Greetings from Beebe, Arkansas
From the travels and adventures of the
“World’s #1 Trackchaser”
Lifetime Track #547
I have just posted one of my “classic” Trackchaser Reports. These are reviews from tracks seen long ago that I haven’t had a chance to post to my website at www.randylewis.org.
This review comes from the Beebe Speedway in Beebe, Arkansas. I went trackchasing there on Friday, March 22, 2002, to see racing on the track’s dirt oval. Later that weekend, Saturday and Sunday, I saw racing at the North Alabama Speedway in Tuscumbia, Alabama and wrapped up the weekend at the Pike County Speedway in Magnolia, Mississippi. Back in the day, it was not unusual for me to see three tracks in three days in three states. I guess I’ve done that kind of thing all my life while trackchasing.
I’ve been doing “at the track” interviews with track announcers for decades. On this night I did an interview at the Beebe Speedway. When we were finished several friendly fans came up to say hello. This Trackchaser Report is being published on my website for the very first time in 2020. Do I remember a single thing about that interview eighteen years ago? Nope. Not a word. Luckily at about track #430, I began writing a summary of my trackchasing visits. These were the very first of what have become my famous Trackchaser Reports. Since the Beebe Speedway was my 547th-lifetime track my TR was one of my earlier efforts to recap the visit.
Reprinted with permission from my March 22, 2002 visit.
THE CLASSIC TRACKCHASER REPORT
Editor’s note: This is a CLASSIC Trackchaser Report. What the heck does “Classic” mean? It’s simply a Trackchaser Report that comes from my trackchasing archives. For whatever reason (usually not enough time) it didn’t get posted to my website when I first made the track visit.
Often times a classic TR will not have a video and/or photo album attached. I didn’t begin producing my YouTube videos until 2009 (YouTube channel: RANLAY). As noted, I didn’t begin writing a complete Trackchaser Report until I had seen about 430 tracks. Photo albums were sort of hit or miss during the early years of my trackchasing. Additionally, if you see a website link know that link worked when the TR was originally written. Will it work now? Your guess is as good as mine! Nevertheless, this CLASSIC Trackchaser Report has finally bubbled to the surface and is now available for everyone to see at www.randylewis.org. I hope you enjoy it.
I AM A TRACKCHASER.
My name is Randy Lewis (above with my friend “Gunnar B” my main racing contact in his home country of Iceland). I hail from the sleepy little village by the sea, San Clemente, California. I am a “trackchaser”. I trackchase. Have you ever in your life heard of “trackchasing”? I didn’t think so.
Well, you made it this far. You might as well pour yourself a cold one and take your Trackchasing 101 class. When you finish you’ll have your trackchasing diploma and can then teach your own friends about the hobby.
Let’s get started. Trackchasing is a three-pronged hobby. I’m a racing fan. I love to travel. I love to analyze opportunities to get the most out of everything while saving time and money.
Let’s do this by the numbers.
- The racing part of my trackchasing has me trying to see wheel to wheel auto racing at as many different racetracks as I can all over the world. Yes, all over the world. Do I really mean that? Yes, I do! I’ve seen racing in 85 countries at more than 2,600 tracks. I’m known as the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”. Why? Because I’ve seen racing in more countries in the world than anyone else by a wide margin.
- However, my hobby of trackchasing involves much more than simply visiting racetracks. Much more. My hobby includes and requires lots of traveling. I get to see and experience, over the “long and dusty trackchasing trail,” all kinds of interesting places, restaurants, sporting events and the like. I call these adventures “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions”. You won’t want to miss my “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” page. Here’s the link: Trackchasing Tourist Attractions or my “Sports Spectating Resume” page, Sports Spectating Resume on my website at www.randylewis.org.
I live in southern California. That’s probably the most inconvenient location in the country for seeing tracks in the U.S. Most of the racetracks in the U.S. are located well over 1,000 miles from where I live. As a matter of fact, my average trip covers 5,000 miles and more. I take 35-40 of those trips each season. In any given year I will travel well over 200,000 miles, rent more than 50 cars, and stay in more than 150 hotel rooms.
I get the chance to meet people from all over the world. With trackchasing trips to 85 countries and counting just getting the chance to experience so many unique cultures, spend time in the homes of my friends and meet so many people is a huge reward for being in this hobby. I am indebted to several of these folks for their help and friendship.
- It takes a good deal of planning to do the above and not spend my entire retirement portfolio. I enjoy the challenge, the travel and every other aspect of “trackchasing”. In reality, my trackchasing hobby is a lot like being with the carnival. I breeze into town, stay a little while and then head on down the road.
Once you begin researching my trip itineraries from my website, yes you will want to do that, you will be surprised. One day I’ll be in Tucson, the next in maybe Tuscaloosa and the following day in Syracuse. I do that kind of thing all the time. Figuring out the logistics of a trip like that is as much fun for me as watching a figure 8 race.
