Greetings from San Clemente, California
And the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”
2005 Trackchasing Annual Report
GOALS, GOALS, GOALS
I started the 2005 trackchasing season with a plan. I had just come off a record-breaking 2004 trackchasing season and wanted to set some goals for this year.
In 2004, 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!”
I have since learned it is very difficult to predict the future. Actually, I know that but every time I make a prediction I seem to forget that you can’t predict the future. At the beginning of 2005, I still had 1,054 tracks I had not seen. After seeing 182 new tracks in 2005, as of this writing I have 1,223 tracks in the U.S. and Canada I still have not seen. Yes, the total is increasing. This is the result of research on my and other trackchaser’s behalf. At this rate, I will never get to see each and every track!
I had absolutely no plan to try to beat my 127 tracks in 2004. Of course, that was before P.J. Hollebrand made the passing comment that it seemed like Ed Esser was going to wallop me in ’05 because of Ed’s fast start. I didn’t like that remark.
I hope that when Ed Esser jumps out of ahead of me early in 2006 like he did in 2004 (March 19-5) and 2005 (February 15-7) that I don’t take the bait and try to win another trackchasing title. I’ll be satisfied with a top 3 finish.
I am the only trackchaser to finish in the top 3 over each of the last six years. No other trackchaser has done this more than four times. We really don’t have complete records by date from most trackchasers before the year 2000, so it’s hard to figure out the individual standings before we moved into the 21st century. A top 3 finish with a good number of new tracks is all I’m looking for in 2006. If I can do that, I will improve my career trackchaser worldwide ranking which is another goal of mine.
I have a goal of playing golf the same number of days that I trackchase in ‘06. In 2005, I went trackchasing about 125 times and only played golf about 55 times. I hope to improve in this area.
I won’t go for the 2006 trackchasing title. I have a precise number of tracks I expect to get in this coming year. If that wins the title fine, but that is not a goal of mine. Regardless of who wins the 2006 trackchasing championship, I still regard a season title as one of the most major accomplishments in all of trackchasing.
I have three main goals in 2006. The first is to move up in the career Trackchaser standings. I’m sure you will hear more about this in my ongoing 2006 Trackchaser Reports. I don’t know how many people I can pass, but I will do my best to make a dent in the standings. We need a little west coast blood in the higher echelons of trackchasing history.
My second major goal is to continue to write entertaining Trackchaser Reports. Of course, you the reader will be the judge of that. Hopefully, the length of this 2005 trackchasing summary will not negatively influence your view of my achieving this second goal!
My third and final goal is to simply put more time and resources into trackchasing than any other trackchaser. I want my research, which yields new tracks and new track combinations, to be superior. Trackchasing research is like squeezing a lemon. The harder you squeeze the more juice you get. On New Year’s day, I set a goal to find four new countable tracks. In less than two hours, I had my four. Of course, I will share the dates on my website for all to see as I always do.
The staff at RANLAY Racing and I have been busy over the holidays planning the 2006 trackchasing season. We already have two major international trips sandwiched around a lengthy geographical housing relocation for Carol and me this summer. I can’t wait to get started.
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. For the first time ever, Carol went on enough trips to become the #1 woman trackchaser in the world for 2005. She even established an all-time record for tracks seen in one year by a woman. That’s pretty cool. Carol has her own individual trackchasing goal for this coming year. Since it’s her goal, I can’t share it with you here, but you’ll know when it happens.
I thank each and every one of you for reading along with me as I visited racetracks all over the world. I would also like to thank the track announcers and promoters that made my season so enjoyable in 2005. As you can probably tell, the hobby for me is more about “The Amazing Race” than the racing itself. I enjoy the challenge of getting from point A to point B as well as meeting the people along the way.
NUMBERS! NUMBERS! NUMBERS!
I wanted to share with you the highlights of my 2005 record-breaking trackchasing season. Here they are:
Total new tracks seen: 182 (NWR)
Total states visited 27
Total countries visited 8
3 Canadian provinces, 1 Australian state
Dirt ovals – 77
Asphalt ovals – 37
Figure 8 tracks – 32
Road Course tracks – 25
Kart tracks – 6
Indoor tracks – 5
Repeat tracks – 12
Day/Night doubles – 24
Same location doubles – 11
Blended double no feature on front end – 11
Blended double feature on both ends – 10
Traditional doubles – 5
Blended doubles with no feature on the front end at NSD tracks – 3
Total trackchasing days in 2005 – 121 (NWR)
Total golfing days in 2005 – 54
Trackchasing days completely rained out – 3
Total consecutive trackchasing days seen without a trackchasing day rained out – 101 (NWR)
Total consecutive tracks seen without a trackchasing day rained out – 151 (NWR)
Non-National Speedway Directory new tracks seen – 79 (NWR)
Total # of new and repeat tracks seen – 194 (NWR)
39 straight weeks with at least one new track
8 straight weeks with at least one round of golf
Total cavities in 2005 – 0 (NPB)
Total flying trips – 23
Total driving trips – 6
Total hybrid trips – 1
Randy’s total overnight stays in 2005 – 163
Randy’s total overnight stays due to trackchasing in 2005 – 123
Carol’s total overnight stays in 2005 – 76
Carol’s total overnight stays due to trackchasing in 2005 – 49
Most tracks seen on one trip – 29
Most tracks seen in one month – 30 (both July and August) (NWR)
There were several states/countries where I established or tied my personal bests for seeing new tracks. The first number is my track total for this year. The second number is my previous best number of new tracks in that state:
North Carolina 9-3
British Columbia 2-1
Zephyrhills Antique Racecar Track
Hallet Motor Racing Circuit
Circuit de Croix en Ternois
Broken Arrow Resort Park – figure 8
Crandon International Off-road Raceway
Galesburg Speedway – figure 8
Edinburgh Veterans Memorial Park – figure 8
Mercer County Fairgrounds
Best tracks re-visited in 2005
Perris Auto Speedway
Red Cedar Speedway
Best indoor racing
Ionia Fair Speedway
Bear Creek Raceway
Bob’s Family Racetrack
Worst Grandstand Sun
River Cities Raceway
Durand Downtown Circuit
Liberty Raceway Park
Cedar County Speedway
Texas Motor Speedway – inner oval
Lake Village Speedway
Wheel 2 Wheel Raceway
Naval Air Station, North Island
Chula Vista International Off-Road Raceway
Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport
Grattan Raceway Park
Best U.K. tracks
Castle Comb Circuit
Best Continental Europe Tracks
Circuit de Croix en Ternois
Autosportsdadyon de Polderputten
Bob’s Family Racetrack
Thunder Valley Motorsports Arena
Standish Asphalt Raceway
Thomas County Speedway
Best vintage racing
Zephyrhills Antique Racecar Track
Mercer County Fairgrounds
Rained out tracks
Joe Franz Stadium
United Sports Arizona Race Park
There weren’t very many missed opportunities in 2005. I was only rained out three days out of the 126 trackchasing days I planned to see racing.
There were three other occasions where I intended to visit a new track, but Murphy’s Law (if something can go wrong it will) reared its head.
The first happened on July 18. I was also set for some county fair racing at the Macon County Fairgrounds in Decatur, Illinois. It turns out I entered the wrong information in my race schedule database. Macon County ran on JUNE 18, not JULY 18. Details! That little mistake added 295 miles to my driving distance and gave me a goose egg for July 18.
On Labor Day, Carol and I ventured over to the National Sweet Corn Festival in Hoopeston, Illinois. The place was packed with people and activities. However, they didn’t have enough race cars and ended up canceling the event. We weren’t the only ones shutout on this day, as Ed Esser was hoodwinked as well by the Sweet Corn folks.
Finally, I missed my chance in 2005 to see the figure 8 track in Owensboro, Kentucky. I simply got lost. I knew the track didn’t have lights and would have to finish early. My drive down to Owensboro from Celina, Ohio was an incremental 629 miles. That meant I actually expected to drive 629 miles to see one 10-minute figure 8 race. That would be stupid by most people’s judgment. I can think of only one more thing that could surpass that stupidity. What would that be? Driving 629 miles and missing the race because I got lost! I’ll get ‘em next year.
I traveled 44,373 miles in a rental car, 1,550 miles in friend’s cars, 1,847 in my car, 33 on a ferryboat and 99,312 miles on an airplane to get to the 182 tracks. That makes a total of 147,082 miles in total. The 2005 total traveling distance did not even break my 2004 total. That’s about 808 miles of traveling for each and every one of those tracks.
Unlike 2003, I did not get any speeding tickets during the entire year. I spent about 123 nights in a hotel/motel with trackchasing trips. I’m not sure how much money I spent doing this, but it couldn’t have been that much because I still have three checks in my pocket.
