, “I’m sorry.  I forgot the words” and then she walked away with a friend toward the horse barns.  Forty years from now I’ll bet she remembers this incident like it happened yesterday!  At least she had more guts than most of us and gave it a try.

 

July 14I used my Google Maps program to determine the best way to get from last night’s track in Blue Rapids, Kansas to Lincoln (for my recommended lunch – see below) and then onto mid-Nebraska for tonight’s racing.  With Google Maps I can do several “what ifs” to figure out the shortest route.  At 12-15 cents per mile for gasoline Google Maps is a money-saver.

 

I do much of my logistical work while I’m driving.  I know they post billboards saying you shouldn’t talk on the phone or text while driving.  I think of those warning as being for “other people”.  In your life you know the folks who shouldn’t be multi-tasking.  They have enough trouble just working on one task.

 

However, I typically have one hand on the steering wheel, a double cheeseburger in the other hand, my laptop, where else in my lap and my iPhone in my other hand.  This way I can make airline reservations, get my boarding pass sent to my phone, read the map (electronic of course), check my email and text whomever among other things.  Occasionally, I will get so engrossed with what I’m doing that I forget to look at the road.  That’s when quick reactions and that one hand on the steering wheel really come in handy.

 

I really like the interstate highway system in the U.S.  At nearly every exit a government originated sign is posted with hotel, gasoline and restaurant choices at the exit’s location.  Foreign countries don’t do this.  There you have no idea what’s in the area.  Carol particularly objects to that policy and calls it a “restraint of trade”.

 

It used to be that tattoos were more limited to urban areas.  I was surprised to see so many tattooed people in rural Nebraska.  Women with tattoos far outnumbered the men.

 

July 15I meet and talk with all kinds of interesting people during my travels.  I broadly define “interesting” as folks with different upbringings and perspectives than me.

 

Today I sat next to a young woman who lived in Northern Minnesota just fifteen miles from the Canadian border.  Despite living that close to a foreign country she doesn’t have a passport.  Without a passport she can’t go into Canada!  Can you imagine not being able to travel any further than 15 miles north of your home?

 

She was familiar with the Fargo area.  I asked her what her favorite restaurants were.  She answered, “Olive Garden and Applebee’s”.  That surprised me.  Either Fargo has a narrow restaurant selection or this young lady’s culinary range was somewhat limited.  Nevertheless, she told me about something that I never would have expected to here.  She described what would be a countable racetrack that I’m sure no other trackchaser knows about.  I considered my conversation with this woman to be productive on many levels.

 

July 16I enjoy thinking strategically about the hobby of trackchasing.  Being retired I want to have a diversified portfolio of leisure activities.  For years I’ve watched the top two-three trackchasers devote virtually every weekend of their lives to trackchasing.  That is one way to do it.  But I don’t think it’s a very good way to live life.

 

That’s why several years ago (and only a year or two in retirement) I established goals that would encourage me to do other things than go trackchasing.  I love trackchasing but too much of a good thing is……well too much of a good thing.

 

In trackchasing nobody gave a hoot about figure 8 racing.  When a new rule added figure 8 racing to the list of “countable” tracks then EVERYBODY went figure 8 trackchasing.  You get what you measure.

 

Not sure about that?  Set a simple goal in your home or office that rewards something or other.  Maybe it’s a goal to take out the trash, wash the car, put paper in the copy machine.  If the results are measured and rewarded then you will see improved results.  Goal-setting works like a charm.

 

About mid-day I pulled into a gas station/convenience store to gas up and rest up.  Keeping your windshield clean in these parts during the summer is as important as not running out of gas.  It’s very buggy here.  It was also nearly 100 degrees.

 

I decided to bring my laptop inside the rural convenience store, grab a Diet Mountain Dew and work on the logistics of the trip.  I don’t think most people truly understand how much time it takes to plan these things so that very few things get screwed up.

 

While I was relaxing I overheard a woman talking to the store’s cashier.  “Yep, I’m been down to the detention center all morning.  My boyfriend might get out tomorrow”, the woman stated.  “He’s already done sixteen years in prison” she added.  “Yep, I know what you mean.  Two of my brothers have done time too” the cashier said consolingly.  Folks, in my wildest dreams I couldn’t make these situations up!

 

This conversation didn’t CONSOLE me.  It scared me!  Heck, I was in Nebraska of all places.  This is supposed to be where people practice the Protestant ethic.  These are farming people.  I wondered….which came first the tattoos or the inmates?

 

I will tell you this.  I miss the opportunity of seeing Ed Esser on these Midwestern trackchasing trips.  He and I are the only trackchasers over the past ten years or so that have trackchased from May through September all over the Midwest.

 

We didn’t just trackchase together in the Midwest.  I have sat next to Ed at places as faraway at Washington and Florida.  He joined me for my 1,000th lifetime race in Florida.  From north to south we watched races together from Texas to Canada.  We shared hotel rooms.  I have documented more than thirty times where we ran into each other along the trackchasing trail.  Ed was especially tough to compete with in his home Midwest.  He has the trackchasing lead in most Midwestern states.

 

July 17I am a big fan of the Motel 6 chain when I am traveling by myself.  Of course, that statement comes with several asterisks.  This chain of motels is cheap, convenient and mostly consistent.  Making a reservation over the phone with Motel 6 is one of the quickest and easiest calls of this type to make.

 

However, if I can get a similarly priced hotel on Priceline.com I’ll take that over Motel 6 in a heartbeat.  If I’m going to be in a hotel much earlier than 8 p.m. and stay much later than 8 a.m. I’ll look for something better than a Motel 6.  If I’m traveling with Carol we’ll stay somewhere else.

 

Much of my trackchasing travel involves getting to the hotel late and leaving early.  That’s exactly where Motel 6 fits into my overall travel plan.

 

To be honest with you I rarely know what day it is most of the time.  Does that concern me?  Not really.  With my lifestyle there’s no real need to know what day it is!

 

July 19I generally like the way the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) handles their job at our nation’s airports.  However, I have found that when they don’t have enough to do they are much more likely to “interact” with the traveling public.

 

Whenever I can I try not to make eye contact with a TSA agent especially near the airline gate itself.  I’ll try to wait until they are hassling, I mean inspecting another passenger.  Then I’ll try to sneak by without being noticed.  It almost always works.  Today in the tiny Outagamie (Appleton) County Regional Airport it looked as if the TSA agents had way too much time on their hands.  This was especially true considering the low volume of passengers the nearly new Appleton airport had.

 

It seems as if I have flown into every commercial airport in the country.  Of course, I haven’t.  Although the current terminal in Appleton was built in 1974 it was extensively renovated in 2001.  Today it looks nearly new.  It’s the home airport for Air Wisconsin and is where Midwest Airlines started.

 

I was just ten miles from my Minneapolis hotel at 1 a.m. after driving 400 miles round-trip to get to and from the races.  I was probably semi-dosing at 70 M.P.H. with hardly any traffic on the roads at this time in the morning.

 

While traveling today I did notice an old pick-up truck about 50-75 yards in front of me.  I didn’t pay to much attention to the truck until all of a sudden its tailgate flipped open.  The force from than unexpected happening tore the tailgate from one of its hinges.  At that point it dangled from a single strap on one end still attached to the truck with the other end banging and clanging off the highway.  This sent a huge shower of sparks flying each time the tailgate hit the road.  It also scared the #$%^$ out of me!

 

Soon the pickup truck driver got his mount pulled over to the side of the road.  I’ll bet this event scared the #$%#% out of him too.

 

What did I learn from this brief but very dangerous episode?  I was reminded of something I already knew and actually think about from time to time.  What is that?  Anything can happen at anytime.  God can make good things happen and apparently allow bad things to happen.  That tailgate could just as easily have broken away entirely and come up through my windshield.  Folks, anything can happen at anytime.  It’s probably best to live each day to the very fullest.  We never know when the tailgate that’s heading toward you is going to hit!

 

July 20The overriding objective with trackchasing for me is to have fun.  I’ll likely have more fun if I can see more racing with fewer travel hassles and by spending as little money as is practical.

 

You might imagine that being in a hotel for 150 nights each year, for the last ten years of my retirement, might get a little pricey.  Of course, during that time I’ve flown on about 200 flights every year and rented about 50 cars annually.

 

Of course, during this time I’ve seen racing at more than 1,000 tracks.  For me, that’s fun.  However, the hobby is a constant search for effective “trackchasing strategy”.  I really love that part of the hobby.

 

My home state, California, has some pretty tough laws when it comes to protecting the consumer.  That’s why I was so surprised to hear about Michigan’s “anti-smoking” laws in public places.  Did you know that hotels are public places here.  There is no smoking allowed in any Michigan hotel.  Yes, that means every room in “non-smoking”.  I’ve never heard of such a strict anti-smoking law anywhere.

