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Eagle River Derby Track

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Greetings from Eagle River, Wisconsin

and later in the day…..

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Sands, Michigan

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From the travels and adventures of the 

“World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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Eagle River Derby Track

Dirt road course

Lifetime track #2,269

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Sands Speedway 

Asphalt oval

Lifetime track #2,270

 

The EventVideo PlusPhotos

 

 

 

THE EVENT

 

 

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Today’s undertaking was just one of more than 2,000 trips that have taken me up, down and around the long and dusty trackchasing trail. If you would like to see where I’ve been and experience those adventures here’s the link:

 

 

Randy’s Complete Track List

 

 

If you’ve got a question, comment or whatever please leave it at the bottom of this report.  It’s very easy to do.  Or you can visit me on Facebook.  Thanks!

 

 

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Randy on Facebook

 

 

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I often see two or more tracks in a single day or in a single weekend. Sometimes when that happens I will combine my observations from multiple tracks into a single Trackchaser Report. That is the case today.

 

 

 

 

ON THE WAY TO THE RACES

 

 

SATURDAY

I woke up this morning in a Wisconsin highway rest area. This was the second consecutive night that I had slept overnight in my rental car. Of course I’m not sleeping eight hours in the car, only three or four. It’s really not all that bad…..if you’re passionate about your hobby.

 

 

You should know that my overall master plan does not call for sleeping in the car to save money. However there are occasions when the driving distance from track A to B is so great that it does not allow for a full eight hours of sleep in a traditional hotel. When my available sleep time is significantly less than eight hours I’ll bypass the hotel in favor of sleeping for a few hours in the car. I don’t like to do it that way but it’s not the end of the world when I do.

 

 

When I did get moving from the highway rest area at about 6 a.m. I still had a three-hour drive up to today’s racing location in Eagle River, Wisconsin. However, I suspected that with the wet weather they might be delayed or not racing at all today. Given the expected delays I would have time to stop along the way for a traditional sit down breakfast.

 

 

I travel a lot. I travel all over the country. In any given year I will visit 25-35 different states. I’ve been doing that for the better part of the last twenty years. I rely on GPS. I was the first trackchaser to use GPS. Some thought they didn’t need this help. What was my recommendation to folks who were skeptical of GPS? If you aren’t going to lots of places that you don’t know how to find you’re leading a boring life!

 

 

Most of the time when I’m traveling I don’t really know where I’m at and what goods and services would be best to patronize. That’s why I use the iPhone application Yelp. I use it primarily to identify unique restaurants but it’s good for other things as well.

 

 

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Today I wanted a solid traditional breakfast. Yelp recommended that I stop by the Sixth Street Filling Station in Wausau, Wisconsin. No, this was NOT a gas station convenience store. This restaurant had been given a 4.5-star overall review by 20 people who had eaten there and taken the time to post a comment on Yelp.

 

 

I ended up loving this place. I would give it a five-star Yelp rating. When I entered the owner gave me a complete explanation of the menu based upon this being my first time visit.

 

 

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I dined on kielbasa sausage and fried eggs along with hash browns and wheat toast. The wheat toast was out of this world. This was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a very long time. Of course I had to have a pancake too. The cinnamon butter was extra special.

 

 

Following breakfast I completed the rest of the drive from Wausau to Eagle River. Once there I drove out to the track just to see what things looked like. Racing, except some mud bog action toward the evening, had all been canceled for the day. The track and grounds looked like a flood zone.

 

 

I was on a 12-day trackchasing trip that would ultimately turn into a 19-day trip. I had been using Priceline.com to help me get each of the hotels I was using on this trip. However, that wasn’t going to work all that well in a little town like Eagle River, Wisconsin.

 

 

Eagle River is a burg of only 1,398 people. It’s popular in the summer with tourists. There are lots of condominiums but not all that many hotels or motels.

 

 

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Eagle River has long winters and short summers. Did you know they have more than 190 days with temperatures lower than 32 degrees? Does it get hot in the summer? Rarely. They average just one day where the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. I bet they can’t wait for global warming to get here!

 

 

While searching the internet for a place to stay the evening I came across the Traveller’s Inn. The hotel was situated in the middle of downtown Eagle River. The location would be convenient.

 

 

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The Traveller’s Inn it would be. I ended up paying more for this, how shall I say it, “dated” motel than any other place I stayed during my entire 19-day trip. My trip has included stays at Sheraton, Clarion and Radisson hotels. However, the little Traveller’s Inn was the most expensive. Priceline.com couldn’t save me in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

 

 

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However, I had slept in my car during the previous two nights. Any bed looked good to me. It was raining all day as well. The Traveller’s Inn was pretty much where the guys on a fishing trip would stay. It was clean and it was quiet. I stepped out in the evening for a burger but the rest of the time I just kicked back and relaxed.