PREDICTIONS, PREDICTIONS, PREDICTIONS
Back in July, 2005, I made some predictions about how the then current trackchasing top 10 would do in the balance of the year. You’ll be able to read July comments (in black) and then see (in blue) how everyone finished their season.
Here is my take on the current top 10 trackchasers and their chance for a podium finish. Note some totals are estimates since our commissioner ran off to Switzerland for a few days and not all totals are fully current.
I’ve indicated in BLUE type where each of the July top 10 trackchasers finished relative to my predictions of six months ago.
10. Will White – Quakertown, PA – 10 tracks
Will is more of a “countries” guy than a “tracks” guy. His best ever season finish is a sixth in 2004 and he will have difficulty reaching that level in 2005. He has a good chance in leading the total countries rankings for the year.
Final finish – 25 tracks. Will felt the pinch of the high fuel prices and finished out of the top 10. He did see racing in seven foreign countries.
9. Andy Ritter – Mansfield, PA – 10 tracks
Andy just returned from a trackchasing trip to Alaska. He was the first trackchaser to visit there during the last two years. Andy has a best ever 16th place season finish in 2003. He has a good chance to finish in his highest position ever, but a podium finish is still a ways down the road. Andy is the youngest active trackchaser and will have his day in the sun.
Final finish – 23 tracks. Andy moved his family during the year and his track production fell off and he finished out of the top 10.
8. Pam Smith – Effort, PA – 19 tracks
Pam is the first Ph.D. we have ever had in trackchasing. She is having one of her best seasons ever. She finished 12th in 2003 and has a great chance to beat that record this year. Pam is a multi-tasker and can read a good number of books while adding to her track total. No podium finish in tracks, but #1 in novels.
Final finish – 46 tracks. Pam had a solid year and ranked as the #2 trackchasing woman in 2005.
7. Paul Weisel – Orefield, PA – 21 tracks
Here is a new name to the upper echelon of trackchasing. Paul got off to a fast start in Australia. He has continued his effort and 21 tracks is a substantial total at this time of the year for Paul. Paul’s best recorded finish was 17th place last year. He will beat that this year and could be a solid top 10 contender in future years.
Final finish – 83 tracks. Paul was one of the brightest trackchasing lights in all of 2005. If he was a bit younger I would consider him in line for a very high career trackchasing finish. He finished up in 4th place for the year.
6. Roger Ferrell – Majenica, IN – 25 tracks
Roger started his year in Humansville, MO getting a double at a track called Double J Indoor Arena. Roger was kind enough to make the trip by himself during January amidst the wintry driving conditions. Roger’s generosity kept other trackchasers from potentially endangering themselves while Roger did the advance work to make certain this was a countable double during a time of the year when most of us are sitting on the sofa. We can only be indebted to Roger for his concern for others. Roger’s best ever season finish is fourth and that was last year. He may duplicate that effort this year, but I don’t think he will better it.
Final finish – 60 tracks. Roger had an excellent year. His wife, Brenda, saw here 300th career track in Coldwater, Michigan in ’05. Roger is known for playing his cards “close to the vest.” He finished in 7th place for 2005.
5. P.J. Hollebrand – Webster, New York – 29 tracks
P.J. got off to a rapid start by going to the United Kingdom for Easter trackchasing. I can still see the gregarious letter carrier being interviewed for his 800th career track. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that P.J. is sponsoring a small woman who may challenge Carol for the “littlest trackchaser living west of the Mississippi” title. You’ll hear more about that as the season goes on. P.J. was 5th in 2003. He will probably be lucky to hang onto a top 10 2005 finish.
Final finish – 59 tracks. P.J. had an all-time trackchasing production record in 2005 and finished in 8th place. I still can’t believe I picked him to finish out of the top 10. It was my biggest mistake of the year.
4. Guy Smith – Effort, PA – 34 tracks
I would call Guy Smith a “stroker”. Yes, I know he has been called many other names as well. I don’t mean stroker in a bad way, but in a good way. Guy just tries to keep everyone in sight. He doesn’t need to lead the pack, but keeps his eyes open and advances a position whenever he can. Guy has stood proudly on the podium with a third place finish in 2002. It would be a bit much to ask him to duplicate that ranking this year. He will likely get a top five though.
Final finish – 64 tracks. It was a solid year for Guy and gave him a 5th place finish in 2005.
3. Roland Vanden Eynde – Vilvoorde, Belgium – 56 tracks
Roland is the first non-U.S. citizen to have a top three finish in trackchaser history. He finished in third place last year with 86 tracks. That total would have given him the championship as recently as 2002. Roland is coming off a 21-track performance during the past two weeks while touring the U.S. That push will level out and probably leave Roland in third place for the year. There may be a championship season left in Roland as he could benefit from the current top trackchasers already high level of track penetration.
Final finish – 95 tracks. Roland wraps up his second consecutive podium finish with a third place in 2005. This was also a record-breaking year for this Belgium chaser.
2. Ed Esser – Madison, WI – 59 tracks
I think Ed, week in and week out, may be the toughest trackchaser going. He does more with less, than most. When I first joined the trackchasing group in a formal way, I was very much impressed with Andy Sivi. Andy could do more with a car to make it handle on trackchasing’s back roads than maybe anyone ever. Andy has backed off in the last couple of years and Ed has taken over. Whenever you see Ed’s burgundy Blazer in the parking lot, you know that a future hall of fame trackchaser is present.
Final finish – 132 tracks. Not only did Ed establish a personal best, but he walked away with the Cheese Challenge! This is Ed’s second consecutive runner-up finish. He’s a tough competitor and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his win it all in 2006.
1. Randy Lewis – San Clemente, CA – 79 tracks
If Ed would back off from the all-time single season record chase then I would back off. Ed, I’m willing to watch Angel’s baseball games if you are willing to get season tickets to the Brewers. Ready to call a truce? I’ll keep getting a few tracks here and there so that I am not “caught sleeping in a ditch”.
Final finish – 182 tracks. When I finished the 2004 season with 127 tracks, I didn’t think anyone would ever beat that record. Little did I know that both Ed and I would beat it. Now I think that no one will ever see more than 182 tracks, but who really knows.
There were two trackchasers that were not ranked in the top 10 at the mid point of the year but came on fast with a strong finish. Here a brief note about those folks.
Carol Lewis, “Trackchasing’s First Mother” surprised even herself by getting to 63 tracks and garnering a 6th place season finish. Had I told her at the beginning of the year, she would see this many tracks, she would have had me committed. Carol established a season record for trackchasing women with her 63 new tracks.
Bing Metz, a brand-new Trackchaser finished in 9th place with 49 new tracks. He became a listed Trackchaser (more than 200 tracks) very late in the year. Congrats, Bing, on cracking the top 10.
As I mentioned above, it is very difficult to make accurate predictions about the future. Nevertheless, I will try the impossible.
Paul Weisel will continue to make dramatic progress in the trackchaser standings. I’ve analyzed his geographical trackchasing patterns and looked into his eyes. He has the fever.
Several top trackchasers will continue to see their trackchasing decline, in terms of absolute numbers. It’s simply too time consuming and expensive for many once they’ve seen most of the tracks in their geographical driving circle. Also, our trackchasing group is aging and it’s easy to sit on the porch rather than fight through the travel hassle.
Ed Esser will continue his heavy and steady pace of trackchasing and may end up with another trackchasing title in 2006.
The incidence of trackchasers “running into each other” at new tracks will decline. This will be for two reasons. First, several trackchasers will be trackchasing less frequently than they ever have. Secondly, for the trackchasers who will be on the road, they will be further from home. Therefore, their random patterns of travel will leave them in off the wall locations, less likely to be frequented by others. The one possible exception to this will be “first time” tracks which are popular for trackchasers seeking a chance to see a new track inside their geographical circle.
Andy Sivi will make a comeback. He’s the first person that I ever saw do “Over the top” trackchasing and he’s too young to stay in permanent trackchasing semi-hibernation.
Several new trackchasers will join the trackchasing fold. One of them may even be from Reading, Pennsylvania. I hope so.
Roland Vanden Eynde will continue to be the foremost European trackchaser. He will return to the fertile trackchasing grounds of the U.S. in the not too distant future.
DOUBLES, DOUBLES, DOUBLES
I had 61 doubles during my 2005 season. Here is a summary of those doubles:
24 day/night doubles
11 same track doubles
11 blended doubles with a feature on the back end only
10 blended doubles with features on both ends
5 traditional doubles
Here is a breakout by individual category
A day/night double, my favorite, allows the trackchaser to see a program during the day, then a program during the evening.