 

As I travel I can see why America can no longer support enough high-paying jobs for her residents.  High paying jobs come from companies that can generate solid revenues and growing profits.  That is difficult to do when Americans are so “value-conscious”.  Most Americans want to buy the cheapest products and services they can.  Often times, the internet makes it even easier for consumers to shop for low prices.  This puts the pressure on companies to keep their costs and their sales prices down.

 

McDonald’s sells their hamburgers for a buck.  Motel 6 sells their rooms for $40.  I can go to Priceline.com and get a one hundred dollar hotel for $50-60.  How much can these places pay their employees when they charge so little for their products?  In order to maintain profit margins when sales volume is low, stagnant or not growing much companies must hire fewer people and/or pay the existing employees less.  It’s really a pretty simple formula.  When American consumers choose the low cost goods whether from the U.S. or not, some worker some where is bound to lose their job or not get a raise for a good long time.

 

July 21Last night I went trackchasing in central Michigan (point A).  This afternoon I would trackchase in upstate New York (point B).  I’m not sure that most people know the best way to get from point A to point B on a trip like this.

 

If you answered, “Randy, I do!  You will have to leave the U.S. to do it but it’s really the fastest way.  You must drive through Canada.”  Correct!  Give this reader a gold star.  If you don’t live near Michigan or New York you might be surprised that driving through Ontario, Canada is the best way to make this trip.

 

Using Priceline.com I secured, while I was still in Michigan, a very nice one-bedroom suite at about 50% off what the hotel was offering on its website.  Everything I do in trackchasing, when it comes to spending money or making the trip faster or easier, is focused on “getting good stuff at good prices”.  I’m not really interested in getting cheap stuff at good prices.  That would take the fun out of the trip.  However, when I can convince someone to give me a quality product at a discount I feel I’ve “won the war”.

 

There is one funny thing about my trackchasing travel.  Somehow there is just enough time to make it.  Yes, I’m stretching it to the limit sometimes.  Maybe that’s why these tracks make the schedule.  They were part of a plan where there was just enough time to make it.

 

At the end of the night tonight I will have had my rental car for 32 hours.  How many miles had I covered during those 32 hours?  The answer would be 916 miles!  That’s a lot when you think that I am referred to as a “flying” trackchaser.  In point of fact, now that Ed Esser is not part of the hobby no one drivers longer distances than me.

 

I use my iPhone app “Voice Memos” to help remind me of key details of each trip.  I believe the Voice Memos app is only available to ATT&T iPhone users.  I’ll use the pictures I take from each trip along with the notes made with Voice Memos to create each Trackchaser Report I publish.  Yes, the days of pen and paper are in my rearview mirror.

 

Promoters sometimes take a lot of grief from their fans and their critics.  However, just about every promoter/track owner is very proud of what they have developed.  You can just see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices.  They are especially eager to tell a guy like me who has seen so many racing operations what they have to offer.

 

July 22To make this 12-day, 11-night trip happen I ended up renting seven cars and driving 3,230 miles.  Does that seem like a lot?  My driving was reduced with the aid of fourteen flights that moved me into position better.  This allowed me to trackchase in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, back to Kansas, Michigan, back to Minnesota, back to Michigan, New York and finally Maine.

 

Any idea what the driving distance would have been had I driven from home in SoCal to each of these cities and the back to California?  You’re right.  It would have been a long way!  The exact total would have been 9,185 miles.  At 60 M.P.H. that would have taken 153 hours.  I was only gone for about 288 hours.  That would not have left much time for sleep or seeing the racing would it?

 

There IS one problem with July and August being the busiest months on my trackchasing calendar.  These months are also the vacation times for just about everybody else.  That means that mom, dad, their kids, THEIR moms and dads and just about anybody else will be jamming the nation’s airports.  Yes, I guess I could sit home on the porch but that’s not why I retired early.

 

On the way home today I sent text messages to both Carol and J.J. telling them I had already been in Maine, Pennsylvania, Illinois and soon to be Colorado.  From the comfort of their personal surroundings they expressed amazement about my adventures.  That was just enough fuel to keep me going.  Flying from BGR to PHL to ORD to COS to LAX kept me busy for the day….but I made it home for all of my commitments!

 

July 28Although a native Midwesterner, and I do love many things about the Midwest, I do not miss the weather….in either the summer or the winter.  My buddy Mike Skonicki is a “city boy” from Chicago.  I’m a “small town” boy East Peoria, Illinois.  Neither of us is a “farm boy”.  Nevertheless I took Mike along on a tour of the “fair barns” where local farm kids were “showing” their animals.  I told Mike to watch where he stepped.  Mike even had his first funnel cake.

 

 

July 29Back in the day, I would trackchase in one location and then get in my car and drive a short distance to the next day’s track.  This left me plenty of time to enjoy the local area’s sights and sounds.  One year I took my golf clubs along with me on most of my trips.  I played more than forty rounds “on the road” this way in a single year.

 

However, times have changed.  As you can see my remaining tracks are getting pretty spread out now.  Often times, I must fly EVERY DAY in order to get from one track to the next.  Then I may also have to drive another one or two hundred miles after my plane lands.  Nope!  There are several reasons I don’t bring my golf clubs on virtually any trips nowadays.  There’s usually no time for golf when I’m flying 2-3 hours every day and driving another 2-3 hours or more.

 

When the races are finished on the last day of a trackchasing trip I have only one thing in mind.  I want to get home!  I love the travel of trackchasing but when the trackchasing is done it’s time to head back to the barn.

 

People look at my sponsorship program in many different ways.  Some think “well ya sure I could do what you do if I could fly for free”.  Others think, “You’re crazy.  Even if I could fly for free I wouldn’t want too”.  Still more people say, “You are living my dream.  I would love to travel the way you do”.  As a used car salesman once told me, “There’s an ass for every seat”.

 

Let me clear up a few things.  My airline sponsorship does not really allow me to fly for free.  Secondly, EVERY time I get on a plane with my sponsoring airlines I am flying standby.  If there is an open seat and other people with the same airline connections are not “ahead of me” then I get on the plane.  If the plane is full or other standby fliers get on before me, I am left to walk over to the airline terminal window and wave good-bye to the departing airplane.

 

Today the announcer reminded the crowd there will be a demolition derby this coming February 11, 2013.  Who in their right mind would want to watch a DD in February in Minnesota?  But then what do I know.  The announcer told the crowd that last year’s demo derby, in February, attracted 103 cars and 2000 fans under balmy 28-degree temperatures.  It could have just as easily been 28 degrees BELOW zero.  I don’t plan to be at that one.  I hope to be playing golf at home with the temperature coming in at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

August 3 – Carol and I consider ourselves “trackchasing assassins”.  Our mission is to knock off track by track.  Everything we do is oriented toward the mission’s objective.  Carol often says that when she trackchases she wants to see as many tracks as possible to make the trip the most productive.  This is true even after trackchasing commissioner Guy Smith ruled against visiting my website to pick up Carol’s track count.  Mr. Smith’s decision knocked Carol off the trackchasing voting rolls.  Carol is still trying to recover her indomitable trackchasing spirit.

 

August 4 – Some folks wonder how I have time to plan my trackchasing, do my trackchasing and then produce these reports along with YouTube videos and the like.  Of course, all of this trackchasing activity is in addition to about 50 days of non-trackchasing travel and lots of other personal interests.

 

The answer to the above “time-management” question comes from my time working for the Procter & Gamble Distributing Company aka “P&G”.  The company’s mantra was “eliminate, standardize and mechanize” everything.  People like to do things they are good at even when those activities are not really necessary.  When you eliminate the things in your life that you are good at and that you like to do but aren’t really necessary it frees up time.

 

Is there really a reason to make the bed?  My mother thought there was and Carol thinks there is.  I don’t.  Is it really necessary to take sixty minutes to watch a one-hour TV program?  I don’t think so.  I watch every 60-minute TV program in 44 minutes.  Often times I’m multi-tasking while I’m saving those sixteen minutes.

 

Is it necessary to fill up your gas tank every 200-300 miles when you can stop every 400 miles?  I figure if the NASCAR guys want to “fill it to the brim and run it dry” to save time then I can too.  And no, I have never had a problem with my car while doing this over forty years of driving.

 

With the things that still need to be done you can “standardize” those activities.  Standardization is why the McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s of the world have put out of business so many enterprises that failed to standardize their activities.

 

Finally, once you have eliminated and standardized as much as possible you need to mechanize the rest.  You don’t mow your lawn with a push mower do you?  Of course, I eliminated lawn mowing back in 1983!  You get the point.

 

Demolition derbies have long been the primary motor racing activity at our nation’s county fairs.  I’ve been to more than 200 county fairs.  However, I have seen very few demo derbies and even fewer good ones.

 

You see, trackchasing’s “Founding Fathers” ruled against counting demolition derbies when the first “guidelines” were developed.  I could behave like some trackchasers have and cry, “Even though demo derbies weren’t included in the original guidelines everyone understood that they SHOULD have been”.  Yes, we have always had people who demanded that guidelines that really weren’t guidelines should have been guidelines.  Yes, that logic is both lame, misguided and just plain dumb but……..

