Greetings from Laurens, South Carolina
From the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”
Laurens County Speedway – Lifetime Track #1,188
Trackchaser named ‘Celebrity Grand Marshal’ …….details in “The Details.”
Randy sleeps it off in an interstate rest area……….details in the “The Details.”
Should trackchasers be counting flat karts?……………..details in the “Race Review.”
GREETINGS FROM FIRST BELTON, SOUTH CAROLINA AND THEN LATER IN THE EVENING LAURENS, SOUTH CAROLINA
I woke up in Augusta, Georgia (home of the Masters golf tournament). I went to sleep in a highway rest stop along I-85 just outside of Atlanta. This is what transpired today.
I enjoy telling people about trackchasing. If you’ve ever met me, I suspect I’ve probably told you more about the hobby than you wanted to hear! I love it when I can expose large groups of folks to this unique and interesting hobby.
I was able to do that today. I found a very receptive audience from a group of 2,000 people or more, most of which I suspect had never heard of trackchasing.
Several folks up in the scoring tower asked me how I found my way to Belton, South Carolina today. I’m not really sure they understood my answer. This is what I told them over the P.A. system.
“I was in Albuquerque yesterday morning (Friday). My planned Friday night track in Lubbock, Texas was about to be rained out. So I hopped on a plane to Atlanta and ended up in South Carolina for a Friday night race last night. I’m going to a track after you finish racing today. I should get out of that track by midnight. Then I’ll drive nearly 200 miles and catch a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Sunday morning. I expect to be at a Championship Off-Road Racing event tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon with my wife near Los Angeles, California.” No, I don’t think they really could comprehend what I was up too.
It would a pretty simple trip today. I had overnighted in Augusta, Georgia. I drove past the Augusta National Golf Club where the Masters Golf Tournament is played. I’ve been through Augusta several times in recent years. It always amazes me that such a beautiful golf course and event can be played within yards of a major thoroughfare where every major chain restaurant, hotel and convenience store is located. The street looks pretty trashy. I wonder if Tiger Woods shops at the Circle K just outside the gates of Augusta National.
The drive up to the Possum Kingdom Super Speedway, the first part of my planned trackchasing double was slightly less than 100 miles.
Early Saturday night
I left the Possum Kingdom Super Speedway at just a minute or so past 10 p.m. If you said that Possum Kingdom sounds like it might be out in the boonies you would be right. The roads aren’t marked very well out here.
I had hoped the Senior Champ Kart race would have been run off earlier in the program. It wasn’t. Now, it was going to be touch and go getting to the Laurens County Speedway before their program was finished. The Laurens program was not scheduled to begin until 8 p.m. I expected to get there about 10:45 p.m. They don’t run very time efficient programs in this part of the country. Maybe they would still be racing. You might recall that last week’s race program in Salt Lake City ended before 10 p.m.
Did you know that I no longer carry any paper maps or atlases with me whatsoever? That’s how confident I am in my Garmin GPS unit. I don’t know of any trackchaser out there who travels without some form of paper map. Come on, boys step up that technology.
The GPS told me it was 29.9 miles to the Laurens County Speedway from Possum Kingdom. Imagine yourself trying to navigate in a large forest-like maze. The only thing directing you is a soft little British English voice of “Emily.” Yes, that’s what Garmin calls the voice that directs the World’s #1 Ranked Trackchaser. Of course, that’s when Carol is not directing the World’s #1 Ranked Trackchaser!
The GPS took me down some of the most rural and narrow two-lane country roads you might imagine. All of the driving was in nearly pitch-black darkness. I must admit that the GPS unit is not always absolutely perfect, but it is close.
The unit has the capability to direct me to all kinds of specific locations in categories like lodging, gas stations, rest areas, recreational locations and on and on. Tonight, I plugged in “Laurens County Speedway” from the list of racetracks in the area that were programmed in the GPS. The unit got me to Laurens, South Carolina which in these parts at this time of night on roads lined with 50 foot trees on both sides (the trees can effect the satellite signal) was quite an accomplishment. I honestly do not think I could have gotten here in a timely manner on my own.
However, when the machine told me “I was here” I wasn’t. I was in Laurens but I wasn’t at the track. It was dark. Time was running out. What would I do? Of course, any good trackchaser worth his salt must have a backup plan or two. I had two.
I had the track’s street address in two locations. The first was in my computer. For any track that I plan to visit in advance, (Laurens data was entered last night while planning the trip) I copy the pertinent data from the track’s website into a Microsoft Word file. I also had a tattered and torn copy of the National Speedway Directory. The NSD was the more handy of my two backup plans so I went with that. This book carries exact street addresses for many but not all of its listings. Fortunately, there was a street address for the Laurens County Speedway. In less than five minutes, I was at the track. Information is king!