Zephyrhills Antique Racecar Track, Zephyrhills, Fl/Dirt Devil’s Speedway, Land O’ Lakes, FL
Snetterton Circuit, Snetterton, England/Yarmouth Stadium-F8, Yarmouth, England
Hallet Motor Racing Circuit, Jennings, OK/ JRP Speedway, Tulsa, OK
Jetmore Racing Complex, Jetmore, KS/Oberlin Speedway, Oberlin, KS
Pikes Peak Intl Raceway- RC, Fountain, CO/Colorado Natl Speedway-F8, Dacono, CO
Broken Arrow Resort Park-F8, Fullerton, NE/Casino Speedway, Watertown, SD
Sioux Speedway, Sioux Center, IA/Madison Speedway, Madison, MN
Autobahn Country Club, Joliet, IL/Shadyhill Speedway, Medaryville, IN
Pottawattamie County Fairgrounds, Avoca, IA/Dawson County Speedway, Lexington, NE
Crandon Intl Off-Road Raceway, Crandon, WI/Pepsi Raceway Park, Tomahawk, WI
Van Wert Fairgrounds, Van Wert, OH/Baer Field-3/8M, Ft. Wayne, IN
Pikes Peak Intl Raceway-oval, Fountain, CO/I-25 Speedway-oval, Pueblo, CO
English Creek Raceway, Knoxville, IA/Beatrice Speedway, Beatrice, NE
Standish Asphalt Raceway, Standish, MI/Spartan Spdwy F8, Mason, MI
Jackson Spdwy-concrete oval, Jackson, MI/Owosso Spdwy, Owosso, MI
Ionia Fairgrounds Spdwy, Ionia, MI/Galesburg Spdwy-F8, Galesburg, MI
Kentucky Spdwy-inner oval/Shelbyville Cty Frdgrds-F8, Shelbyville, IN
Richmond Good Old Days Festival-F8, Richmond, MI/Sandusky Spdwy, Sandusky, OH
Pacific Raceway, Kent, WA/Evergreen Spdwy-F8, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Texas Mtr Speedway-road course, Fort Worth, TX/Lawton Spdwy, Lawton, OK
Abilene Spdwy, Abilene, TX/ Red River Spdwy, Wichita Falls, TX
North Carolina Spdwy-road course, Rockingham, NC/County Line Raceway, Elm City, NC
Motorsports Ranch, Cresson, TX/Lil’ Texas Mtr Spdwy, Fort Worth, TX
Art and Eleanore Imola Memorial Arena, White City, OR/River Arena, Roseburg, Oregon
Same location doubles
A “Same location” double is the easiest of all doubles for the trackchaser to get. This means the track is running some combination of oval, figure 8 and/or road course events at the same venue.
Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY – oval & F8
Bellekouter, Affligem, Belgium – oval & RC
Lopik, Lopic, The Netherlands – oval & RC
Colorado Natl Speedway, Dacono, CO – F8 & oval
Jefferson Speedway, Jefferson, WI – outer & inner ovals
Shelby County Speedway, Shelbyville, IN – permanent & non-permanent ovals
I-96 Speedway, Lake Odessa, MI – inner & outer ovals
Franklin County Fair, Brookville, IN – oval & F8
I-25 Speedway, Pueblo, CO – oval & F8
Lincoln Park Spdwy, Putnamville, IN – oval & F8
Western Spdwy, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – oval & F8
Blended doubles with a feature on the back end only
A blended double involves seeing about the same amount of racing, time-wise at each track. I establish a minimum of one hour of racing at each track. The driving time between the two tracks should be less than one hour. Three of my eleven BDs with a feature on the back end only involved NSD tracks.
Boiling Wells Farm, Sleaford, England (autograss)/Snetterton Circuit, Snetterton, England
The Grove Farm, Monkland, England (autograss)/Grimley Raceway, Grimley, England
Port City Raceway, Tulsa, OK (mini-sprints)/Poutlaw Motor Speedway, Octaha, OK
Driesum Race Track, Driesum, Netherlands (autocross)/Autosportsdaydon de Polderputten, Ter Apel, Netherlands
Raceway @ Powercom Park, Beaver Dam, WI (modifieds)/Jefferson Spdwy-oval, Jefferson, WI
Pepsi Raceway Park, Tomahawk, WI (mini-stocks)/TNT Speedway, Three Lakes, WI
Cheboygan Cty Frgrds, Cheboygan, MI (Bump n Run)/N. Michigan Spdwy, Elmira, MI
Lake Village Spdwy, Lake Village, IN (champ karts)/Kamp Mtr Spdwy, Chase, IN
Eagle Park Fairgrounds F8, Eagle, MI (scramble cars) /Dixie Mtr Spdwy-4/10M oval, Birch Run, MI
211 Speedway, Red Springs, NC (mini-sprints)/Fayetteville Mtr Spdwy, Fayetteville, NC
Liberty Raceway Park, Liberty, NC (champ karts)/Caraway Spdwy, Sophia, NC
Blended Doubles with features on both ends
A blended double involves seeing about the same amount of racing, time-wise at each track. I establish a minimum of one hour of racing at each track. The driving time between the two tracks should be less than one hour. The BD with features on both ends differs from a traditional double in that about equal time is spent at both BD tracks whereas in a TD 75% or more of the race time is spent at the first track with the balance at the second track
Bellekouter RC, Affligem, Belgium/Circuit de Croix en Ternois, Saint-Pol sur Ternoise, France
Lopik-RC, Lopik, The Netherlands/Ten Boer, The Netherlands
Rennplatz “Casper Gerd”, Haren, Germany/Zuidwolde Autocross, Zuidwolde, The Netherlands
Aalton Autocross, Aalton, The Netherlands/Circuit de Peel International Speedway, Venray, The Netherlands
Colorado Natl Speedway-oval, Dacono, CO/Rocky Mountain Natl Spdwy-F8, Commerce City, CO
Gingerman Raceway, South Haven, MI/Thunder Valley Motorsports Arena, Jones, MI
Thunder Valley Motorsports Arena, Jones, MI/New Paris Speedway, New Paris, IN
Bob’s Family Racetrack, Clarksville, MI/Orleans Raceway, Belding, MI
Waterford Hills Road Race Course, Clarkston, MI/Jackson Spdwy-concrete oval, Jackson, MI
Grattan Raceway Park, Grattan, MI/Ionia Fairgrounds Spdwy, Ionia, MI
A traditional double involves seeing the majority of the program including a feature event at the first track and then catching just the last few minutes of the program at the second track of the TD. This is my least favorite type of trackchasing double. Normally, you see very little racing at the second track of a TD.
Grimley Raceway, Grimley, England/Castle Combe Circuit, Chippenham, England
USA Race Track, Tucson, AZ/Tucson Raceway Park–inner oval, Tucson, AZ
Zuidwolde Autocross, Zuidwolde, Netherlands/Midland Speedway Circuit, Leystad, Netherlands
Orleans Raceway, Belding, MI/Mid Michigan Raceway Park, Muir, MI
Caraway Spdwy, Sophia, NC/Bear Creek Raceway, Dobson, NC
I have not seen any blended doubles with no features on either end or any rainout doubles. I hope this summary will give any and all worldwide trackchasers some ideas on doubles that you might like to see in the future.
THE NITTY GRITTY
4 new tracks – Australia, Kentucky, Illinois
Carol and I started our 2005 trackchasing in style. We welcomed in the New Year at a local pub in Hamilton, Victoria, Australia. Ya, that’s the way trackchasing and retirement should be! We saw our very first track ever on New Year’s Day in Allansford, Victoria, Australia. I ran into a newspaper reporter for The Standard, southwest Australia’s #1 daily newspaper at the track. That meeting led to a very complete trackchasing story about Carol and me which included a large color photograph. Following a weeks worth of races we spent seven days touring Australia and loved it.
I will never be much of a trackchaser in the United States in January. The most popular form of trackchasing during the winter is ice racing and the second most popular is indoor racing. Ice racing doesn’t work for me for two reasons. First, I hate cold weather with a passion, which is why I live in Southern California. Secondly, ice racing is unpredictable. If the weather is too warm, the ice race organizers cancel their races. I fly to nearly every race I go too which requires a commitment a few weeks in advance. I can’t chance the weather being too “nice” for ice racing.
The drawback to indoor racing for me is that most of it happens in the Midwest and east. Normally, there is only one track racing. Most of the time, it doesn’t make sense for me to fly anywhere for just one track. Fortunately, this month I was able to find both an oval and a figure 8 track racing indoors in Louisville, Kentucky and an indoor oval race the very next day in Illinois. Three new tracks made it worthwhile to fly back to the Midwest for a weekend in January. The weather outside was bitterly cold but I was able to withstand it for a couple of days to get three new indoor tracks. I was even able to talk Ed Esser out of sleeping in his Chevy Blazer in 10 degree weather, which I considered one of my bigger successes of the month.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – JANUARY|
3 new tracks – Georgia, Florida
My birthday is in January. My children gave me a very practical gift for my special day, a Global Positioning Satellite system that works with my laptop. My objective as a trackchaser is to see more new racetracks than anyone else. In order to do that I expect to put more time into the hobby and use more technology so that the time I spend is as efficient as humanly possible.