 

August 5 – I realize that many of my travel strategies are less valuable to the individual who doesn’t travel much.  Nevertheless, it’s important to first be aware of the OPPORTUNITY to create value with each strategy offered.  Then when the situation is right a person can search their mental database of OPPORTUNISTIC IDEAS so as to maximize his or her enjoyment of life.  Make sense?

 

Roughly 1,600 of my nearly 1,800 tracks have been seen in the U.S.A.  I’ve traveled over nearly every highway in America….many times.  However, I can’t ever recall doing much traveling in the space from Pasco, Washington through the northeastern corner of Oregon.  I can’t ever remember driving on Interstate 82.  Have you?

 

The interstate highways of the Washington/Oregon area have one unusual item that most others don’t.  This area allows studded snow tires during the winter.  The studs up here must be bigger than normal.  They have worn a distinct “groove” in the pavement, which creates a very rough ride.  I’ve found if I move the car 1-2 feet out of this groove then the ride almost seems normal.  Of course then I run the risk of sideswiping oncoming cars!

 

August 10 – In trackchasing I always have a plan.  I use the “Trackchaser Report” to tell you why I picked THIS plan.  If I didn’t you might end up scratching your head and saying, “Why in the world did he do it THAT way?”.

 

It’s the time of year where I’m hitting it hard along the county fair trackchasing trail in the U.S. and, of course, in Canada too.  Canadians have county fairs as well.  You knew that right?

 

Tuesdays and Thursday, when I’m home are reserved for golf.  I play in the “Priestley Group”.  It’s a place for old retired fellows like me.  We’ve all long since left the working world and are wiling away the hours on a sun splashed golf course awash in ocean breezes.

 

Although we may look old, some of us can still play a fairly good game of golf.  Today I was able to play the last seven holes in two under par to shoot a 79.  I wasn’t even the low scorer in my threesome.  Yes, even at our advanced ages we can still play some golf and from the BLUE tees no less.

 

August 11 – I’m a big fan of major league sports.  I’ve been to the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA finals and major league baseball all-star games.  I’ve also been to golf’s U.S. Open and seen play at the August National Golf Club where the famous Masters has been played.  I guess I’ve got to figure out how to get to the tennis at Wimbledon and the Kentucky Derby now.

 

At home we go to 10-15 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim games.  We have been season ticket holders for UCLA’s famous basketball and football events for years.  We probably attend 25 games or more every year to see them play the biggest names in collegiate sports.  I would say the above qualifies me as a pretty ardent sports fan.

 

August 12 – What could I do to stay ahead in the Trackchasing Technology Arms Race?  The only answer would be to upgrade to the new Apple iPhone 5!  Did you know that up to now Apple has sold 250 million iPhones?

 

Sometimes it’s what you know and often times it’s who you know.  I would need to “know somebody” to be the first to get this new iPhone.  What if one of those “Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers” got an iPhone 5 before I did?  “But Randy, aren’t you forgetting something?” the always on top of it long-time reader might have to ask.  What could I be forgetting?  “It would take them another several weeks to learn how to use it”, the reader could reasonably be heard to say.  Wow!  That’s a good point.

 

With this in mind, son J.J. and I began to put our heads together.  His was for brainpower and mine was for ballast.  Soon we had a plan.  We implemented part one of our potential three-part plan.  J.J. would try to get access to the Apple site at midnight.  If he didn’t get in I would begin trying at 5 a.m. to make things work for us.  If my efforts would unsuccessful part three of our master plan would be put into place.  What was part 3?  Wal-Mart was offering pre-ordering capabilities at the San Clemente store at 8 a.m.  That was our plan!  In the middle of the night J.J. sent me a text message.  “We got lucky!  Phones are ordered – sold out in the first hour!”  Wow!  Am I lucky or not.

 

No offense to any other racing form, but the prettiest and classiest girls hang out in the road racing paddock area.  Why is that?  It’s because of the racecar haulers.  “But Randy, I’ve heard you say some pretty outrageous stuff.  This might take the cake.  Why in the world would the prettiest and classiest girls hang out in the road racing paddock area because of the racecar haulers?” the amazed RLR Trackchaser Report reader might want to ask.

 

First of all I do say outrageous stuff.  Guilty as charged.  However, everything I say checks out.  It’s just that some people feel uncomfortable when it is said.

 

So why DO those pretty girls hang out at road racing events?  Check this out.  Many of the sports car set shows up with race cars and racecar haulers that cost hundreds of thousands and in some cases, millions of dollars.  Most of these racers attract very little in the way of sponsorship dollars.  Quite often these are amateur road racers who race only for trophies, no purse.

 

So what do we have here?  We have a racer who can afford hundreds of thousands of dollars for his racecar and race rig.  Yet, he brings in nearly nothing from sponsors and race winnings?  What kind of guy is that?  A RICH guy.

 

Folks, I’ve traveled the world.  I’ve been in casinos on nearly every continent.  I’ve been in the best hotels and the best restaurants.  This is not rocket science.  Pretty girls are attracted to rich guys.  Of course, rich guys prefer pretty girls.  So…….that is why road racing car haulers attract the prettiest girls in racing!

 

August 17 – I put a good deal of time in planning each one of these trips.  I don’t know the exact number of hours as each trip varies.  If I had to guess I would say anywhere from 10-20 hours is needed to plan just about any weekend domestic trip.

 

During that time I will first scan my proprietary list of race dates from every track location that I have yet to visit.  This covers my unseen tracks in both the U.S. and Canada.  Towards the beginning to the year that will include well over 1,000 special event dates.  Of course, there are tracks that race every week as well.  Usually, I’ll try to find a track racing on either a Friday and a Sunday.

 

That is sometimes easier said than done.  I have now seen all but about ten tracks in all of the U.S. and Canada that race weekly on Fridays and Sundays.  For statistical generalizations there are no tracks that race weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday that I have not already seen.  Almost all of the weekly scheduled tracks that I still need to see race on Saturdays.

 

That’s why, when I schedule what is known as a “classic” trackchasing trip, (where tracks are seen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday) I search first for a Friday and Sunday opportunity.  I can still fill in the Saturday track from over 100 choices.

 

August 18 – Back in the “olden days” of trackchasing I could stay in one state or province all weekend for my trackchasing.  That is no longer the case.  In my first 54 days of trackchasing this year I have only stayed in one state or province from one day to the next SEVEN times.  In each of those other 47 trackchasing days I was leaving one state or province for a new one.  On most of those 47 days that meant hopping on an airplane.

 

The positive about the above is that I can almost always stay away from bad weather.  Leaving one state for another really opens up my trackchasing possibilities.  There is a downside of course.  When I driving to/from and flying to/from different airports it knocks out any opportunities to see the local sights.  One of the best parts of trackchasing is to take the time to see what the local “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” have in store.

 

Where I live in California it’s much different than just about everywhere I visit.  Orange County, in many places, is like an adult Disneyland.  The infrastructure is new, the climate is fantastic, and the area is safe.  In a nutshell this is an outstanding place to live.

 

However, I enjoy seeing how other people live too.  I have learned many things in my travels.  One is that wherever people live they like it and, in most cases, are not hankering to move somewhere else.  Folks in Tupelo, Mississippi are not itching to move to San Clemente and vice versa.  I could tell you why I think that’s the case but I’ll save it for another time.

 

August 20 – When I’m more than 2,000 miles from home on a trackchasing trip I want to see what I came to see…..that’s racing.  As you can see from the above note twice this year I’ve done my part….I showed up.  Then the tracks couldn’t deliver on their advertised promise.  I try to take it in stride.

 

However, I do have a little more control over the weather.  More precisely stated if I can predict where it’s going to rain, I’ll go somewhere else.  I must be pretty good at that.

 

My last rainout came on June 3, 2011 at the Whiskey Lake Speedway.  It had not rained at that track in nearly three days.  I had checked their website the day before I drove well out of my way to get to the track in Junction City, Kansas.  No mention of them being rained out.  Then I showed up on a sunny Friday afternoon and no one was there!  This year that track is out of business!  Maybe they didn’t just rain out when I came.  Maybe (probably) they were out of business!

 

My last “rainout” before that was all the way back on November 10, 2010 in Clinton, Oklahoma.  Paul Weisel and I showed up to see racing on the track’s inner and outer ovals.  I had seen the outer oval in the past.  Both tracks would be new for Paul.  They raced on the outer oval because most of the show would be run on that track.  That meant Paul was able to add a new track and NOT be rained out.

 

There was only one lowly class scheduled for the inner oval.  The track promoter was too lazy to run a few laps around the smaller track to get it ready.  They just cancelled the racing on the smaller track.  Folks, that’s how they do it in the world of short track racing.