Late Saturday night
I left the Laurens County Speedway exactly one hour after I had arrived. I was on the road at 11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m. San Clemente time.) My next race was just “15 hours up the road.” In this case, “up the road” meant California.
Yes, I was going to attempt to drive through most of the night, then board a jet plane back for the Golden state where the Championship Off-Road Racing sanctioning group, aka CORR, was holding an afternoon race in Pomona, California. Yes, someday trackchasing historians are going to look back on some of my trip combinations and ask, “How’d he do that?”
My GPS unit, dubbed “Dusty” by “Trackchasing’s First Mother” told me it was going to be a 188-mile drive to the Atlanta airport. My projected time of arrival was 2:44 a.m. to the airport. My flight was scheduled to depart at 7 a.m. In order to return my rental car and clear airport security, I figured I needed to be at the airport by 5:30 a.m.
I could drive straight to the airport without stopping and then catch some sleep there. Or, I could drive to somewhere near the airport along the interstate and catch some sleep. How much sleep could I get? How could I calculate how much sleep I could get and still not miss my plane?
For me the equation was simple. I would simply subtract the time (2:44 a.m.) that marked my arrival without stops from the time (5:30 a.m.) that was needed to take care of my airline trip housekeeping. The result from that subtraction meant I could sleep for two hours and forty-six minutes.
I didn’t know if it would be worthwhile to arrive at the airport at 2:44 a.m. Would the National Rental Car bus be operating at three o’clock in the morning? Sleeping in airports would probably not be as quite as sleeping in an interstate rest area.
Therefore, I opted for the last rest area on Interstate 85, about 40 miles east of the airport. Over time and even today, several of our best-known trackchasers routinely pass up motels in favor of sleeping overnight in their cars. I guess, like me, they have to operate on a budget as well. I only do it in the rarest of circumstances and only when I need to be somewhere early the next morning.
Heck, my rest stop stay wasn’t even three hours long, so I can’t even compare myself to the chasers who do this all the time. I will say this. Three hours was more than I cared to do it. My body doesn’t seem to fit that well in a Pontiac Grand Prix even when the seat fully reclines. Couple that with the constant sound of 18-wheelers coming in and out with their airbrakes hissing and good REM sleep was hard to come by.
I set two alarms, so I wouldn’t miss my departure time. The cell phone alarm and portable alarm clock were set for 4:30 a.m. Eastern time (1:30 a.m. San Clemente time). They worked well, and I was off. I arrived at the airport at 5:23 a.m. (2:23 a.m. San Clemente time). Returning the car and clearing airport security was a snap.
When I reached the gate, I learned I was 33rd on the standby list of some 40 people trying to get on this plane. Not to worry, there were more than 80 open seats on the Atlanta to Los Angeles non-stop flight. By the way, this was the 100th flight segment that Carol and I have taken in the nine months we’ve been on our airline sponsorship program. I’ve taken about 80 of those flights.
I would land at 8:50 a.m. San Clemente time, drive 60 miles home. I figured I would hit the driveway about 10:30 a.m. I did. I planned for one hour of rest and clean-up and then Trackchasing’s First Mother and I would go out to the driveway, hop in the Carol Lewis owned and Life of Virginia sponsored Lexus LS 430 and head to Pomona.
The drive to Pomona would be a manageable 59 miles. Carol will do the driving. I’ve already warned her not to expect my normal cheerful and effervescent personality!
Editor’s note: By the way, if I “never make it” on one of these trips, please don’t worry about me. I am so far ahead in life’s game that I owe it. Life does not owe me. I’ve led such a privileged life in so many ways, for so long that I’m miles ahead. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep enjoying my adventure lifestyles for as long as my joints and the man above will allow. I just don’t want anyone worrying about me.
Once in awhile, I think what it would be like if one of my planes ever goes down. You should know that if that ever happens, I will be planning like crazy all the way down how I’m going to write about such an occasion in a Trackchaser Report. If I make it, you’ll be the first to hear about the experience. If I don’t, you won’t.
I’ve met some really nice people as I travel the world trackchasing. Today’s visit to the Possum Kingdom Super Speedway was an excellent example of what I’m talking about. I had contacted the track’s owner earlier in the day by cell phone. I was trying to confirm the track’s starting time. I was impressed when he called me back with the info I was looking for. I’m sure with more than 500 competitors at his racetrack today, he had a lot on his plate.
Once at the track, I ran into a fellow named Jim of Video Jim’s (www.videojim.com.) He was a lifelong racing fan who used to have his own cable TV racing show. Now, he does the video work at local tracks and sells his stuff as a living. Jim had heard about “trackchasers.” He knew what we were about and was impressed with the hobby. If you’d like a video or DVD of today’s action, check him out.