 

 

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I did notice something unusual when I went to park my car in the motel’s parking lot.  Apparently they were having some trouble with their neighbors.  Check out the sign regarding who could use their parking lot!

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY

 

 

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THE RACING

 

 

Eagle River Derby Track – Eagle River, Wisconsin

 

 

With all of the racing cancelled by rain yesterday today’s race schedule was to commence at 8:30 a.m. at the Eagle River Derby track. I had stayed the night at the Traveler’s Inn in downtown Eagle River. The racetrack was less than two miles from my motel.

 

 

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The area had received about six inches of rain over the last day and a half. I was happy that I was seeing ANY UTV racing today. The expected racing on the traditional oval track was canceled long ago for the entire weekend. I was told that no competitors showed up to race on the oval.

 

 

I had been in contact with Steve Decker the Chief Operating Officer at Eagle River several days ago. Steve gave me the complete rundown on the second annual ATV/UTV World Championships as well as all the snowmobiling for which this track is most famous. He was also nice enough to offer me a complementary admission to the weekend’s events.

 

 

The original schedule called for racing on both a dirt road course as well as a dirt oval at the Eagle River Derby Track. I was looking forward to all of that so I was at the track precisely on time at 8:30 a.m.

 

 

I had to be careful where I parked. They were pumping the excess water out of the racetrack and over the fence into the spectator parking lot! I found a spot right on the edge of a mini lake to park. I just hoped that lake would not expand as more water was moved from inside the racetrack to the parking area. I didn’t want to come out after the races only to see the rooftop of the National Car Rental Racing Chrysler 300C.

 

 

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The woman in the media office was most gracious. I soon had a band around my wrist that would allow me access to anywhere at the facility. I set off to explore.

 

 

The first thing I noticed was that the track crew was working feverishly to get the track in shape for some racing today. They had Caterpillar bulldozers and pumps moving the water from the infield of the track. Just about any other race facility would have cancelled long ago with this weather.

 

 

I would take advantage of the delay to explore every nook and cranny of the facility. I get a real kick out of doing that. That’s one of the biggest benefits of trackchasing at a place for the very first time.

 

 

One of the things that I found most impressive about the Eagle Derby Track was how many large VIP suites they had. I know their biggest event of the year is for snowmobiles in January. All of those suites can keep the patrons warm. I’m going to try to get up here to see some of that snowmobile racing sooner or later.

 

 

In order to show up on time today I hadn’t eaten any breakfast. I figured I could grab something at the track this morning. Unfortunately they would not begin serving any food until 10:15 a.m. I didn’t care much for that but it was what it was.

 

 

The turn out of racers wasn’t as large as I had expected. I’m guessing there were about a dozen or maybe a little more UTVs and maybe 40 or so ATVs. Much of the paddock area where the cars were pitted was underwater. I’m suspecting the monsoon rains kept the racer count down.

 

 

I did get a chance to meet and visit with Chief Operating Officer Steve Decker. He was happy to see that a California visitor had made it all the way for his world championship events.

 

 

However, Steve had some bad trackchasing news for me. They would not be racing on the oval track today. It appeared that none of the oval track racers had shown up for the weekend! It would have been fun to see them race on the very long and narrow half mile high-banked oval track. Maybe next time.

 

 

Today’s weather was much improved compared to yesterday. Nevertheless it was still coolish with temperatures in the low 60s and winds at about 10-15 miles an hour under cloudy conditions. Toward the end of my stay today it actually began to spit a little bit of rain.

 

 

With this type of racing the “heat” races are called “motos”. They were around 20 Motos in the first round. The UTVs did not appear until moto number 15.

 

 

That gave me plenty of time to see the ATV races. The number of competitors in each of those races ranged from one to about seven.

 

 

During this time I also made a pit stop to the food pavilion. I guess my eyes were a little bit larger than my stomach…which is hard to believe. Who has eyes that big?

 

 

Today customers had to buy food tickets at one location and take those tickets over to where the food was being served. That meant that I first had to peruse the menu to determine how many tickets I was going to need to buy to get the food I wanted. That’s not very convenient for the customer. I’m sure it’s a great financial control for the track though. It’s too bad people can’t be trusted!

 

 

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My order consisted of a double bacon cheeseburger and an order of cheese curds. Yep, that was my breakfast. I had no idea that each of these would be served with giant portions.

 

 

I first ordered one can of Diet Mountain Dew. I had to come back for a second can to be able to wash down most of what I had ordered. Nevertheless, I never did finish all of the cheese curds which was a first for me.

 

 

The food was served in a large pavilion. The pavilion had a bar, a requirement in Wisconsin, as well as a space for a band and a few exhibitors. There were also several commercial exhibitors outside focusing mainly on UTVs, snowmobiles and the like.