 

Some people don’t have very good manners.  They say you can judge the character of a person by the way they treat people they don’t know.  Carol and I attended a theatrical production recently.  At different times people needed to cross over us to get to their seats.  Two couples didn’t say a thing, no excuse me, no nothing, as they wedged their way past.

 

It’s the same with people who don’t give a hand wave when you let them in line in traffic.  Or the people who don’t let you IN in traffic.  What’s up with these folks?  Where they raised in a barn?  These are exactly the people I want to avoid in every day life.

 

August 23 – This trackchasing plan (to Lancaster, California) was simple.  I would be DRIVING from home to the track tonight.  What?  I NEVER drive to the track.  O.K., my lawyers have requested I modify that statement.  I RARELY drive to the racetrack.  In fact, this is my first driving trip of the 2012 season.  I only drove to one race in all of 2011.

 

Why don’t I drive to the races?  First, I live in the extreme corner of the continental United States.  In fact, we live only 74 miles from the Mexican border.  If I wanted to I could not have picked a more remote spot to have a hobby like trackchasing.

 

More than 80% of the tracks in the U.S. are located in the east or the Midwest.  The closest track to San Clemente that I have not seen and that I know of that races on a weekly basis is in Utah.  It’s 594 miles (a 10-hour drive) from my place.  If I couldn’t fly to the races then I couldn’t GO to the races.

 

Additionally, I simply detest wearing out the Carol Lewis owned and Lincoln National Insurance Company sponsored 2004 Lexus LS 400 on trackchasing trips.  Although the car does have 119,000 on its odometer, only 7,925 miles can be credited toward trackchasing trips.

 

During the time Carol has owned this Lexus I have put a bit more than 247,000 miles on various rental car in pursuit of my hobby.  If a car gets “worn out” after 100,000 miles I would have “worn out” two and one-half cars with my trackchasing had I used our car to get to the races.

 

As it is the Carol Lewis owned and Lincoln National Insurance Company sponsored 2004 Lexus LS 400 is starting to tick me off some.  You see, I want a new car.  I’m not getting any younger.  How many more new cars will I be buying?

 

“But, Randy” the puzzled long-time reader might be heard to ask.  “Why don’t you just go out and buy yourself a new car?  I’m been reading what those ‘Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers’ have to say.  You’re some rich guy.  You must be able to afford a new Lexus if you want one”.

 

California sayings:  Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy marshmallows.  That’s just about as good.

 

August 26 – However, I have always felt you can’t “baby” folks.  If you want people to do things for themselves then you’ve got to encourage them to do things for themselves.  You don’t need to give a person a fish, you need to teach them how to fish.

 

That has always been my feeling when it comes to sharing my trackchasing research data with my fellow competitors.  Yes, I could simply give them all the information I worked hard to get.  However, if I did that then they would soon EXPECT this type of entitlement.  I know some trackchasers that try to befriend other chasers when, in fact, they are only seeking more new track information.  That type of “two-faced” behaviour is not for me.

 

What do you think about stealing?  Are there some times when it’s O.K. to steal from others?  I don’t think there’s ever a good time to steal or to lie for that matter.  I guess if your survival depended on it stealing would be acceptable.  With lying I can’t even accept a “little white lie”.

 

Today I was the victim of theft.  Earlier in the afternoon I had found myself a great top row seat in the grandstand.  I watched some racing from there and decided to take a tour of the paddock area.  To save my seat I put down my seat cushion and then placed my half-completed soft drink glass on top of the cushion.

 

When I returned it was gone.  Stolen!  I looked around to see if somebody else’s butt was on my pink seat cushion.  I didn’t see it although some people butt’s might have obscured my gardener’s kneepad seat cushion!

 

Recently, I was in the Pittsburgh airport.  I went to the National Rental Car lot and asked the attendant, “Where is the ‘Executive Selection’ section for your rental cars.  The attendant looked at me at said, “We don’t have that.  Everyone has a level playing field here”.

 

Wow!  Some people think there needs to be a “level playing” field everywhere they go.  I, on the other hand, go out of my way to make sure the playing field that I play on is NOT level.  Today, I looked directly into the eyes of the rental car employee and said, “Sir, the LAST THING I’m looking for when I pick up my rental car is a level playing field”.  He didn’t know what to make of that statement.

 

August 30 – There is one thing I see in the east, and to a lesser degree in the Midwest, that I NEVER see in California.  Cemeteries!!  When I travel out this way, I’ll see a cemetery or two in every small town.

 

I’m telling you this.  If you promised me a one million dollar reward if I could drive you to a cemetery (without checking Google of course) anywhere around my hometown in San Clemente I couldn’t do it.  You could give me an hour and I still don’t think I could do it.  I can’t exactly explain the difference.  I’m told almost 7,000 people die every day in the United States (The stats).  That would add up to a lot of cemetery plots after a while.

 

Traveling in public requires some patience and understanding.  As airline seats get smaller and planes fly fuller there is more “up close and personal” time with your fellow passengers.

 

Today the woman sitting in the seat directly behind me talked incessantly.  I’m pretty sure I know every element of her personal life including from the day she was born.  I must confess.  If she were my wife I would be forced to shoot her.  Sorry.  Hope that doesn’t offend anyone.  Some things just need to be done.

 

August 31 – Going into this weekend I have taken 11 weekends “off” from my trackchasing hobby.  Nevertheless, I am 100% confident that I will meet and actually exceed my goal of “alternative weekends”.  If I wanted I could go trackchasing some fifty weekends during the year and maybe even more.  However, just because there’s an opportunity to go doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  I feel it’s important to have a balanced lifestyle of activities in retirement.

 

I have long been against the trackchasing strategy of staying at a track for 5-10 minutes and then heading on down the road to see the next track.  The overriding aspect of trackchasing should have the trackchaser having fun.

 

Some trackchasers have said their idea of fun is staying until the last checkered flag of the night is thrown regardless if it takes until 3 a.m. to do it.  That’s fine with me although I would not consider it fun to stay just for the sake of staying once I’ve been entertained to my satisfaction.

 

I feel comfortable staying at a track until I have gotten the entertainment I was looking for.  I’m always interested in exploring every nook and cranny of a racetrack.  My photo documentaries will confirm that’s what I do.  For programs that offer limited entertainment value I would say about two hours at the track should do the job.  In extreme cases I would lower that limit to one hour.  However, I can’t see how someone can have much “fun” if they stay at a track for one short race.  I know some people who might be at a track for 15 minutes or less.  I can’t go for that.

 

There are a couple of exceptions to the above rule.  One would be when a track is running multiple classes (go-karts) of which only one class is countable.  It’s not uncommon for some kart tracks to race twenty different classes.  Usually each class runs 1-2 heat races and a feature.

 

Let’s say a track, like tonight, has just four champ karts.  If there are twenty classes racing the senior champs might be the 18th race of the night.  That means that in order for a trackchaser to count the track he must wait through seventeen races before the one and only countable class hits the track.  That one countable heat race might take only two minutes.  Then if the trackchaser wanted to see the senior champs race again (all four of them in this example) he would have to wait through twenty more races to see those same four cars race again.

 

Another might be the circumstance I encountered tonight.  It was not my PLAN to see just one race at the Clinton County Speedway.  However, that was the VERY BEST I could do given where the Greenwood Raceway was located compared to Clinton County, unique bridge construction and a late running program at Greenwood.

 

I STRONGLY disagree with the trackchasing strategy employed by some to stay for just a few minutes when there are multiple classes available to compete.

 

Long-time trackchasing protocol, established by leading chasers before I came on the scene, allows and encourages people to leave after they’ve seen the one and only countable class run one race at kart tracks.  I agree with that line of thinking.

 

September 1 – It’s too bad the hobby of trackchasing cannot count a SINGLE significant new trackchaser under the age of forty in the group.  They just don’t exist.  By the time I was forty years old (starting the 1990 season) I had seen only 180 tracks.  Other trackchasers had seen more than that by the time they were forty.  Of the more than seventy listed trackchasers I’m not sure if any of them are under forty years of age.  There are simply no younger trackchasers moving into the group.

 

There has been a dramatic decrease in the interest in the Yahoo! Groups trackchasing forum.  There are fewer members in this group that I have subscribers on YouTube.  The group’s numbers have stagnated over the past few years.  More than 90% of the messages come from just a handful of people in the entire group.

 

During the “heyday” of the group (2002-2006) the group averaged nearly 150 messages every month.  During the first ten months of 2012 the average number of monthly messages is only sixty-one, nearly a 60% decline.

 

I still read the messages in the trackchaser Yahoo! Groups forum.  From time to time I get valuable information about upcoming racing dates.  However, far to many of the messages are really “non-messages”.  If one person, who rarely posts a message does post they will invariably get a thank you message from Mr. Smith.  Then that person might very well thank Mr. Smith for thanking them.  Even though the quantity of messages has declined some sixty percent the quality has probably declined even more.

 

Sadly, trackchasing at the highest levels has now resorted to “novelty” events.  This includes figure 8 tracks, enduro racing and racing on “marginally countable” tracks where using the term “racing” might be stretching it.