Jim insisted on taking me “up to the tower” to meet the track’s announcer, Bill, and the track owner, Greg. Bill, the announcer, had also heard about trackchasers. He told me he’s received several calls over the years from trackchasers asking questions about the tracks down this way.
Bill and I got to talking and soon I was being named the “Celebrity Grand Marshall” for today’s Tri-State All Star racing event. There were several responsibilities I was assigned in order to earn such a lofty designation. First, I would be giving the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines” for the first race of the event. My command followed the track prayer and the National Anthem.
My next assignment was to throw the green flag to start the first race. The Possum Kingdom flag stand is a first class affair. It juts out over the track some 25 feet at an elevation of a like distance. I had a great view from there to give the green flag to some 25 karts in the Super Heavy group.
Following an at the track interview, I was given a very nice gift for my efforts. Each class’s fast qualifier had been given a beautiful medallion with the words, “Fast Qualifier – Tri-State All Star Series 2007 – Possum Kingdom.” As the grand marshal for today’s event, I received the very same memento. Thank you, Possum Kingdom Super Speedway.
By the way, I mentioned to Bill the announcer, that in trackchasing we only count senior champ karts from a normal class of go-karts. His reply was interesting. “Wow!” he said. “Over the years, I’ve gotten several calls from trackchasers and they always asked me if we would be running senior champ karts. I just thought they liked that class. Now, I know why they were asking!”
LAURENS COUNTY SPEEDWAY, LAURENS, SOUTH CAROLINA – TRACK #1,188
The Laurens County Speedway was my 18th lifetime track to see in South Carolina. I’m stuck in fifth place here for the foreseeable future. I am five tracks out of fourth place, a position held by my trackchasing idol of several years ago, Andy Sivi. John Moore of Knoxville, Tennessee leads in South Carolina with 35 tracks.
RACE TRACK NEWS:
POSSUM KINGDOM SUPER SPEEDWAY
I visited the Possum Kingdom Speedway earlier today. You can view that Trackchaser Report by clicking on the underlined link: Possum Kingdom Super Speedway.
LAURENS COUNTY SPEEDWAY
Custard pie and chocolate cake! I love ‘em both, but they sure are different. That’s how I would compare go-kart racing at Possum Kingdom and sprint car/stock car racing at Laurens County Speedway.
I arrived at the second half of my trackchasing double at 10:45 p.m. The sprint car feature was just taking to the track. I was in luck, I would be seeing countable racing. On the other hand, those buggers at Laurens County were still charging admission some two and one-half hours after the scheduled start time.
I glumly paid my $15 after a half-hearted attempt to talk the ticket lady into a late arrival price reduction. I quickly climbed into the concrete seating of the very old grandstands. This was a bullring. One of the officials at Possum Kingdom told me, “At Laurens County you might go to a fight and see a race break out. I’ve got rednecks here, but there all controlled over in one corner.” O.K.!
There was a large crowd in the stands. Most of them had one thing in common. They all wore clear plastic goggles of one sort or another. These people were regulars! They knew they were in for a night of dust and grit and they were prepared. There were a few pretenders who could be identified by the dark sunglasses they wore to fend off the filth. I jumped right in and joined my fellow racechasers with my own pair of World 100 certified racing goggles. Just think, only hours ago I was a “celebrity grand marshal” at the Possum Kingdom Super Speedway sitting in the comfort of the track’s scoring tower and now I was “out among ‘em” breathing heavy doses of grit and grime. I loved it both ways!
This track is a small quarter-mile high-banked dirt, dust and grit oval. The cars are pitted in the track’s infield and they do block some of the track’s view. Nevertheless, these racers are on the gas. The sprint car feature had just nine cars but they were ferocious.
The racing reminded me of the World of Outlaws when they used to race on these kinds of tracks back in the 80s. The cars race within 10 feet of so of the first row of the grandstand. I made certain I sat as high in the grandstand as I could so I didn’t catch a sprinter in my front teeth.
One sprint car did completely flip out of the park over the four-foot high crash wall in turns three and four. I missed the wreck but saw the plume of dust that resembled a nuclear bomb cloud. He was O.K. and racing resumed quickly.
The P.A. was good, but the announcer wasn’t that great. His idea of identifying the lineup went something like this. “We have the 5, the 9, the 325, the 6 and the 45 in this race.” Gee, I could have done that. He didn’t add much value.
I did stop briefly at the concession stand. I fooled myself into ordering a cheeseburger under the guise that I needed to sample the track’s food fare. I must say the lady who served me was WAY OVER HER HEAD when it came to serving the public. I couldn’t fully describe what a dull monetary bulb was barely flickering in her head. Nevertheless, she was a nice person and the cheeseburger was one of the best I’ve eaten at a track this year.