 

 

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I was surprised to see a caged snowmobile race chassis. At first blush it looked exactly like what a sprint car chassis would look like minus tires and wheels. I’m definitely going to have to see one of the snowmobile races.

 

 

The first couple of UTV motos had just three competitors in each race. However there were two flips in those two motos, which made the races exciting to watch.

 

 

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However the race of the day for me was the 12-car UTV World Championship. I find SXS/UTV racing, when there are a large number of competitors competing in a stadium viewing atmosphere like today be extremely entertaining. The challenge is getting a track where the spectators can see everything and enough racers to make it interesting.

 

 

I have predicted that there will be more UTV racing at more tracks of all types in 5-10 years than there will be at what I would call traditional oval tracks. The advantage that UTV racers have is if they don’t require much of a crowd to financially support the show. It seems as if oval track racing is dependent upon a crowd. The crowds at oval tracks in more places than not are dwindling. We’ll see if my prediction comes true. If it does that means there will be lots of new tracks for me to see in the future.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

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Sands Speedway – Sands, Michigan

 

 

With yesterday’s rainout and today’s reduction from two tracks to one at Eagle River my weekend trackchasing production was declining rapidly. That’s why I was more than elated to find a track somewhat nearby that was racing later today on Sunday.

 

 

I keep a very detailed and proprietary database of racetracks in the United States and all across the world that I have yet to visit. What does “proprietary” mean? It means I only share race dates with my closest friends. It is from this database that I make up my future travels.

 

 

The tracks in this database are organized by all kinds of categories. One of those categories lists tracks that have raced in the past but as far as I know are not currently active.

 

 

Today I did some Google searching for tracks that might be racing in the area. It was Sunday. I didn’t expect to find much. I figured I had been to every track in the immediate area that might be racing on Sunday. I was wrong.

 

 

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Lo and behold I found a listing for the Sands Speedway in, Sands, Michigan. I knew these guys had raced in the past but I thought that they were out of business and no longer running.

 

 

To put some extra icing on this particular cupcake was the fact that they had been rained out yesterday their regular race night. With the rainout they were using today, Sunday, as their rain date. Racing was to begin at 4 p.m. How #$^#^ lucky was that!

 

 

This would give me a chance to watch more than 20 motos at Eagle River. Then I could make the drive over to the Sands Speedway, about 2 1/2 hours in time, and arrive somewhat near their expected starting time of 4 p.m. Eastern time. Yes, I would lose an hour driving over there with time zone changes. However, I was going to lose that hour getting back to the Indianapolis airport anyway from Wisconsin.

 

 

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Sands Speedway is about a quarter to one-third mile in length. It is one of the most unusually shaped asphalt racetracks I have ever seen. Being an asphalt track helped today. I’m sure with the amount of rain they got yesterday there was no way a dirt track could have come back and raced today.

 

 

However, as I looked at the radar I could see storms were approaching the Sands, Michigan area. This was an area of Michigan that is on top of Lake Michigan. Michigan actually connects with the state of Wisconsin north of Lake Michigan. Most people don’t know that Wisconsin and Michigan share a common border. Did you?

 

 

Driving over to Sands, Michigan was taking me 100% out of my way for where I needed to have my car in about 15 hours which was Indianapolis, Indiana. If I drove all the way up there and then got rained out I would have wasted about four or five driving hours.

 

 

I had made contact with one of the employees of the track. We texted each other several times. He/she confirmed that the races were still on.

 

 

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When I arrived at the track I found out that a heavy rain shower had stopped the track action just 20 minutes before my arrival. The rain slowed down time trials. Now the racing was going to start at 5 p.m. rather than 4 p.m. Beggars cannot be choosers. It was what it was. I was just happy they were going to race.

 

 

Sands Speedway and Sands, Michigan must be named after the idea that the entire area is very sandy. Duh. The parking lot was pure sand. It reminded me of Florida. Most racetracks, maybe all down there, have a 100% sand surface for their non-paved areas.

 

 

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General admission pricing was $10 for adults. Folks like myself who have successfully lived to an advanced age paid only seven dollars. That seemed like a reasonable savings to me. However, I don’t believe oldsters should get any savings at all. Please. Don’t get me started on that!

 

 

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Later I would take advantage of the special of the day. For just four bucks I got a good-sized bratwurst sandwich, a bag of Cheetos chips and a 20-ounce Diet Mountain Dew. That was a good value.

 

 

There were two most unusual things about the Sands Speedway. First of all it featured one of the most unusual track layouts I’ve ever seen. I would describe the track’s configuration as somewhere between being an oval and a tri-oval. That was unusual in itself.

 

 

However it was the elevation change that made this track most unique. When the drivers crossed the start finish line they drove counter clockwise into turn one. Nothing too abnormal about that.

 

 

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However the exit of turn two went down a hill and almost created a negative camber turn as the cars headed for the back straight. I’m guessing the elevation change from the front straight to the backstretch might have been as much as 40-50 feet.