 

Tonight’s flat kart racing was outstanding.  We should have been counting go-kart racing from day one in trackchasing.  What were the founding fathers thinking?  Many of them seem to have preferred that feature racing be a requirement to count a track.  I presume they felt that way because feature racing was better than preliminary racing.  If that was the thinking then I would submit that flat kart racing is way better than MANY of the kinds of racing we so willingly count today.

 

September 2 – The cheapest ticket being sold at today’s (Grand Prix of Baltimore) ticket booth was selling for $57.  It wasn’t long before we (the ticket scalper and me) were back in “discussions”.  He was now offering the ticket for thirty dollars and then twenty-five.  We settled on $22 U.S.  That seemed like a pretty good discount of more than 50% from the track’s offering of fifty-seven dollars.  Soon (after the first feature event) I found another “professional wholesaler”.  This fellow, from Nigeria, was in the market for a ticket.  We soon settled on a price of $15.  He figured he could sell it for more.  My net cost for the event where the cheapest box office ticket was $57 was a measly seven bucks.

 

September 3 – As often as I can I enjoy seeing “once a year” tracks.  It’s good for trackchasing “productivity” although not always as good for the best in racing.  When I work this side of the “strategy street” I ensure that there will be more tracks to see in the years to come.  Most regularly scheduled tracks (weekly racing) run twenty or more shows each year.  If it comes down to a once a year show or a weekly program, all things being equal (which they never are) I’ll likely pick the once a year race.

 

That way next year, I will have TWENTY race dates from the weekly track to choose from that I bypassed in favor of the once a year show.  It’s often tempting to see the weekly track but if I do then next year I have only ONE race date to choose at the once a year venue.  Make sense?

 

I was down to my last pair of cargo shorts when I spilled some mustard on them the night before I was to return home.  Therefore I came up with the bright idea (my words) to soak them overnight in the bathroom sink.  You already know that I don’t do any chores like this at home.  I guess there is a reason for that.  Unbeknownst to me, not only was I soaking my cargo shorts in eight inches of water for 12 hours, I was also soaking my Lexus smart key (car key) in the water for 12 hours.  However, there’s a reason Lexus makes the best car on the road.  When I got back to LAX everything worked just fine starting the car.  I love the Lexus brand.

 

September 20 – I enjoy taking risks.  I feel as if I take more risks than most folks.  However, when I judge the maximum downside, no matter how remote, to be too great I generally won’t take the risk.  If there were one million white marbles and one black one was added would you risk your life, if you randomly picked the black one, compared to getting one million dollars if you picked one of the white marbles?  How about if there were 100,000 white marbles or 10,000 white marbles?  Not everyone has the same answers to these three questions.

 

I am the only trackchaser that is routinely identified over the track’s P.A. system as being in attendance.  Sometimes I am identified as being there when I am not!  When that happened in Ohio, Ed Esser came forward and pretended to be me!  I heard that one fan shouted, “I thought he was taller”.

 

I see a somewhat disturbing trend.  I don’t see ANY trackchasers who have retired doing much trackchasing.  Some often have said or say, “When I retire I’m going to be trackchasing everywhere”.

 

Here’s what really happens when lots of people retire.  They get more conservative.  I’m not talking politically.  I’m talking fiscally and in other ways too.  Folks are more likely to travel when they have a paycheck coming in, not when they don’t.  They are more likely to travel when they are younger rather than older.  When folks retire they often have less money than when they were working even though they have more free time.  Most folks feel like traveling more when they are forty than when they are fifty and when they are fifty than when they are sixty.  Make sense?  For a person to say they will do MORE when they retire than they did when they were younger and working is very often not the case at all.

 

October 21 – My first few trackchasing countries were all English speaking.  I’m talking about Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.  As an English speaker it’s pretty easy to navigate in countries that speak your language.

 

Countries #5-8 were the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.  Belgium based trackchaser Roland Vanden Eynde was nice enough to act as my guide for this one-trip adventure.  I couldn’t have been more grateful for Roland’s assistance.

 

At the time I didn’t think I could navigate myself, and often Carol, around foreign speaking countries.  And although I enjoyed Roland’s travel expertise it really didn’t seem like “my” trip when someone else planned the itinerary.

 

If I were going to be an international trackchaser I wanted to plan the trips I would take.  I wanted to be in charge of every aspect of the trip.  Let me tell you this….there are a LOT of aspects to cover on each trip!

 

For me the key to the enjoyment of each trip is to experience the unknown.  As you’ve seen from my past adventures I’m game for just about anything.  The days of my tagging along with someone else doing all the planning and detail work ended with country #8.  I’m on my own now and wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Carol and I always split up the chores.  She is the brawn and I am left to handle the “brains” part of the equation.  This is not because Carol isn’t smart.  However, if she were BOTH the brains and the brawn of every activity then what would I do?

 

October 26 – I was driving toward New Orleans at a high rate of speed now.  When I got there I would need a hotel.  I quickly grabbed my phone, and at 80 M.P.H. gave my buddies at Motel 6 a call.  The agent was giving me a rundown of the available properties near New Orleans.  Just when she asked me what I thought about one of her recommendations an aggressive driver pulled in front of me sharply.  That prompted an instinctive use of the “F word” in that driver’s direction.

 

It was at this point I remembered I was still on the line with the Motel 6 rep.  She responded to my brief lapse in judgment with “I guess that property won’t work for you?”  Then I realized what had happened.  I laughed so hard I nearly had to pull off the road.  I apologized profusely.  She took it in good stride.  Maybe, she’s heard worse!  Alas, the closest Motel 6 available was some 50 miles outside of New Orleans.  That wouldn’t work.

 

O.K., I need to calm down.  The drivers along the I-10 freeway going to Louisiana were terrible for driving slowly in the fast lane.  They need to take some lessons from those pesky Europeans.  In Europe folks go into the passing lane for one reason.  To pass!  That’s why they call it the passing lane.  If a driver is not passing somebody they should be in the slowest lane available.  Is that clear?

 

October 27 – Then on Sunday I had a choice.  I could fly to Chihuahua, Mexico for a Mexican NASCAR race.  That sounded like a good idea….until I did a Google search on “Chihuahua”.  It came up on the “Ten Most Dangerous Cities in the World” list.  That didn’t sound good.  Here’s that list if you want to know where NOT to go on your next vacation.

 

The Top 10 List:

1 San Pedro Sula, Honduras

2 Juarez, Mexico

3 Maceio, Brazil

4 Acapulco, Mexico

5 Distrito Central,  Honduras

6 Caracas, Venezuela

7 Torreon (metropolitana), Mexico

8 Chihuahua, Mexico

9 Durango, Mexico

10 Belem, Brazil

 

I must confess that after the races on Saturday night I stopped at McDonalds and had a double cheeseburger, fries and a large Diet Coke.  The sum total of that meal?  $3.21.  Where in the world can you go and get that much food for such a low price.  It tastes good too.

 

One of our leading trackchasers has always complained that NASCAR tries to rip off the fans.  He says they charge exorbitant amounts for all of their goods and services.  Compared to other major league sports that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Heck, today’s event cost me less than some SHORT tracks I attend.

 

Permit me to elaborate.  First of all, parking is free when you park on the property of a NASCAR track.  That’s what I did today at Martinsville.  They had acres and acres of free parking.  My local track the Perris Auto Speedway, a short track, charges $5-8 for parking.  Carol and I went to a concert the other night.  They charged $30 to park near the theatre.  Parking is ten bucks at Angels Stadium.  NASCAR parking is free!

 

I never pay retail when I go to a NASCAR track.  You wouldn’t need to either.  NASCAR allows for a very convenient “resale” market.  I simply carry a sign that reads “need one” or “need two” as the case may be.  I have not paid more than $20 U.S. for a Sprint Cup ticket in several years.  How much did I pay today?  Twenty dollars!  What was the face value of the ticket?  $70 U.S.  We pay more than twenty dollars per ticket for EVERY major league event we attend in and around the Los Angeles area.  NASCAR tickets can be bought cheaply!

 

How about food and drink?  Today, I stuffed myself on the famous “Martinsville hot dogs”.  They’re red in color.  I always say you can never get enough “red dye” in your system.  How much is a Martinsville hot dog?  Two bucks.  That’s right.  A 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke was about four bucks.

 

Let’s summarize.  I parked for free.  I bought a ticket on the front straight with a great view of pit road and all of the action on this ½-mile track for $20.  Then I scarfed down three hot dogs and a Diet Coke for ten bucks.  Total outlay = $30 U.S.  My gosh.  Could NASCAR be any LESS expensive unless they gave you everything for free?

 

Just as a point of comparison the “Turkey Night” midget races at the Perris Auto Speedway carry a general admission ticket price of $40 U.S.  There is no “resale” market for those.  If you want to go it’s forty dollars and eight bucks to park.  Good luck getting a hot dog for two bucks.