The GPS system would come to save me time and money and guide me so many times during 2005 that I lost count. Thanks, kids that was a great gift.
Trackchasing allows me to see family and friends all over the country and the world. A late February trip to Florida let Carol and I visit with my step-father Bill and his wife Betty while we celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. We were also able to catch up with our long-time friend Kindred Powell for a delicious dinner.
Carol, the Virts and I saw some excellent and nostalgic antique auto racing at the Zephyrhills Antigua Auto Race Track. Carol and I then went off to Universal Studios for a couple of days to relax in the Florida sun. I will never be much of a trackchaser in the winter months. The winter is for basketball and you will find me at UCLA games both home and away.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – FEBRUARY|
8 new tracks – England
I went to only one geographical locale during the entire month of March to trackchase. That would be jolly old England. This was my fifth trip for trackchasing to the United Kingdom. I was pleased to have fellow top 10 trackchaser P.J. Hollebrand with me. This was his first major trackchasing effort to this part of the world.
The trip allowed me to get to know P.J. much better. He’s a great guy and we had a super time. We were able to meet up with several of our U.K. friends including Colin H., Paul and Stella H., Dave C., as well as Spike and Linda.
I’m sure you’ve discovered by now that I am quite a “counter” of things. I also like to preplan things so I get the most out of my effort. With that in mind I presented P.J. with a 131 page three ring binder upon our arrival in London. This trackchasing “manual” had directions, schedules and just about everything we needed for a successful trackchasing trip to a foreign country. At this point the naturally skeptical P.J. knew that he was in good hands!
We had a very unique rental car, a French Renault Megane. I started the car by inserting a key that looked like a credit card. Our friend, Colin H. visited us during the trip. It was great meeting up with him for a second time.
I have now seen 34 tracks in England. I’m starting to feel comfortable driving in this friendly country and look forward to going back several more times. Even though I picked up eight new tracks in just four days, the real highlight for me was seeing P.J. interviewed at the Great Yarmouth Stadium on the occasion of his 800th new track. P.J. seemed very comfortable in front of the microphone. Before the interview with P.J. ended, the flash bulbs were popping and the large crowd was cheering and giving P.J. a standing ovation.
I had several trackchasing interviews during the trip. Probably the best was with the Wheels Raceway commentator in Birmingham, England. The Wheels announcer allowed that trackchasing “was perfectly fine” and that traveling all over the world to these tracks is “brilliant”. I couldn’t agree more.
It was sometime during March that P.J. sent out a message saying that Ed Esser was really kicking everyone’s butt in the 2005 trackchaser standings. Yes, Ed was beating me 15 to 7 at the end of February and still led by seven tracks after three months were in the books. Actually, in many ways I’m a pretty laidback guy, but words like P.J.’s serve to motivate me beyond belief. I think it was at this point that I decided to make a trackchasing statement for 2005. Thanks, P.J.
I had only initiated three trackchasing trips during the first three months of the year. With everything else going on in our lives locally I was pleased that trackchasing was limited to this amount of time over the three winter months.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – MARCH|
14 new tracks – Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, California, Nevada, Kansas, Arizona
Now it was time to get serious about trackchasing. The winter season was over. In order to get in the spirit of things I planned five separate trips for the month. In my first Trackchaser Report of the month I wrote the following, “I must compliment Carol as being the most understanding wife a fellow could have. (Editor’s note: I’ve become a fan of the TV show, “Wife Swap”. After watching that show I realize what a great wife I have.) She has always supported my lust for travel, whether she was coming along or not. I guess there’s a reason that I’ve seen more new tracks while being married than any other trackchaser in the world.”
During the month I made this comment, “I feel the secret to my success in the world of trackchasing is because I maximize the use of technology. Technology can keep costs down as well as make the trip easier and more efficient. Some people think adding technology adds expense. I think it reduces expense in the long run, and I’m always planning for the long run.”
My trackchasing approach is quite different. Even though I travel long distances, I am insulated against rising oil expenses. I fly almost everywhere I go. Even though oil prices are increasing, the airlines can’t raise their prices. Why? Because of their inelasticity of demand economic model. What does that mean? It means if they raised their prices, the leisure traveler would stop flying. No leisure traveler, no airline in the long run. Therefore, even with rising oil prices, the airlines will still be selling coast-to-coast airline tickets for $200-300 until they go out of business or the government takes them over. Therefore, even though oil prices are high and looking as if they might go higher my transportation expense is nearly fixed.
During my first April trip, I had a very pleasant day at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma. I didn’t have to be anywhere anytime soon and the weather was nice. It was a typical spring day in the Midwest. There was plenty of blue sky, the temperature was around 70 and it was windy.
My second trip of the month took me to Florida. The main purpose was to play golf with Bob Vorel, Mike Skonicki and Phil Thompson, my fraternity brothers from college. These guys always indulge me and were happy to attend the figure 8 races in Punta Gorda, Florida.
The third trip of the month took Carol and I to Northern California and then over to Reno, Nevada. We saw the worst track I have ever seen in the western part of the United States, the Cora Speedway. We then ventured to Reno for a Jay Leno casino show and a beautiful day of road racing at the Reno-Fernley road course. The track was ringed by snow-capped Northern Nevada mountains.
The fourth trip of April finally found me making it to the Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City on a very chilly evening. During this trip I discovered Frontier Airlines. They are now my second most preferred airline behind American Airlines. You can get a free ticket for just 15,000 miles from Frontier. My first track on Sunday of the trip, the Jetmore Racing Complex, found me sitting in the grandstands talking about trackchasing with the youthful track announcer. I finished up my trip to Kansas with a visit to the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas. I recommend the place, although Plains, Georgia is still my favorite presidential hometown to tour.
Carol and I finished up the month with a trip to Tucson, Arizona. It was during this trip that I learned of the passing of long-time driver, Ronnie Weedon. He was a favorite of Carol’s as well as mine. R.I.P. Ronnie.
On this trip I was also implement my “Short-term automobile expense reduction plan”. What is that? For this trip, I rented a nearly brand new Buick LaCrosse. I picked up this car at the Orange County airport. I rented the car for the grand total of $40.84, taxes included for a two-day period.
We’ll put slightly more than 1,000 miles on the car during this trip in about 30 hours. It doesn’t make any sense to put those kinds of miles on my Lexus for such a short, time-wise, trip.
The rental car uses regular gas and the Lexus uses premium. The Lexus gets about 22 M.P.G. while the rental car also got about 22 M.P.G. Most rental cars get better gas mileage than this. Based upon regular gas being 20 cents cheaper than premium per gallon, the rental car cost about $10.00 less in gas for this trip. Deducting the gas savings from the rental fee meant the rental car was a $30.84 incremental expense.
Of course, I can’t take this logic too far, or I never would buy a Lexus in the first place. I just didn’t want to put 1,000 miles on my personal car for a trip that only took 30 hours. The overall incremental cost of the rental car was about three cents per mile. There is no way I can cover both the depreciation and maintenance of my automobile for that amount.
So, what’s the tip here? If you are still in the accumulation phase of your financial life, you can apply this strategy in many areas of your daily existence. Just remember, we’re not just talking about rental cars here! The sooner you get from the accumulation phase to the consumption only phase of your life, the more fun you’ll have. If you are already in the consumption only phase of your financial life, you can dismiss this strategy as pure folly and/or simply an intellectual exercise.
Although still trailing Ed Esser in the season long standings, I was now starting to make some trackchasing progress.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – APRIL|
24 new tracks – The Netherlands, Belgium France, Germany, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota
The month of May marked a first for me. I made my first ever trackchasing trip to continental Europe. I was in Europe for 19 days and saw racing in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France. This trip would not have been possible without the help and assistance of Roland Vanden Eynde. Roland is a Belgium trackchaser. He invited both Carol and me to sample the unique European road course, autocross and oval racing. We had a terrific time.
I had a balanced plan for this trip. The first week would be trackchasing for just Roland and me. The second week Carol would join us for trackchasing. The third week would find Carol and me touring across Europe.
Roland was a most gracious host as he chauffeured me and then Carol and me around in his S.E.A.T. Leader diesel powered LDI. The weather was cool and damp for most of the trip but only interfered with the racing on one day. I was able to see 14 new tracks in 4 different countries during the trip.