Now you know a little bit about my trackchasing addiction. When you receive one of my Trackchaser Reports or find one on my website at www.randylewis.org you’ll get three pieces of entertainment.
First, my Trackchaser Report will be an in-depth essay on how the trip went from A-Z. Yes, I’ll cover the racing aspect of things. But you will also hear about what it took to pull off the trip, the special stops that made the trip fun and the obstacles that needed to be overcome.
Secondly, you’ll get a YouTube video of the racing action I saw. These are normally short 3-6 minutes highlights of the racing. My YouTube channel is named, “RANLAY”. I have nearly 2,000 subscribers to my channel. Currently, I have posted more than 1,300 videos and my channel has more than 1.2 million views!
Finally, I’ll share a captioned photo album using a photo-sharing program called SmugMug. Normally, there will be anywhere from 50-200 photos from each trip I take. Sometimes more! My website is linked to literally hundreds of thousands of photos from all of the trips I have taken.
There you have it. That’s trackchasing…the way I do it. Do others trackchase? Absolutely. Do they share their experiences? Sorry. They don’t. If you want to see the true “essence” of trackchasing you’ve come to the right place.
A common question I get about my hobby is, “Why?”. I’m a curious fellow. I’m an adventuresome fellow. My hobby is about seeing and experiencing the things that most folks walk right past. Below is a link to a special video. It shows a small town in Missouri that I visited on one of my trips. In this video, I’ll share with you exactly what I mean. This video might just make your day.
Today’s adventure was one more of the 2,000 trips that have taken me up, down and around the proverbial long and dusty trackchasing trail. If you would like to see where I’ve been and experience those adventures here’s the link:
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!
Friday, March 22, 2002.
Greetings from Beebe, Arkansas
2002 OFFICIAL GREETING
My 2002 trackchasing season is officially underway. As a reminder, the distribution of these words goes to everyone in the trackchaser email group. Most of the members of this group are avid race and/or trackchasers. This information also goes to people who aren’t that interested in racing but who might get a kick out of the people and places that come across the path of a serious trackchaser. Of course, a lot of my friends just get a fiendish kick out of wondering why I do this in the first place. Additionally, this is distributed to all of Europe and beyond via my European affiliate hosted by Graham Alexander who is headquartered near Glasgow, Scotland.
Trackchasing is a hobby shared by just a few who enjoy auto racing. In addition to the auto-racing angle many may also equally, or more, enjoy traveling to all parts of the United States as well as several foreign countries. Just in the past couple of months Guy, Gordy and Will have visited such faraway spots as Australia, Belgium and New Zealand to track chase.
Of course, as any good manager with a modicum of Total Quality Management training, I have to set some trackchasing goals for 2002. I plan to reach the 600-track level during the year. I’m at 546 as I start the season. I also plan to move up in the trackchasing world rankings. I’m currently 12th. Pappy Hough, who is deceased, is in 10thspot with 564. The enigmatic Norm Wagner from Ohio is in 11th with 558 tracks. My goal is to get into the top 10 by season’s end.
I urge you to go to www.trackchaser.com (no longer working in 2020) to learn more about the people, the tracks and the schedule of events that make up the hobby. I’ll also mention several other web sites mentioned that might offer you a “good deal” on something or other along the way. If I don’t save you at least $500 over the season your complete subscription fee will be cheerfully refunded. Typos and grammatical errors will also be included at no extra charge. Of course, I very much enjoy the return notes I get from people as well so keep them coming. And now on with the show……
This four-day race trip will take me to the southeastern United States. If the weather cooperates I’ll see races in four different states. For the non-initiated most auto racing in the U.S. does not operate in the rain. Most track surfaces are made of clay or dirt. If it rains very hard before the event it could very likely be canceled. When that happens it’s time to start searching the National Speedway Directory for alternatives. The racing season is in its fullest swing from April to October. You may find races outside this time frame but they are much more limited in availability. Also, Saturday night is the most popular day for racing followed by Friday and then Sunday. During the summer the Midwest and to a lesser degree the East race during the week as well. The Western U.S. has very few events during mid-week.
Since 80% of the 1,200-1,5000 race tracks in America are located more than 1,000 miles from me. I have to fly to the races. All of the leading trackchasers live, as Californians like to say, “back East”. As Area Auto Racing News columnist, Guy Smith is fond of remembering I am the “#1 trackchaser living West of the Mississippi”. There are still a few more than 1,000 tracks in North America that I haven’t seen. That fact should keep me busy for a while.
Today started with a 4:15 a.m. wakeup call. My wife, Carol, graciously offered to drive me to the airport but I declined the offer. Arriving at the airport at 5:05 a.m. meant there wouldn’t be too many people at the 14 gate John Wayne Orange County airport at that time.