 

October 30 – I think it would be safe to say I grew up in somewhat humble beginnings.  For the first fifteen years of my life I lived in East Peoria, Illinois at 411 Doering Street.  If you were to check out www.zillow.com you would find my boyhood home was a 672 square foot dwelling that housed my sister, my mother and me.  That’s about 1/10th as big as our modest cottage that overlooks the Pacific Ocean where we reside today.  Heck, that little house where I grew up is worth less TODAY than the last CAR I bought!

 

Vacations were rare in our household.  I remember taking a bus trip on a horribly hot day to visit my grandmother in Evansville, Indiana.  Once a year we would have a one-day driving trip to Chicago to see the Cubs play.  During the winter I might accompany my grandparents up to Chicago to watch my grandfather in a bowling tournament.  Staying in a hotel in Chicago on one of these trips was “over the moon” to me.  I didn’t fly on my first airplane until I was 21 years old.  My how things have changed.

 

Although we didn’t have anything when and where I grew up that didn’t bother me in the least.  If you’ve never had anything you don’t miss it.  Everyone in my neighborhood was poor but we didn’t know it!

 

November 4 – My main contact for racing in Greece was Bulgarian Lyubomir Simeonov.  Here’s how I met Lyubomir.  I was trackchasing in Romania on Saturday.  I had gotten in contact with Lyubomir via an eastern European racing chat group.  As we talked in advance of my trip to Romania I asked him what might be the best way to get to his neighboring country, Bulgaria from Romania.

 

We talked about all kinds of ways to get from Romania to Bulgaria, a pair of neighboring countries in Eastern Europe.  Trains, buses, maybe a rental car?  Would rental car people let you drive across borders in this part of the world?

 

As it turned out Lyubomir’s brother Pako was visiting Bulgaria from the United States where he had been working.  Lyubomir came up with the idea that Pako would drive six hours ONE-WAY from Bulgaria to pick me up in Romania after my Saturday afternoon race there.  Then Pako and I would drive/ride SIX more hours that evening back to Bulgaria arriving late Saturday night.

 

Pako had a hotel already set up for me.  Following a late night dinner I grabbed a few hours of sleep and eagerly awaited the Sunday morning Bulgarian racing.  Then on the Sunday morning I got a chance to meet with the boy’s parents for a short time.  From there Lyubomir, Pako and I drove another two hours to the race.  Following the racing I had a great Bulgarian lunch with the brothers.  Then Pako drove me SIX more hours back to Romania.  We arrived at about 11 p.m. at night.  I invited Pako to stay the evening but he couldn’t.  He would drive the final SIX hours, 24 hours in total back to Bulgaria after midnight!  That’s 24 hours of driving during a time span in less than 48 hours!

 

Now remember I had never met the Simeonov brothers personally in my life.  Yet, I was willing to get in a car in Eastern Europe with a perfect stranger.  They were willing to commit to twenty-four hours of driving to make sure I could see a simple street race in Bulgaria.  Folks, that’s the way I roll.  It’s also the way Lyubomir and Pako roll.  They are fine young men.  Not too long after the race in Bulgaria, after Pako had returned to the United States, we were able to have him over to our house for lunch.  Folks, that is just about the best example of “Boots on the ground” I can possibly imagine.

 

For this trip (to Greece) Lyubomir was a great help with the advance planning.  Bulgaria borders Greece.  As a point of fact, the Bulgarian border is less than 25 miles from today’s track in Serres, Greece.  Lyubomir was able to give me lots of perspective on how best to handle the logistics of this weekend’s effort in Greece.

 

“But Randy, I can now see how you’ve figured out how to get a cost effective method in place so you can use your phone just like you do back home.  However, aren’t you afraid the DECTs will read this and copy your methods?” the competitively aware reader would most likely want to ask.

 

Famous Green Bay Packer football coach Vince Lombardi didn’t really care if the other team knew that he was planning to run to ball over the left tackle.  Why?  Because he figured even if they KNEW what he was going to do they couldn’t stop the run.

 

I feel the same way about those Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers.  They may know what I’m doing but I don’t think THEY can do it.  Make sense?

 

Although I am not afraid to ask for advice I do all of my own decision-making on these foreign trips.  I don’t go to any country and have someone else hold me hand.  I’ll gather all of he information I can and then JUST GO FOR IT.  I find that is the most exciting way to handle these adventures.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I have had some FANTASTIC help along the way in the 62 countries I have visited up to this point.  I couldn’t have had nearly the enjoyments I’ve had (Carol too) without all of the help my foreign friends have provided.  It’s just that once they give me their best advice it’s up to me to act on it and then make the best self-guided trip that I can.  So far that has worked out very well.

 

I often say that I never really come up with any of my own ideas.  I just take other people’s ideas and rework them to fit my situation.  I like to listen to all kinds of folks and then adopt their best ideas.  This strategy pretty well keeps me at the top of the list for my peer group.  Often times when I meet young people they’re pretty impressed that a silver-haired fellow like myself understands as much about the new technology world as I do.

 

Carol says “there’s nothing free but a kick in the butt”.  She got that from her dad.  That might tell you something about the way he looks at the world.

 

I had a strategy to avoid the carryon bag charges.  Actually I had a few strategies.  When I explained them all to Carol she said, “You’re rich, just pay the fee”.  Shut your mouth!  What if the “Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers” heard her say that?  Yes, Carol is prone to exaggeration.  The only way I was going to pay the bag fee was if I went down “kicking and screaming”.

 

Back in my hometown of San Clemente, California I wear shorts, specifically cargo shorts nearly every day.  O.K., probably EVERY day.  That’s what I found so unusual about this trip.  During seven days of being in Europe I didn’t see a SINGLE person walking around in shorts.  What’s up with that.  When I was in Greece it was warm.  Why?

 

November 16 – Whatever does happen, it’s been another good trackchasing year.  Some people think I trackchase every weekend.  In reality, this is “only” my 29th trackchasing trip of the year.  I’ll end up trackchasing some 70-75 days in total.  That’s a far cry from the 115-120 days I was doing a few years ago.

 

I’ll still end up traveling overnight about 140 nights for the year.  About 80-90 of those nights can be attributed to trackchasing.  That means I’m still “getting out of the house” about 50-60 nights for other trips not related to trackchasing.  I hesitate to call those nights “vacation nights”.  Since I’m retired I consider every day of the year as if I were on vacation.

 

In more than ten years of retirement I’ve traveled some 1,400-1,500 nights.  Carol has hit the road about 700-800 nights during those ten years.  However, she doesn’t consider herself retired!  It’s been a lot of fun and we don’t have any good reason to stop traveling.

 

By the way, I don’t ask folks for free tickets.  Sometimes they offer based upon my reputation as the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”.  If they offer me a gift I will accept.  It’s the polite thing to do.  I prefer in nearly every circumstance to not get a free ticket.  If I pay my way in then I feel fully entitled to provide whatever critique I feel is necessary.

 

November 17 – I have some incredible systems in place to figure out who is racing when and where.  I’ve developed and improved these systems every day for every year I’ve been doing this.  I won’t travel long distances for just one racetrack.  If I’m going to fly cross-country I need to see three or more tracks to make it worth it in most situations.

 

How have my systems worked since the turn of the century (2000)?  To determine that you have to have benchmarks.  My closest fellow competitor appears to be Guy Smith.  Currently, he is my benchmark.  How have I compared against this benchmark over the last dozen years or so?

 

Since 2000 I have seen 580 tracks MORE than Guy Smith.  Much of that advantage can be attributed to having the proper systems in place.  That includes things like financial planning that allowed for early retirement.  Investing in my son’s flying career provided transportation advantages.  Finally employing significant technology systems, which reduced rainouts to near zero and increased my “tracks per trip” to record levels.

 

November 18 – Trying to ‘figure it out’ that’s most of the fun.  I wrapped up my final day of trackchasing by driving 200 miles back to the Atlanta area on Sunday night.  From there I needed to get to New York for Monday night’s basketball game.  However with the holidays fast approaching flights into New York were going to be tough for me to make.

 

Not a problem.  I enjoy the challenge of “trying to figure it out”.  My solution was a bit unusual and something I had never tried in this area before.  From Atlanta I would fly to Philadelphia.  Once in Philly I would take the train from the airport to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station (It’s akin to Grand Central Station in NYC).  From there I would hop on a “Mega Bus” (Megabus) for the two-hour ride to near Penn Station in New York.

 

I had never ridden a “Mega Bus” type operation before.  The fare was certainly reasonable, just 15 bucks for the two-hour ride from Philly to New York city.  Lining up for the bus was first come first served.  I had purchased my ticket on line last night.  I simply needed to show my confirmation information stored on my phone.  We truly are approaching a paperless society.