Roland enjoys good food as I do. Our very first meal was in a North African restaurant. Most of the time we took our time eating and drinking as is the custom in Europe. Roland had arranged for Carol and me to stay in a hotel in his hometown of Vilvoorde, Belgium when we were not out on the road.
We saw autocross racing which is similar to autograss racing in the United Kingdom. If you can imagine a simple farmer’s field of grass and mud you’ve got the autocross track covered. They run 20-40 very short races on this surface. By the end of the meet the grass is gone and the racers are left with a rough and muddy surface in most cases.
Roland has seen racing in more than 30 different countries. He can also speak five different languages. This was a major advantage throughout the trip. On one late afternoon he pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a road course find in France. The Circuit de Croix-En-Ternois was one of my favorites of the entire trip.
Trackchasing is what brings me to a geographical area. Once I’m in the area I do my best to see the local sights and attractions. They don’t race much during the week in Europe. This allowed me to go off by myself in search of local tourist attractions.
My first day on my own found me driving from Belgium over toward Paris, France to visit Disneyland Parc. I was surprised to see so many similarities with the U.S. Disney theme parks. The weather was perfect and I had a great time.
The next day may have been my favorite of the entire trip. I drove to Northern France to visit the beaches of Normandy. This is where the U.S. and their allies invaded and attacked the German army in WWII. I had my own private tour guide for five hours and I highly recommend a visit here.
My final touring day was a visit to Paris and the Palace of Versailles. This is one of the most ornate palaces in the world and well worth seeing. I found everything in Europe to cost nearly twice what it might be in the United States. Gasoline (Petrol) was unusually expensive at about $6.75 per gallon.
Carol joined us for the last 10 days of the trip. Her arrival into the Brussels Airport had both Roland and I scratching our heads. We had a difficult time finding Carol but once we did we were off for a weekend of trackchasing.
The really great thing about traveling with Carol is she can take care of herself. Some folks think of their spouses as a liability when it comes to flexibility and positive attitude. Carol is just the opposite and the best. She’s up for anything and fun to have on an adventure such as this.
The three of us started our trip with a road course, the Nurburgring, in Nurburg, Germany. They race world Formula 1 here. Again the real fun was staying in small German B&Bs and eating in the local restaurants. I am always amazed and thankful that we, as Americans, are treated so well when we travel anywhere in the world. While world governments may not agree on many things, the local folks treat us like royalty everywhere we go.
Carol added nine new tracks to her total as well as two new countries. Roland was an excellent host. We ended our visit with him at a favorite Italian restaurant of Roland’s dad. We bade him farewell as we headed off for several more days of travel.
Somehow we latched onto a Cadillac CTS rental car for our final five days in Europe. Although we road in comfort, this is not a good car to have when petrol costs nearly $7 per gallon. One fill-up cost us $98.62! Trackchasing ain’t cheap.
We finished the trip driving through Germany on our way to our final destination, Prague in the Czech Republic. We spent two full days in one of Eastern Europe’s most popular cities. It was a highlight of this trip. It’s funny how trackchasing can take us to a small town in Oklahoma and a few weeks later to a major former communist world renowned city.
Just a couple of days after returning from 19 days in Europe I headed out to Nebraska for a quick 10 track, five state, five day trip. In trackchasing there is no rest for the weary. The highlight of this short trip was running into top 10 trackchaser, John Moore of Knoxville, Tennessee. John and I get along very well and I wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with him.
The month of May found me atop the 2005 worldwide trackchaser standings for the very first time. It had been a struggle to get there and I wasn’t about to relinquish the lead for the rest of the year.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – MAY|
26 new tracks – Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Manitoba, Canada, North Dakota, Kentucky, Michigan
Twenty-six tracks in nine states and a Canadian province is a pretty good month’s worth of trackchasing. I started at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This was one of the first “specials” tracks that my step-father and I visited throughout the 70s. It was on this trip that I sent my first ever Trackchaser Report electronically from a highway rest area. It’s pretty cool when the internet has reached places like this that are out in the middle of nowhere.
I was surprised by how many dead deer I saw along the roadside in June. Sometimes there were two or three deer within a few yards of each other. This was also the month where it seemed to rain as soon as I left the track almost every evening. I have never had so many close calls with the weather but I didn’t get rained out all summer.
There is often a large amount of driving in the hobby of trackchasing. It seems they didn’t think to put all of these racetracks right next to each other. On June 5, I established my all-time one day driving record of 828 miles! That amount of driving included seeing two new racetracks as well.
It was during the trip that I came across this phrase, which I’ve modified as my personal trackchasing philosophy, “I go trackchasing for the experience not the outcome”. For me, it’s all about seeing something for the first time. I don’t have to watch the same thing for six hours to get the experience.
On June 14, I began a trackchasing trip in Wisconsin that would see me stay on the road until July 3. This was my first ever mega-trackchasing trip. I discovered that I could go out for 2-3 weeks at a time and have Carol visit for about seven days in the middle of the trip. This proved to be extremely effective in building up the tracks and limited my time away from Carol to just five or six days. It also allowed Carol to see an acceptable amount of tracks on her way to the 2005 trackchasing title for women.
I saw one of my best races of the year when the Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie, Wisconsin ran off their mid-week super stock special. The next night I was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada for a late model stock car race. The track’s management was much nicer than the Canadian border patrol at the North Dakota Interstate 29 border crossing. They gave me the third degree and held me at the border for about an hour while they searched my car from front to back and examined my documents like I was an Al Quada representative. On the other the Victory Lane Speedway management made certain I sat in their V.I.P. booth all evening.
The next day I had a nice round of golf in Steinbach, Manitoba before being hired to take publicity photos for the River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I was happy to leave a dull program in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin to find the very exciting double at Jefferson Speedway in Wisconsin.
I had a rare off-day while on the trackchasing road. I took this opportunity to play golf with Illinois friend, Pryce Boeye in Byron, Illinois. The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time. Carol joined me the next day for a quick five days of trackchasing where she added seven new tracks. Carol and I spent nearly an entire day touring Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I highly recommend a stop here. I was thrilled to run into former Green Bay Packers quarterback, Bart Starr, a few weeks later at the Los Angeles Airport. Carol and I also found a beautiful waterfront cottage in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. We stayed here for a couple of days and rented a pontoon boat and sailed around Green Bay. Don’t miss our sailing pictures at www.ranlayracing.com. This Wisconsin touring was a season highlight.
The next night in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, Carol and I treated Roland Vanden Eynde and Ed Esser to a steak dinner. Roland was on a three week visit to the U.S. from Belgium. This would be the only race I would get to visit with Roland during his entire U.S. trip.
On June 25, we spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching the C.O.R.R. off-road racing event in Crandon, Wisconsin. This was one of Carol’s favorite shows of the season. That evening we saw a couple of stinkers in Tomahawk and then Three Lakes, Wisconsin. That’s how it goes sometimes in trackchasing. We needed the mosquito spray up in northern Wisconsin.
On June 27, I ran into the racing Ferrells, Roger and Brenda, for the first time all season. By all rights, this show should have been rained out, but the wet stuff missed the track by about a mile. A couple of days later I found myself in Paducah, Kentucky trackchasing. I ended up here so I could visit my ailing grandfather who was confined to a nursing home in Evansville, Indiana. I completed my busy month of June with a lackluster program in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Little did I know that I was getting sick and would almost not make it to the next track on my schedule on July 1.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – JUNE|
30 new tracks – Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wyoming, Ontario, Canada, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa
I started my first July TR with these words, “Today may have been the roughest day, health wise, that I have ever had in trackchasing.” Somewhere along the line I had picked up a case of food poisoning. However, I couldn’t let that stop me from attending my next track. I left Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin at 10 in the evening. My next race was starting in 11 hours in Van Wert, Ohio. That was a distance of 453 miles and I was now sick as a dog. This would be the only night of the entire season where I would not have time to sleep in a hotel.
Midway during the trip I had to stop along the Indiana Tollway, get out of the car, and vomit. While trying to do this I slid down a steep hill and landed in a heap at the bottom. I was so sick I could only look up at the stars and wonder what to do next. After a few minutes I summoned the energy to climb back up the hill and resume the overnight trip. It was my toughest trackchasing night ever.
I didn’t see much of the morning races in Van Wert. I did struggle over for my pre-appointed tourist stop in Ossian, Indiana. This is the boyhood home of trackchaser, Ron Rodda. I made an appearance at the recommended Heyerly’s Baking Company but my heart (or stomach) wasn’t in it. That evening I made it to Baer Field Speedway in Ft. Wayne, Indiana only to miss the opportunity to talk with Belgium’s Roland Vanden Eynde by seconds.