Following the sprint car feature I hung in for the 10-car stock car feature race. They had several spins on the high-banked dirt track. The cars were fast. I never caught the class name of this group, but they looked like either street stocks or limited late models. It was now 11:45 p.m. Yes, folks in this part of the country folks appear to be night owls.
I had a 188-mile drive facing me and my plane left in just over seven hours. The next feature event on tap was a four-cylinder stock car feature race. I liked this track, but logistical circumstances told me it was time to boogie.
Today’s weather provided a full blue sky with a warmer than expected 89 degrees. I guess it was a good move to bag a rain-swollen West Texas for some very fine southeastern weather.
RENTAL CAR UPDATE – ATLANTA, GEORGIA
I was somewhat disappointed in my Atlanta airport rental car experience. First of all, there were nearly no traditional four door sedans in the Emerald Aisle Executive Selection area. The Pontiac Grand Prix I did pick was only marginally clean. I’ve had problems with the National Atlanta location. I suspect it’s like any other business. If they have a poor manager, they are going to have employees who can’t get the job done.
I drove the car 553 miles. That’s not very far considering I picked up three new tracks. I paid an average price of $3.14 per gallon. The Grand Prix gave me 22.8 M.P.G. in fuel mileage at an average cost of 13.8 cents per mile. The car cost 12.4 cents per mile to rent, all taxes included.
Thursday total driving miles – 2.4
Friday total driving miles – 2.5 (Albuquerque car)
Friday total driving miles – 189
Saturday and early Sunday morning total driving miles – 364
LIFETIME TRACKCHASER STANDINGS UPDATE:
These worldwide trackchasers are within 100 tracks (plus or minus) of my current trackchaser total.
1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 1,188
2. Allan Brown, Comstock Park, Michigan – 1,106 (-82)*
3. Guy Smith, Effort, Pennsylvania – 1,092 (-96)*
7. Ed Esser, Madison, Wisconsin – 1,005 (-182)**
* Warning, you are within 50 tracks of being removed from this list.
** Special exemption.
LIFETIME NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DIVERSITY STANDINGS
2007 (current thru 5/14/07)**
1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 6.82
2. Gordon Killian, Sinking Springs, Pennsylvania – 7.12
3. Allan Brown, Comstock Park, Michigan – 7.55
**Until the end of the year, NGD rankings are unofficial. Rankings are affected not only by the leader’s activities but also by other trackchasers impact on the leader’s position in each state.
These worldwide trackchasers are within 10 tracks (plus or minus) of Carol’s current trackchaser total.
31. Carol Lewis, San Clemente, California – 314
There are no trackchasers within 10 tracks (either above or below) of Carol’s current total.
2007 TRACKCHASER STANDINGS
1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 50
2. Ed Esser, Madison, Wisconsin – 40
3. Roland Vanden Eynde, Vilvoorde, Belgium – 22
3. Mike Knappenberger, Reading, Pennsylvania – 22
5. Carol Lewis, San Clemente, California – 20
6. Guy Smith, Effort, Pennsylvania – 15
7. Gordon Killian, Sinking Springs, Pennsylvania – 12
8. Roger Ferrell, Majenica, Indiana – 11
9. Rick Young, Maxville, Ontario, Canada – 10
10. Paul Weisel, Orefield, Pennsylvania – 9
10. Pam Smith, Effort, Pennsylvania – 9
Tracks have been reported by 34 different worldwide trackchasers this season.
Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,
Utah’s #1 Trackchaser
That’s all the news that’s fit to print from San Clemente where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all of the children are above average.
CUMULATIVE TRAVEL DISTANCES:
Los Angeles, CA – Albuquerque, NM – 676 miles
RENTAL CAR – ALBUQUERQUE, NM
Albuquerque International Airport – trip begins
Albuquerque International Airport – 4.9 miles – trip ends
Albuquerque, NM – Atlanta, GA – 1,269 miles
RENTAL CAR – ATLANTA, GA
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – trip begins
Modoc, South Carolina – 158 miles
Belton, South Carolina – 316 miles
Laurens, South Carolina – 346 miles
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta – 553 miles – trip ends
Atlanta, GA – Los Angeles, CA – 1,940 miles
Total Air miles – 3,885 miles
Total auto and air miles traveled on this trip – 4,442.9 miles
TRACK ADMSSION PRICES:
Modoc Speedway – $10
Possum Kingdom Super Speedway – $20
Laurens County Speedway – $15
Total racetrack admissions for the trip – $45
UPCOMING TRACKCHASING PLANS
It’s time to go back to California and join up with Trackchasing’s First Mother for some trackchasin’ home cookin’.