 

When I got off the bus I would take a subway train.  I was using my newly acquired “Embark NYC” iPhone app.  This new app is “required reading” if you’re new to the New York subway system.  The trains would drop me near Columbus Circle in Central Park.  From there it would be a one-block walk to my Priceline.com acquired hotel, the “Hudson, a Morgans Original.  Whew!   This would take some planning.  The internet is a wonderful thing that Al Gore invented.

 

I will tell you this.  I truly enjoy doing many of these trips on my own.  I couldn’t expect to take any of my non-racing friends to a marginal event like this.  After sitting out in the wind and rubber dust for 30 minutes they would think I was crazy, let alone four hours and thirty minutes.  I couldn’t expect Carol to cozy up to the idea of getting up a 1 a.m. Pacific time to fly from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta and then driving more than 400 miles round-trip so we could sit in the wind and dust for four more hours.  That little diddy, if it ever happened, would definitely come up the next time we didn’t see eye to eye on an unrelated issue.

 

Finally, I couldn’t really plan to meet up with any of my trackchasing friends at an event like this.  Why?  My travel schedule is just too unreliable.  I couldn’t expect others to go out of their way to meet me and then not show up.  Truth be told, on trips like this I prefer to travel solo.

 

December 1 – Carol and I have been married for more than 40 years.  During all that time we have led a pretty responsible financial life.  I don’t know how much money we have.  I have always been accused by the more envious in the trackchasing group as being “some rich guy”.  However, financial statements have never been required in the hobby.  Therefore I don’t really know which people have an advantage and which don’t.

 

However, if the best-selling book, “The Millionaire Next Door” (The Book) is accurate with its research the wealthiest trackchasers are not who you might think they are.  By the way, I vehemently disagree with one of the major premises of this most popular book.  They seem to indicate that earning your money and saving it is a virtue.  I disagree.  Money earned is to be spent.  Note, I did not say overspent.  However, earning money just to save it seems like a complete waste to me.

 

Carol won’t be coming along on this last minute faraway boondoggle.  Some people have what I think is a misinformed impression about Carol’s trackchasing participation.  Some folks think she doesn’t travel much.

 

If you are comparing Carol’s travel to mine I think such an assertion would be accurate.  However, if you compared Carol’s travel to anyone in the general public Carol travels in the top 1/10th of one percent of everyone in the world.

 

So far, Carol has traveled 40,946 miles exclusively for trackchasing.  This does not include her twice annual Hawaii visits or trips to family events etc.  With those miles included she will be well over 50,000 miles of travel each year.

 

Now I ask you.  How many people do YOU know that will travel on airplanes and rental cars for a distance of more than 50,000 miles in a year’s time?  If you have the impression that Carol does “not travel” you might have to challenge the playing of “old tapes” as we used to say in the corporate world.

 

December 2 – I hope this (my trip to Australia) shows you how “fly by night” some of this trip planning actually is.  I plan what I can but when I can’t plan anymore I don’t worry about it too much.

 

I learned this approach in my Total Quality (TQ) management training during my corporate life at Procter & Gamble.  Whenever we were beginning a new project (think trackchasing trip) we planned as well as we could and then we started DOING.  We learned a lot more by doing than planning.  We planned what we could, did what we could and then incorporated all the “fixes” from the first effort into the second one.  After a short time of this “trial and error” approach of sorts we had a pretty “bug-free” way of doing things.

 

I’ve used this method over the years with my trackchasing hobby.  It’s so much simpler nowadays than just 5-10 years ago.  If you were to read one of my reports from a thousand tracks or more ago, you would see what I mean.  The way of trackchasing logistically, has changed a lot over the years.

 

The “Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers” are fond of playing the “if I was retired” game.  They sound as if they would be pretty active folks “if they were retired”.  Alas, they are not.  But wait!  There’s more.  You don’t HAVE to be retired to go to Australia for a long weekend.

 

You just have to wait until you get a three-day holiday weekend.  Granted I was not traveling on such a weekend.  However, I did leave late on Thursday night.  If I were working I could have easily gotten in a full day’s work before hopping on a 10:30 p.m. flight.  When it was time to leave Australia I took a 3:20 p.m. flight on Monday.  “But, Randy, you said the DECT would only have to be away for a three-day weekend and wouldn’t miss any work.  What gives?” the empathetic but justifiably skeptical reader might ask.

 

Gotcha!  Even though I was leaving at 3:20 p.m. I would be landing in the early morning back in the good ol’ U.S.A.  That’s right!  I would leave Thursday night and be back on Monday morning bright eyed and bushy tailed to get back to work.  O.K. I might be stretching the point about being bright eyed and bushy tailed but you get the point.  You do not have to be retired to make travel sacrifices.  You just need to get out there and do it!

 

From time to time I offer points that I hope you give some consideration and thought too.  I’ve seen so many people say something to the effect, “If I was retired I could do this or that.  When I retire I’m going to do this or that”.  Folks, you might never ever reach retirement.  There are SO many things you can do NOW.  You don’t have to be retired.  You just have to be creative and go do it.  Don’t wait.  You’ll likely never feel better than you do now.  Do stuff now.  If old age and retirement works out for you then you can do all that stuff AGAIN.

My fellow competitors are probably thinking, “Wow!  If this guy can go to Australia for the weekend how are we ever going to keep up?”  Sadly, that is a question for which my fellow competitors do not have an answer too.

 

December 9 – I am a multi-tasker.  Some say that folks can’t do each task at the same time as well as if each task were attempted separately.  I think I agree with that.  However, I have discovered that few tasks in life deserve 100% attention.  Why is that?  Because most tasks done to a 75% level of efficiency or completeness is probably good enough.  You’ll drive yourself (or others) crazy trying to be a perfectionist.

 

About this time I should point out that I have seen racing at four Hawaii tracks up to this point.  Several other trackchasers have also seen four tracks in Hawaii.  In modern times, only the figure 8 track in Maui (which races very sporadically) has not been reported by any trackchasers.  My seeing racing at KRP today would be Hawaii track #5.  You might be asking, “Randy, did you tell any of your fellow competitors about this inaugural event”?

 

My answer would be “No, hell no”.  However, it was not for “competitive” reasons that this information was withheld.  It was for “humanitarian” reasons.  “But Randy, you’re going to have to tell me what type of humanitarian action was going on here” the certainly accepting yet seeking more information loyal reader might ask.

 

O.K.  Here goes.  It’s about a 5,000-mile round-trip for Carol and me to visit Hawaii.  Most trackchasers live on the east coast.  For them a Hawaii trip would be more like 10,000 miles round-trip.  That’s a long way to travel unless you have some very firm information about the track you’re going to see.

 

The Kapolei Raceway Park had never ever run an oval race before.  What if at the last minute they decided the track needed a little extra work?  What if that happened and they postponed the race until next month.  What if the weather gods frowned on the weekend and the Oahu area (actually Honolulu only gets eight inches of rain annually) got some unexpected rain?  They haven’t had any oval racing on Oahu in seven years.  What if there were no racecars in the area after all this time?

 

Nope.  I could not in good conscience share ANY of this information.  Remember what I said about expectations?  Any east coast trackchaser traveling more than 10,000 miles in the hopes of seeing his or her fifth Hawaii track would be coming with sky-high expectations.  What if things went awry and they wanted to blame me?  It’s happened before.

 

It would be too much of a burden to bear if something unforeseen happened and the race didn’t come off.  I could never live with myself if a fellow competitor had purchased a very expensive airline ticket to the islands and then didn’t get to trackchase.  Remember, there are only 5-6 “active” trackchasers still pursuing the hobby.  Those folks go on the road for just ONE reason.  They must see a new track.  They don’t care about the local restaurants or the important sightseeing activities.  To them it’s TRACKCHASE, TRACKCHASE, and TRACKCHASE.  They will leave home virtually EVERY weekend if there is any shot at adding a new track to their lists or their families list or their friend’s list.  Would they stay home from trackchasing WILLINGLY twenty-two weekends just for the sake of a more balanced lifestyle?  You all know the answer to that question.

 

 

THE NITTY GRITTY FROM 2012

JANUARY 

4 new tracks – Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin

FEBRUARY

6 new tracks – Iowa, Minnesota, SRI LANKA, Quebec, Wisconsin, Ontario,

MARCH

3 new tracks – ECUADOR, Kentucky, Texas,

 

APRIL

 7 new tracks – Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Austria, Slovakia

MAY

10 new tracks – France, Monaco, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Michigan, West Virginia

JUNE

8 new tracks –Michigan, Quebec, North Carolina, Arizona, Croatia

 

JULY

16 new tracks –Michigan, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Maine

 

AUGUST

16 new tracks –Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Ontario, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Nevada, West Virginia

SEPTEMBER

6 new tracks – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Ontario

 

OCTOBER

5 new tracks – Peru, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada

 

NOVEMBER

4 new tracks –Greece, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia

 

DECEMBER

3 new tracks – Australia, Hawaii


 

NUMBERS!  NUMBERS!  NUMBERS!