The second day of July was a trackchasing triple. First, I met Ed Esser at the Gingerman Raceway in Michigan. I followed that up with a victory lane photograph at the Thunder Valley Motorsports Park in Jones, Michigan. The folks there could not have been nicer to me. The evening was spent with a large group of Jerry Springer future contestants at the New Paris Speedway.
I’m never away from San Clemente for the fourth of July. This is the biggest holiday in our town. Therefore July 3 was my last day of a 19-day trackchasing trip. I drove more miles on this trip, 7,161, than any trip I would take up to this point in 2005. I picked up 27 new tracks during this trip. I had never seen more new tracks in a single trackchasing trip in my career.
This trip was a milestone for another reason as well. I discovered that I can cut down on the time and expense of travel by taking one long trip, in this case 19 days, rather than three shorter trips of say, six days each. I only have to fight the airport hassle once on a trip like this rather than three times. Same goes for picking up and dropping off rental cars, handling baggage, etc. Of course, in order to make a long trip tolerable I need to sandwich Carol in the middle for several days.
Carol and I have a busy life outside of trackchasing. We are committed to several sporting events where we have either full or partial season ticket packages. This includes the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as well as the UCLA Bruins for both football and basketball. We usually have 2-3 weddings to attend each year and a few family get togethers. I’ve found that if I can sneak in a track or two at the beginning or end of one of these trips it helps the season long totals.
This was the case for our niece’s wedding in Saratoga, Wyoming. We had a great time meeting up with family we don’t see very often. On one Friday evening, I was able to sneak out of a wedding rehearsal picnic early for a visit to the Ripple Ridge Speedway in Rawlins, Wyoming. The next Sunday night as we finished up our wedding obligations we took in the Sheridan Speedway, also in Wyoming with our sons. We came as close to be rained out here as any place all season. Getting two new tracks in Wyoming during a family visit was a major plus since there are so few tracks that even race in the Cowboy state.
On our way out of Wyoming we spent a day in Dayton, Wyoming home of the Foothills Motel and Campground. This business was operated by Carol’s parents back in the early 70s and I visited it several times during my courtship of Carol. It was a lot of nostalgic fun returning to this old place. Following the Wyoming wedding trip, Carol and our children headed west and I headed east.
I have discovered that Michigan is a great place to trackchase. I would end up going to more tracks in the Wolverine state than any other in 2005. Michigan has a large number of county fair tracks that race just one time a year. Many of these races run during the week when not many other tracks are racing. I would end up with an amazing 36 new tracks in Michigan for the season.
There are only 11 five star rated public golf courses in the United States. Trackchasing has taken me to three of these courses located in California (Pebble Beach), Maine (Belgrade Lakes) and Nebraska (Woodland Hills). Today I was able to add my fourth five-star public course. This one is the Timber Ridge Golf Club in Lansing, Michigan. I can thank trackchasing for allowing me to see so many things around the world that I would not have seen otherwise.
It was in early July that I began to notice I had not been rained out for a long time in 2005. In 2004 I saw races on 84 different days with seven days rained out. My longest streak of days without a rainout was 31. I have now seen 36 days of trackchasing without being shut out by rain.
My trip continued up to Echo Bay, Ontario, Canada. This was my second trip to Canada this year. Here I saw a woman win the spectator drags. That was a first for me.
On July 15, I made my way over to the I-96 Speedway inner oval in Lake Odessa, Michigan. This track would be my 900th career racetrack. There was nothing terribly noteworthy about this track other than I had missed seeing trackchaser, P.J. Hollebrand who was sitting somewhere in the grandstands. My 800th track had come only 7 months earlier in Pensacola, Florida. I’m knocking them off pretty fast now.
Alas, all is not well on this momentous day in my trackchasing life. I had intended to reach #900 and retire for the remainder of the 2005 season. With the addition of my 900th track, I now have 91 tracks for the year. I figured that would be enough to gain a podium finish for the season, which is all I was looking for.
All my readers saw the olive branch I sent fellow competitor Ed Esser’s way during the past several days. Here is what I had to say to Ed,
“If Ed would back off from the all-time single season record chase then I would back off. Ed, I’m willing to watch Angel’s baseball games if you are willing to get season tickets to the Brewers. Ready to call a truce?”
What was Ed’s response to my peace offering? Absolutely nothing. Actually, his response was more than nothing. What did Ed do? During the first 15 days of July, he posted nine new tracks. He now has 68 new tracks for the year. Does that sound like Ed is backing off and not trying to break my one season record of 127 new tracks? I don’t think so. During last season’s record-breaking year, I only had 54 tracks at this point in the season. I’m not stupid, I can see what Ed is trying to do.
Therefore, on this day, July 15, 2005, I am declaring an all out trackchaser war. I will do whatever is both legal and ethical in the world of trackchasing to defend myself. I will leave no stone unturned to turn back Mr. Esser’s assault. Bring it on, brother!
Bad weather in southern Michigan sent me scurrying over to Muskegon, Michigan in the western part of the state. They were as dry as a bone and hot as blazes. My weather streak continues.
Sunday afternoon, July 17, found me at Bob’s Family Racetrack in Clarksville, Michigan. It was hot! I watched most of the racing from the comfort of my car. I was recognized by the track’s management for coming so far to see their races. They gave me a nice racing shirt and insisted I have my picture taken with the entire staff (more than 20 people) from the track.
I have Roger Ferrell to thank for my getting a trackchasing triple on this day. My plan was to see an evening race in Muir, Michigan today which I did. On the way to Muir, I stopped in a local grocery store for an ice cream treat. Roger always tells everyone to look at the bulletin board for local announcements in stores like this. I’ve been doing this for a long time and finally hit pay dirt. I came across a poster that said the Orleans Raceway was holding a special Sunday afternoon race and it was starting at just about the same time I was reading this poster.
I had wanted to go to the Orleans Raceway just last week. When they were rained out I switched to I-96 Speedway for my 900th track. With this new grocery store info, I sprinted over to Belding, Michigan for an afternoon of hot and poorly organized racing at the Orleans Raceway. I finished up my trackchasing trip at the poorly attended Mid-Michigan Raceway Park in Muir.
Trackchasing is not without its bumps in the road. Yesterday, on July 18, I towed all the way to Decatur, Illinois only to find out the track was not racing. I had entered the scheduling info incorrectly in my database. They raced on June 18 NOT July 18. I also learned that the trackchaser commissioner had ruled against Carol and subtracted two California/Nevada off-road racing venues. This sets her back in her quest to be a listed trackchaser with 200 tracks.
I had been gone for 11 nights on this trip. In order to console Carol, I immediately flew back to SoCal. I did not even have time to return to our home in San Clemente. Carol picked me up at the Orange County Airport and we immediately drove to the Los Angeles International Airport. She had brought a change of clothes for me. After a quick stay at an airport hotel we were off on our next trackchasing trip to Wichita, Kansas. A major highlight of the entire season was meeting former Green Bay Packers quarterback, Bart Starr at LAX. He was a gracious gentleman and introduced us to his wife, Cherry. This was special since Carol and I had toured the newly remodeled Lambeau Field in Green Bay earlier in the year.
If you think Wichita is hot in the middle of July you are right. When we were not trackchasing we discovered the Old Town movie theatre in a recently renovated section of Wichita. This was the best movie theatre we have ever visited. They take your order from your movie seat and serve full dinners while you are watching the movie. We liked it so much we went back a second time during this short five day trip.
The next night in McCook, Nebraska it was 102 degrees at race time. The next day, to beat the heat we headed over to the Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colorado. PPIR was my 100th new track of 2005. I had seen 37 doubles in my first 100 tracks. Little did we know that PPIR would be closing at the end of this year after less than 10 years of racing. With PPIR being an afternoon race, we hopped down to the I-25 Speedway in nearby Pueblo, Colorado for their oval and figure 8 tracks. This was one of the easiest trackchasing triples in the entire country. Unfortunately, it will no longer be available to any other trackchaser due to the closing of PPIR.
We finished off the trip with a visit to the track in Colby, Kansas. It was hot and windy. Fortunately, the wind blew away from the grandstand UNTIL the last race of the evening. With a strong wind now blowing into the grandstand, the dusty and dry track showered the fans with dirt and debris. At least half of the crowd headed for the exits after lap one because of the wind change.
It was appropriate that we saw this bumper sticker on the last day off the trip: “My wife says I never listen to her or something like that”. We visited the Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City, Colorado. It is widely advertised, but a rip-off. We don’t’ recommend it. By the way, people in Kansas don’t do tattoos.
With only one day at home after being gone for 17 days, it was back on the road for my longest trackchasing trip of the season. This trip would be 22 days long and bring in 29 new tracks. I would begin my longest driving trip of the entire 2005 season. I racked up 7,320 miles on the National Rental Car Racing Chevy Malibu V6.