The United Airlines flights were uneventful connecting in Denver and continuing to the Memphis, Tennessee destination. During this trip, I’m flying on a free ticket. It was earned with just 16,000 points from my AAA credit card. Most airlines required 25,000 miles to earn a free ticket. If you’re interested in this type of credit card you can call 1-800-807-3068 for more info.
Memphis is the home of Elvis Pressley. There is a great tour of his estate, Graceland, that is extremely entertaining. Carol and I have done it twice and I highly recommend it.
The most significant part of the trip so far is that it was 43 degrees at 4 p.m. when I landed. That means it will be colder for tonight’s racing. I don’t like cold weather. That’s why I live in San Clemente, California. I will be driving 132 miles from Memphis over to Beebe, Arkansas. Beebe is just a bit north of Little Rock.
My newest toy for this coming racing season is a Uniden 200 Channel race scanner. When it’s fully operational (meaning when I’m fully trained) I’ll be able to listen to the track and driver radio communications during the race. I attend about half the races I go to each year by myself. Getting the “inside info” will increase the enjoyment of the event. Since I just got the radio the day before I left on the trip I don’t know much about it. In the hotel just before I left for the track I received my first radio reception. It was from the Memphis weather bureau which is why I know it was 43 degrees at 4 p.m. in Memphis. I would later learn it was just 35 degrees at 10 p.m. very near Beebe Speedway.
Where else for just $481 could you learn that when it felt about 35 degrees out it actually was? You will also learn that I use these communications to inform Carol of certain things. She is now learning that the scanner cost $481. Luckily, I wasn’t near her when she learned this. That is a good thing. Of course, I got a LOT MORE than just a scanner for $481. How about a deluxe noise limiting headset, an “in your ear” headset, an AC adapter, an AC car adapter, advanced Nichol cadium batteries and lots of other little doodads. So, I can hear you saying, “Yes, that was a pretty good deal!” Of course, I plan to create several “savings” on other purchases like airport parking, rental cars, etc. to offset this cost. It’s sort of a “Carol requirement”. Anyway, tonight’s one and only reception was limited to the weather bureau.
Beebe Speedway was listed in last year’s directory as White County Speedway. I don’t know why. They probably changed owners. The track is a high banked ¼ mile dirt oval. This is really the best kind of track. You can see all the action, there’s a good deal of banging (close) racing and there usually is lots of passing. On this night the track was fast, smooth and dust-free.
I left two and one-half hours before the advertised start time. That should have been plenty since I only had 132 miles to go. Of course, it wasn’t. I love the people of the south. They are nicer than just about anybody (tied with Iowans and Minnesotans) but their fast-food workers are SLOW. I won’t bore you with the details but they are slow. That coupled with some horrific construction delays along I-40 delayed my speedway arrival until 8:45 p.m.
Even though I was late they had a decent crowd of about 300-400 people there. Considering the weather I was expecting about 25. General admission was a reasonable $8.00. Refreshments were plentiful and included: funnel cakes $2.00, pickles $1.00, Chili Dogs $2.50 and Frito Pies $2.50. Under normal conditions, I would have had one of each. But since I committed myself to the Body For Life program I didn’t have any. I’m on day 76 of an 84-day program (with a couple of two-day follow-ups!) so breaking down at this point wouldn’t have been a good idea. I have my friend Barb in the Seattle area to thank for turning me on to this program. You can get more info on this at www.bodyforlife.com. In subsequent reports, I’m sure to talk more about it.
The track announcer was about as “down-home” as you’re going to get. I always send a note up to the announcer explaining that I’m in the crowd and telling about the trackchaser hobby. Some announcers think it’s a big deal and some don’t. This guy did. In his southern drawl, he explained to the crowd all about where I had been and where I was going and promised to meet this boy from California who had come all this way to visit Beebe, Arkansas. Later in the evening, we did an interview up in the press box. It was fun and much warmer than out in the grandstand.
The racing was good. They had full, 15 plus, fields of IMCA modifieds, limited late models and pure streets. The classes of cars can sometimes get a little blurry but it was good old home-style stock car racing with some controversy over who wrecked whom and where should they go on the restart.
After the track interview, I went down to have a hot chocolate (spelled “hot chocolet” on the menu board) on this cold night. While I was waiting at least five different people came up and said, “Aren’t you that guy from California?” and wanted to talk and shake my hand. Typical questions are usually pretty similar such as, “What do you do? Were you here last week? Are you married? Where’s your wife? Some of the questions are from guys and some aren’t!
Rental Car update: My Avis racing rental Chevy Malibu ended up with 282 miles on it for this first day of trackchasing. I used www.priceline.com for this rental. It saved me about $40 over the best price I could get from a major rental car company for a three-day rental.
New racetracks visited in 2002
- Beebe Speedway, Beebe, AR (http://www.beebespeedway.com/.)