 

 

When the cars hit turn three they drove up a hill over a very short straight away before encountering turn four. Out of that turn they made a hard left back toward the start/finish line. Please don’t miss the photos and videos so you can see for yourself what the Sand Speedway it looked like.

 

 

Today they would be racing four classes of stock cars. It looked to me like there were a couple of four-cylinder classes, a street stock class and the late models. The first three of those classes brought seven cars each with the late-models sporting five cars.

 

 

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The second most unusual item about the Sands Speedway was the most unique grandstand seating area. Other than maybe the Wythe Raceway in Virginia I’ve never seen such a steeply built grandstand seating area in my life. Again don’t miss the pictures on this one. Even then I’m not sure the pictures do the steepness the justice it deserves. The first 10-12 rows were reserved for fans that didn’t smoke or drink at the track. They even had a little canapé to keep the sun and rain away from that location.

 

 

 

The track announcer, Ryan Myrehn, did a great job over a robust PA system. He was a youngster and did his job the way it is supposed to be done. He was able to inform and entertain the crowd which is the primary purpose of the announcer in the first place. Look for this guy to be commentating on some very big events in the future.

 

 

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Editor’s note: The day after I left the Sands Speedway I got a message from the track announcer Ryan Myrehn. Ryan also works for the ESPN radio affiliate in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He wanted to have me on his show to talk about the hobby of trackchasing. I was thrilled to be asked. Of course, I accepted the request. Here’s the link to the radio broadcast:

 

 

Trackchasing interview with ESPN radio

 

 

Today’s race program began with four trophy dashes. Each of the classes started four cars in the dashes. Then the heat races came out on the track. There was one heat per class. All of the cars in each class raced in their class’ heat.

 

 

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With the rain the programs had been delayed by an hour from the original starting time. I was looking at a nine-hour drive from Sands down to Indianapolis. I had already seen all of the cars race in their individual heats. I knew the feature lineup would be identical to the heat but for more laps.

 

 

As a matter fact the late-model invitational, for the five cars that showed up, would be a 40-lap race. That seemed like a lot of laps, probably too many laps, for five cars.

 

 

I elected to bypass the feature events. I had been at the track for nearly 2 hours and seen pretty much what it had to offer. I was just happy that I had done the research to find out about the resurrection of the Sands Speedway.

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

 

 

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Now I just had to keep my head down and keep driving toward Indiana. The plan was to sleep overnight in a highway rest area for about four hours. That would get me back to the Indianapolis airport in time to return my rental car on time and possibly even catch a flight to my next trackchasing destination

 

 

 

Good morning from first Eagle River, Wisconsin and then good afternoon from Sands, Michigan.

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin and Michigan

 

 

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First the Badger state and then the Great Lakes state

This morning I saw my 82nd lifetime track in the Badger state, yes the Badger state. I currently hold the #4 trackchasing spot in Wisconsin. I’ve seen 82 or more tracks in 8 separate states.

 

 

This late afternoon I saw my 121st lifetime track in the Great Lakes state, yes the Great Lakes state. I currently hold the #4 trackchasing spot in Michigan. I’ve seen 121 or more tracks in 2 separate states.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,

 

Randy Lewis

World’s #1 Trackchaser

Peoria Old Timers Racing Club (P.O.R.C.) Hall of Fame Member

Wisconsin sayings: Come here real quick. As opposed to coming slowly?

 

 

Michigan definitions: The bridge.

 

 

What it means everywhere else: A point of reference when giving or receiving directions. “Cross the bridge, then turn right on Cranberry Avenue.”

 

What it means in Michigan: The Mackinac Bridge, the bridge of all bridges. The bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac and connects Michigan’s majestic peninsulas.

 

 

 

 

QUICK FACTS

 

 

LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS 

The three most important trackchasing comparisons to me are:

 

Total lifetime tracks seen

Total “trackchasing countries” seen

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

 

Total Lifetime Tracks

There are no trackchasers currently within 575 tracks of my lifetime total. Don’t blame me.

 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 2,270

 

 

 

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Total Trackchasing Countries

There are no trackchasers currently within 10 countries of my lifetime total.

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 72

 

 

 

Current lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 4.47

 

 

 

That’s all folks! Official end of the RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Report

 

 

Click on the link below to see the video production from the racing action today.

 

 

Racing from the Eagle River Derby Track – Eagle River, Wisconsin

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Racing from the Sands Speedway – Sands, Michigan

 

 

 

 

Click on the link below for a photo album from today’s trackchasing day.  You can view the album slide by slide or click on the “slide show” icon for a self-guided tour of today’s trackchasing adventure.

 

 

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An interesting weekend up in Eagle River, Wisconsin….the photo album

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Sands Speedway….scenic but unusual…the photo album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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