I started the trip with a figure 8 race in Waterloo, Illinois down by St. Louis. The next night I was 550 miles to the north up in Ludington, Michigan for another figure 8 race. Following Ludington, it was a 723-mile drive over to Friday’s track in Onawa, Iowa. My long drive was happily separated by a nice lunch with Pryce Boeye at a Hungry Hobo restaurant.
I’m big on the use of information technology. My GPS unit saved me from missing tonight’s track because of a huge accident on Interstate 80. The GPS recommended an alternative route on dirt roads out in the Iowa countryside. Without this aid I never would have made it.
The unique thing about the Blackbird Bend Speedway in Onaway, Iowa is that it’s located on an Indian reservation. The Indian reservation also is home to a large casino. The closest track to my home in San Clemente is also located on an Indian reservation. It’s the Barona Raceway in the town of the same name.
I saw some of the best racing all season at the Beatrice Speedway in Nebraska. I had a “history” with this track and was glad to finally see a race there. I finished off the month of July with a trip to Hartington, Nebraska and the races at Cedar County Raceway. These folks race only one time per year and I didn’t learn about the track until just two days before the event. I met Mike Rutledge at this speedway and I hope he is still reading the Trackchaser Report.
July was a record-breaking trackchasing month for me. It was the first time I had ever seen 30 new tracks in one month. I didn’t know at the time, but I would tie that record in the coming month.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – JULY|
30 new tracks – Iowa, Michigan, Ontario, Canada, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin
Following 30 new tracks in July, I was surprised to tie my all-time monthly record again in August. Here’s how it went.
I started the month off at the Bull Valley Speedway in Audubon, Iowa. Audubon is one very economically depressed small Midwestern farm town. I ate dinner at the Chatterbox Café. My waitress couldn’t wait to get off her shift so she could go race in the powder puff figure 8 race!
My next stop in Chesaning, Michigan was a mere 712 mile drive. The figure 8 races were a real dust bowl and the announcer missed a great dual over the last couple of laps of the “A” main event. Next, the Ingham County Fair provided some outstanding chicken and sausage Cajun gumbo. I’ve been going to several county fairs this summer. Generally, the food choices have been disappointing, but not that gumbo!
Somehow I came up with a plan to spend 16 of 17 straight days in Michigan. That meant I wouldn’t be doing that much driving compared to some of the long interstate hauls I make. This gives me more free time during the day. I use that time for movies, golf or seeing local tourist attractions. Today it was the movie “March of the Penguins” (Randy rating: A-).
Today it was a little driving range time followed by a visit to the Wonderland Speedway in Lambeth, Ontario, Canada. This was my third visit of the season to Canada. Crossing into Canada was a snap. The U.S. border agent told me he didn’t think the government would be requiring U.S. citizens to have passports to enter Canada anytime soon. There were two pluses tonight. First, admission was free. Second, I spent the evening talking with a local State Farm insurance agent. We quizzed each other on all sorts of international topics in our thirst to find out how someone from another country feels about all manner of issues.
August 6th offered up my first trackchasing double of the month beginning at the Cheboygan County Fairgrounds. The unique race format offered an “Australian Pursuit.” This format meant that if the leader lapped a car, the lapped car must drop out. The course was long and winding and there weren’t many lapped cars, but it added a twist the crowd enjoyed. From there it was off to the Northern Michigan Speedway. The promoter had told me he expected the program to finish by 9:30-10 p.m. I should learn to never trust promoters but I never do. The FIRST feature event didn’t take to the track until 10:58 p.m. I left at 11:30 p.m. with a few features still to go. Short track racing can be very inefficient.
Sunday morning, August 7th saw me playing the four star West Branch Country Club. Michigan has a ton of quality low cost golf and I hope to try more of their courses. The afternoon racing action was spent with Roger Ferrell at the Standish Asphalt Raceway. This was one of the most unusual racetracks I visited all year. It was a relic from the 60s and looked like no maintenance had been done anywhere at the facility since the Beatles hit U.S. soil. You would have to see it to believe it. The weeds growing up through the concrete grandstands made the place look like a huge flowerpot.
Following the 200-lap enduro, I had one of my wildest rides of the season. I needed to get down to the Spartan Speedway in Lansing. I left Standish at 6:25 p.m. on Sunday evening. Of course, this is when the major portion of Michigan residents are returning from their Northern Michigan weekend trips. Traffic was a bear. I used my GPS to take a detour. Soon I was out in the country on DIRT roads. I had all but given up on Spartan Speedway and my first meeting with P.J. Hollebrand since England. I was going there to see just one race, the figure 8 feature event. I had been told that race would run between 9 and 9:30 p.m. I pulled breathlessly into the parking lot at 9:22 p.m. Somehow I talked my way past the $16 admission charge and arrived just in time for one of the best figure 8 shows I saw all season. P.J. was amused at my late arrival and disappointed he had been at the track during the near 100 degree daylight hours.
The next day P.J. and I headed down to Coldwater, Michigan for the fair figure 8 races. We ran into Roger and Brenda Ferrell and helped Brenda celebrate her 300th event. P.J.’s only comment about the racing, “This sucks!” He wasn’t referring to Brenda’s 300th track celebration, but the quality of the racing.
The next night P.J. and I made it to Imlay City, Michigan for a very ho hum figure 8 event. P.J. doesn’t like to mince words. His quote about tonight’s racing, “This is absolutely the worst track I have ever been too.” Tonight will be the last night I will see P.J. for the rest of this season. Too bad, he will miss Carol’s arrival on the scene for tomorrow night. Before the race, P.J. participated in his cultural training program. First, we went to the movie, “Must like dogs”, designed to help P.J. with the ladies. Next, he practiced using chopsticks at a local Chinese restaurant, also designed to help him with the ladies!
On August 10, Carol joined me at the Bay County Derby Fair Arena. This was a special night for her, her 200th career track. Tonight Carol was granted the nickname of “Trackchasing’s First Mother.” She is the first woman to ever have 200 countable tracks officially recognized and also be a mother. Way to go, Carol.
There were so many near rainouts during 2005. On August 11, we came as close to being cancelled by rain at the Shiawassee County Fairgrounds as any trackchaser can. Carol, Ed Esser and I stood in a light drizzle right up until the starting time before the wet stuff stopped and we saw the S.O.D. sprints race on a very unusual fairgrounds track.
Carol and I were then off to more Michigan racing at the Mt. Pleasant Speedway and a Saturday afternoon at the Waterford Hills Road Course. The evening stop was at the concrete oval of the Jackson Speedway. That program was delayed by rain after several races. Fearing the dirt oval program at Jackson might be cancelled, we abandoned that track and headed north to the Owosso Speedway under threatening skies. This choice was better and we got the Owosso program in.
The next day, August 14, found me getting a trackchasing triple at Grattan, Ionia and Galesburg, Michigan. Carol actually got a four-bagger with the Galesburg oval. We spent a nice evening with the promoter and announcer in the Galesburg Speedway press box.
The next day, Carol was returned to the airport and I ended up meeting Ed Esser at the Lenawee County Fairgrounds for some figure 8 racing. On Tuesday, August 16, I saw some great figure 8 racing at in Mount Morris, Michigan although I had to pay $25 for a week long pass to see the races for only one night.
The 29-track, 22-day trip ended at the famous Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan. Bobby Labonte was the guest driver but wrecked out of the event early.
I was home for a week before returning to the trackchasing wars at a traditional county fair in Peotone, Illinois. The next night it was off to Bulls Gap, Tennessee for a high dollar late model show. The place was packed, but I had a great view from a ten story vista on the backstretch.
I ended up in Hudson, North Carolina because of a bad weather forecast in Dayton, Ohio. I use www.weather.com extensively and it’s saved me many times. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. This is the largest private residence in the U.S. and quite worth the visit.
The next day found me driving nearly 700 miles from North Carolina to Lake Village, Indiana for some champ kart racing. Later in the evening I ventured just 45 miles down the road where Roger and Brenda Ferrell were holding a seat for me at the Kamp Motor Speedway.
This five day, six track tripped wrapped up with a visit to the somewhat dusty Jules Raceway. I had trouble with weather at this track on a previous visit, so I was happy to put it in my trackchasing rearview mirror.
The final day of August was spent with Carol in West Allis, Wisconsin on the first day of a six day, seven track trip. I wrapped up the month of August with a 139 track season total.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – AUGUST|
16 new tracks – Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Canada
The first day of September found Carol and I venturing to Austin, Minnesota for a visit to the world headquarters of SPAM luncheon meat. I had been here one other time and was anxious to show Carol what is a very entertaining tour and museum.