I wanted to share with you the highlights of my 2012 trackchasing season.  Here they are:

Total new tracks seen:  88

Total U.S. states visited 28

Total Canadian provinces visited: 3

Total countries visited: 12 – Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Monaco, Peru, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, United States

New countries:  7 – Croatia, Ecuador, Greece, Monaco, Peru, Slovakia, Sri Lanka

Total states visited:  28 – Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Track breakout

Road Course tracks – 27

Dirt ovals – 23

Figure 8 tracks – 13

Kart/small car tracks – 12

Ice tracks – 5

Asphalt ovals – 4

Inner ovals – 3

Indoor tracks – 1

Total foreign country tracks – 25

Total successful trackchasing days in 2012 – 74

Trackchasing days rained out – 0 (A new personal best!)

Total golfing days in 2012 – 73

Total flying trips – 31

Total driving trips – 1

Randy’s total overnight stays in 2011 – 142

Randy’s total overnight stays due to trackchasing in 2011 – nearly 100

Carol’s total overnight stays in 2011 – 60

Carol’s total overnight stays due to trackchasing in 2011 – about 20

Trackchasing days by the day of the week

Sunday – 26

Monday – 4

Tuesday – 2

Wednesday – 1

Thursday – 4

Friday – 14

Saturday – 23

 

RACETRACKS VISITED IN 2012

* Tracks attended by Carol

#1,726.  Arizona Speedway*, Queen Creek, Arizona – January 1

USA Raceway, Tucson, Arizona – January 18

#1,727.  Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida – January 27

#1,728.  Martin County Kartway, Hobe Sound, Florida – January 28

#1,729.  Lake Dubay Ice Track, Knowlton, Wisconsin – January 29

#1,730.  Cerro Gordo County Multi-Purpose Center , Mason City, Iowa – February

#1,731.  Crystal Lake Ice Track , Merrifield, Minnesota – February 5

#1,732.  Pannala Race Track , Pannala, Sri Lanka – February 12

#1,733.  Yamachiche Ice Track*, Yamachiche, Quebec, Canada – February 19

#1,734.  Allouez Bay Ice Track, Superior, Wisconsin – February 25

#1,735.  Mission Bay Ice Track, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada – February 26

#1,736.  Autodromo Internacional de Yahuarcocha, Ibarra, Ecuador – March 11

#1,737.  Paducah International Raceway, Paducah, Kentucky – March 30

#1,738.  Texas Thunder Speedway, Killeen, Texas – March 31

#1,739.  Little Sunset Speedway, Greenwood, Nebraska – April 1

#1,740.  Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex, Markleysburg, Pennsylvania – April 20

#1,741.  Autobahn Country Club (South Course) – Joliet, Illinois – April 21

#1,742.  Jackson County Speedway – Maquoketa, Iowa – April 21

#1,743.  Nordring Autocross – Fuglau, Austria – April 28

#1,744.  Nordring Rallycross – Fuglau, Austria – April 29

#1,745.  Slovakia Ring – Orechova Poton, Slovakia – April 29

#1,746.  Circuit Paul Ricard* – Le Castellet, France – May 12

#1,747.  Circuit de Monaco* – Monte Carlo, Monaco – May 13

#1,748.  Snydersville Raceway – Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania – May 1

#1,749.  Autodrome Chaudière – Vallee Jonction, Quebec, Canada – May 19

#1,750.  Autodrome Montmagny – Montmagny, Quebec, Canada – May 20

#1,751.  Oyster Bed Speedway – Oyster Bed, Prince Edward Island, Canada – May 21

#1,752.  Cherry Raceway – Fife Lake, Michigan – May 25

#1,753.  RedBud MX – Buchanan, Michigan – May 26

#1,754.  Onaway Speedway – Onaway, Michigan – May 2

#1,755.  I-77 Raceway Park – Ripley, West Virginia – May 27

#1,756.  Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix* – Detroit, Michigan – June 2

#1,757.  Circuit ICAR (short course)* – Mirabel, Quebec, Canada – June 3

#1,758.  Circuit ICAR (long course)* – Mirabel, Quebec, Canada – June 3

#1,759.  Woodleaf Speedway – Woodleaf, North Carolina – June 8

#1,760.  Tucson International Raceway – Tucson, Arizona – June 9

#1,761.  Millbridge Speedway – Millbridge, North Carolina – June 20

#1,762.  Automotodrom Grobnik – Rijeka, Croatia – June 23

#1,763.  Owosso Kart Speedway – Owosso, Michigan – June 30

#1,764.  Merritt Speedway (figure 8) – Lake City, Michigan – July 1

#1,765.  Merritt Speedway (oval) – Lake City, Michigan – July 1

#1,766.  Marshall County Fairgrounds (figure 8) – Blue Rapids, Kansas – July 13

#1,767.  Clay County Fairgrounds (figure 8) – Clay Center, Nebraska – July 14

#1,768.  Mid-Nebraska Speedway – Doniphan, Nebraska – July 14

#1,769.  Polk County Fairgrounds – Fertile, Minnesota – July 15

#1,770.  Fillmore County Fairgrounds (figure 8) – Geneva, Nebraska – July 16

#1,771.  Berlin Raceway – Marne, Michigan – July 17

#1,772.  Big Stone County Fairgrounds – Clinton, Minnesota – July 19

#1,773.  Tuscola County Fairgrounds – Caro, Michigan – July 20

#1,774.  Broome-Tioga Sports Center – Richford, New York – July 21

#1,775.  Turkey Trot Raceway – Fort Edward, New York – July 21

#1,776.  Fantasy Speedway – Unity, Maine – July 22

#1,777.  Arlington Raceway (dirt road course) – Arlington, Minnesota – July 28

#1,778.  Arlington Raceway (oval) – Arlington, Minnesota – July 28

#1,779.  Blue Earth County Fairgrounds – Garden City, Minnesota – July 29

#1,780.  State Line Stadium Speedway (figure 8)* – Post Falls, Idaho – August 3

#1,781.  Deseret Peak Complex (figure 8)* – Tooele, Utah – August 4

#1,782.  Oregon Raceway Park* – Grass Valley, Oregon – August 5

#1,783.  Sutton Fair (oval) – Sutton West, Ontario, Canada – August 10

#1,784.  Sutton Fair (figure 8) – Sutton West, Ontario, Canada – August 10

#1,785.  Fenelon Fair (figure 8) – Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada – August 11

#1,786.  Calabogie Motorsports Park – Calabogie, Ontario, Canada – August 12

#1,787.  Carlton County Fairgrounds – Barnum, Minnesota – August 17

#1,788.  North District Fairgrounds (oval) – Cadillac, Michigan – August 18

#1,789.  North District Fairgrounds (figure 8) – Cadillac, Michigan – August 18

#1,790.  Somerset County Fairgrounds (figure 8) – Meyersdale, Pennsylvania – August 20

#1,791.  Antelope Valley Fairgrounds (figure 8) – Lancaster, California – August 23

#1,792.  Wild West Motorsports Park – Sparks, Nevada – August 26

#1,793.  Tyler County Speedway – Middlebourne, West Virginia – August 30

#1,794.  Greenwood Raceway – Seven Stars, Pennsylvania – August 31

#1,795.  Clinton County Speedway – Mackeyville, Pennsylvania – August 31

#1,796.  Baker Hill Motorsports – Columbus, Pennsylvania – September 1

#1,797.  Cove Valley Speedway – Martinsburg, Pennsylvania – September 1

#1,798.  Baltimore Grand Prix – Baltimore, Maryland – September 2

#1,799.  Woodstock Fairgrounds – Woodstock, Connecticut – September 3

#1,800.  Ancaster Fair (oval) – Jerseyville, Ontario, Canada – September 20

#1,801.  Ancaster Fair (figure 8) – Jerseyville, Ontario, Canada – September 20

#1,802.  Autodromo La Chutana* – Lima, Peru – October 21

#1,803.  NOLA Motorsports Park – Avondale, Louisiana – October 26

#1,804.  Grand Prize of America – Savannah, Georgia – October 27

#1,805.  Uwharrie Figure 8 – Troy, North Carolina – October 27

#1,806.  Las Vegas Convention Center – Las Vegas, Nevada – October 30

#1,807.  Serres Circuit – Serres, Greece – November 4

#1,808.  Duck River Speedway – Wheel, Tennessee – November 16

#1,809.  Capital City Speedway – Ashland, Virginia – November 17

#1,810.  Needmore Speedway – Norman Park, Georgia – November 18

#1,811.  Archerfield Speedway – Archerfield, Queensland, Australia – December 1

#1,812.  Homebush Street Circuit – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia – December 2

#1,813.  Kapolei Raceway Park* – Barbers Point Housing, Hawaii – December 8

Pages needed to print this report – 163; Total words – 39,130

 

Please submit media requests for additional information or interviews to Ranlay@yahoo.com.

 

Official end of 2012 Randy Lewis Racing Annual Report 

[WPP][/WPP]


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