We spent the evening in Proctor, Minnesota at a sold out late model special. From there it was a 660-mile drive down to Putnamville, Indiana. The reward was a same track double (oval and figure 8) at the Lincoln Park Speedway.
On September 3, we just made it in time to catch an afternoon 100-lap legends feature on the inner oval of the Kentucky Speedway. We caught a very so-so figure 8 show that evening in Shelbyville, Indiana. We considered a late night triple in Kokomo, Indiana but during the drive decided we couldn’t make it and stopped for the night.
Sunday, September 4, saw us returning to my hometown of East Peoria, Illinois for an afternoon get together with my sisters Becky and Lynn and their families. It was fun to see Sarah, Jennifer, and Bob, the four Jecks children as well as Carley and Elliot.
That evening we headed south to Edinburgh, Illinois. We were treated to one of the more entertaining figure 8 shows of the year as well as some “Tuff truck” racing.
The final day of the trip, found us in Hoopeston, Illinois. It was a beautiful day and we ran into Ed Esser enjoying some of the free corn the fair was sharing with its visitors. Unfortunately, the organizers decided that five figure 8 cars was not enough to hold a race and cancelled.
Undeterred, we were off to the Peoria Speedway for a night of Labor Day stock car racing. Sister Lynn and her children, Carley and Elliot joined us for a visit to my all-time favorite track. We weren’t disappointed.
The evening highlight was meeting up with Peoria Journal Star sports reporter, Don Baker and Peoria Speedway announcer, Scott Shultz. My meeting with Don Baker culminated in a feature story in the sports section of the PJS. That’s one of my all-time trackchaser highlights.
It was home for a couple of days, before returning on September 9 for a dud of a figure 8 show in Eagle, Michigan. The evening was capped off with the lights going out at the track. That sent me scurrying to the Dixie Motor Speedway to catch their outer oval sprint car race, one of the best of the season.
September 10, found me sitting again with the Ferrells at the Richmond Good Old Days festival for some excellent figure 8 races under beautiful blue skies. The evening event at Sandusky Speedway was disappointing after much anticipation from a track I had intended to visit many times previously.
My final event of the three day, five track trip was at the Mercer County Fairgrounds in Celina, Ohio. This was for a vintage open wheel event sanctioned by the Antique Auto Racing Association. I met track announcer Stumpy Stone. He was a wealth of knowledge about these old time cars.
Up to Celina, I had seen five new tracks in 601 miles of driving. That’s pretty efficient. Little did I know I would drive another 905 miles and get no more countable tracks. I was close, but I had trouble finding the Windy Hollow Speedway in Owensboro, Kentucky.
I knew the long drive would be tight. I also knew the track has no lights for their figure 8 track. With it getting darker sooner in September, I didn’t have much time for driving errors. I made a critical mistake by not using my GPS system sooner and ended up missing the race by 10-15 minutes after driving nearly 500 miles one-way. Oh well, live and learn.
The final trip of September was a three-day, five-track trip to the Pacific Northwest and Victoria, British Columbia. We started off, September 23 in Banks, Oregon. The next day we visited the ever so scenic Pacific Raceways near Seattle. The back side of the track is as beautiful as any road course setting I’ve seen.
Later that afternoon we were off to Victoria via a ferryboat. With the seas being a little rough, apparently the parked cars on the boat moved around a bit. I was called down below by the ship’s purser and told my car had “moved” into another individual’s Z4 BMW. Although the “damage” was insignificant we continue to tie up the time of the insurance companies and others to this day. What a bummer.
We ended up getting a same track double at the Western Speedway in Victoria so the trackchasing part of the trip to Canada was worthwhile.
Logistics continue to play a big role in my trackchasing success. In order to make it to the Evergreen Speedway road course in time on Sunday afternoon, unusual transportation measures were called for. I would need to fly on two seaplanes while Carol took the rental car on two ferryboats. If everyone was on time, which they were, she would pick me up in Kenmore, Washington and we would make our race.
My second seaplane ride of the day was for a grand total of eight miles. It was the first time I had ever flown on a commercial airliner as the sole passenger of the plane! The enduro at Evergreen was fun and we had the opportunity to match up with the well-traveled Mr. Esser who was a long way from home.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – SEPTEMBER|
16 new tracks – California, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Alabama
October would turn out to be a busy and productive trackchasing month. Carol would accompany me on three of my five weekends of trackchasing.
We started with one off events in California at Chula Vista and then Coronado. These road racing events were two of the most pleasant of the year. The driving distances were easy and the weather was beautiful.
On October 14, I began a trip to Texas/Oklahoma that yielded five new tracks in three days. None of the tracks on this trip was particularly noteworthy, but countable none the less.
Carol was back with me for the October 21 race in Lawndale, North Carolina. None of the three new tracks for the weekend rated a highlight. The real highlight of the trip was getting Carol over to the Biltmore Estate. Often I will visit tourist attractions when Carol isn’t along for the ride. Almost as often I will see something that I think she will enjoy and I can’t rest until she visits my find as well. We did have a great time at the Martinsville Speedway on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for some NEXTEL Cup stock car racing.
We capped off our weekend with a visit with the Martins and Robertsons in Eden, North Carolina. On the morning of our departure we squeezed in visits to both the Hendricks Motorsports and Roush Racing race shops in and around Charlotte. We hope to visit more of the NASCAR team shops in the future.
The final weekend of October found me right back in North Carolina for a very productive three-day, six-track adventure. I froze my butt off in Red Springs and Fayetteville, North Carolina on Friday night. The Liberty champ kart track was beautiful on Saturday afternoon. Later in the day, I had wonderful visit with the announcer at Caraway Speedway. That evening was another ice box race at the more than rural Bear Creek Raceway.
I capped off my weekend with a nearly 1,100 mile round-trip drive over to Arkadelphia, Alabama for a Sunday evening race. It was cold! What’s up with this southern weather? I did sit with Ed Esser who’s just as crazy and passionate about this hobby as I am.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – OCTOBER|
7 new tracks – Alabama, Texas, California, Oklahoma
Historically, I have seen very few new tracks in November. Nevertheless, I did get a three-day, four-track double in Alabama and Texas during the month’s first weekend. I implemented my new “Open-jaw” flying trackchasing strategy. This new plan allows me to fly from SoCal to point A and stop for a day or more. I then fly onto point B and stop there for a day or more. This will give me much more geographic flexibility as I hunt down races in 2006.
My first stop was for an anemic race program at the East Alabama Motor Speedway. After a day in Alabama, I flew off to Texas for racing in and around Fort Worth, Texas. The Lil’ Texas Motor Speedway and their NBC race announcers celebrity race was fun. The NASCAR Nextel Cup race at TMS in front of 195,000 spectators was a huge event. I then remained in my NEXTEL Cup seat for a legends event on the inner oval of the Texas Motor Speedway. That was a fun race double and to get the inner oval when it is used only twice a year was a big plus.
The weekend before Thanksgiving found Carol and I seeing two new tracks in our home state of California. This almost never happens. The Wheel 2 Wheel Raceway has been in my own back yard and I never realized it until Will White brought it to my attention. Internet sleuthing found the hidden Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport event on Sunday. I’m glad I will never have to go back to that one.
The final race of November was one I never planned in advance. Son, J.J. was relocating from Jacksonville to Atlanta to pursue his commercial flying career. He needed to fly home, get his car, and then drive back to Florida. I volunteered to drive back from California with him to the Sunshine state. Of course, we just happened to be driving past the Clinton Motorsports Park Thanksgiving weekend enduro. I am a lucky trackchaser.
Getting seven new tracks in November is a major win against my trackchasing competitors. My consecutive days without a rainout record was still intact with one more month to go in this record-breaking season.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – NOVEMBER|
4 new tracks – Texas, Virginia, Oregon
I never used to go trackchasing in December. Of course, in recent years trackchasing seems to have become a year-round activity for the very top trackchasers.
In order to maximize trackchasing productivity I have invented the “Open jaw” trackchasing airline strategy. My new airline plan allowed me to visit tracks in both Texas and then Virginia during the first weekend of December.
On the very next weekend my trackchasing research was aided by some advice from Gary Jacob. This allowed me to find two Oregon indoor tracks racing on the same day. This was a first for me, allow I believe both Gary and Ron Rodda have done this in California.
I had the chance to see a few more races in December, but 182 seemed like enough. Believe it or not, seeing 182 tracks in 2005, was actually easier than seeing 127 in 2004. I have developed some proprietary trackchasing tools which should help me be the most efficient Trackchaser in the business for as long as I want to keep this up.
|2005 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS – DECEMBER|
In summary, thanks to everyone who reads and comments on the Trackchaser Reports. Your interest and support is very gratifying. Happy New Year.