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Marion County Fairgrounds

 

Greetings from Marion, Michigan

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From the travels and adventures of the 

“World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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Marion County Fairgrounds

Dirt figure 8

 Lifetime Track #2,456

 

 

The EventVideo PlusPhotos

 

 

THE EVENT

I am a “trackchaser”. So, what the heck is that? I get that question from racing and non-racing people all the time. This is a difficult question to answer. Why? Because after I do my best to respond people say, “I’ve never heard of such a thing”!

 

 

Here’s my best answer.

 

 

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.

 

 

Trackchasing fills the need for all of the above. 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. So far things are going pretty well. I’ve seen racing at nearly 2,500 tracks in 80 countries. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen racing at more tracks than anyone else in the world.

 

 

Equally important to me are the things I get to see and experience over the “long and dusty trackchasing trail”. I call these adventures “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions”. You won’t want to miss my “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” page. Here’s the link:  Trackchasing Tourist Attractionsor my “Sports Spectating Resume” page, Sports Spectating Resumeon my website at www.randylewis.org.

 

 

I live in southern California. 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 all over the world. With trips to 80 countries and counting just getting the chance to experience so many other cultures, spend times in their homes and meet their friends is a huge reward for being in this hobby. I am indebted to several of these folks for their help and friendship.

 

 

It’s 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.

 

 

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

 

 

Randy’s Complete Track List

 

 

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

 

 

Randy on Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

Friday, June 22, 2018.

 

I woke up this morning inside the Avis Car Rental Racing Chevy Impala. It was located in the rental car parking lot at the Bismarck Airport in Bismarck, North Dakota. My iPhone alarm went off at 3:50 a.m. central time. I had slept for about four hours in my rental car.

 

 

This was a most convenient place to sleep overnight logistically. I was probably 100 yards from the airplane that I hoped would take me to Minneapolis, Minnesota and then on to Grand Rapids, Michigan today. I was so tired from the three previous nights of sleeping on an airplane, sleeping in a rental car and sleeping in a Motel 6 for four hours that the slumber in my rental car seemed luxurious.

 

 

 

Saturday, June 23, 2018.

 

 

This morning I woke up in a panic. Where was I? I couldn’t find my phone. That was most unusual considering I was inside my car. My iPhone alarm was continuing to sound and I couldn’t find my phone. I could hear my phone I just couldn’t touch it or see it. It was nearly totally black inside my car. It was 3:40 a.m.

 

 

When I’m driving I almost always have my phone in my right hand. I’m left-handed so I drive with my left hand. It is rare when my iPhone is more than 5 feet away from me 24/7/365.

 

 

It turned out that when I went to sleep last night I placed my phone on the car’s dashboard. I did that to keep it out of the way so that I could sleep as comfortably as possible in the car. It took me a minute or two, with a strong hint from the alarming iPhone, to find it on the dashboard. Yep. That was an early morning trip!

 

 

I didn’t know it, but today I was going to beset with a series of small obstacles. Trackchasing school trained me to accept small obstacles, attack them and then move on. However, today was a challenging day.

 

 

I boarded a flight from Bismarck to Minneapolis at 5 a.m. Who buys a ticket on an airplane that’s leaving at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning? I looked around. There were a few people. They all seemed of average intelligence although I couldn’t confirm that for sure. Nevertheless, there were quite a few open seats as one might expect on a plane departing this early on a Saturday.

 

 

All this week I’ve been upgraded to the “economy plus” seating area in the coach cabin. It’s not first class but you do get more legroom and free drinks. On each flight I’ve had a Bailey’s. It’s kind of like chocolate milk with a little kick.

 

 

When I landed in the Minneapolis airport I would have 29 minutes to catch a flight heading to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Minneapolis airport is one of my favorites. However, if you’ve ever been to MSP you know it’s large. They actually have some walking paths that cover about 4 miles. Twenty-nine minutes was not a lot of time to get over to my flight considering they might close the second plane 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time.

 

 

What was on my side when we landed at gate C4 was the fact that the Grand Rapids flight was leaving at C16. I couldn’t have asked for much more than that. However, the gate agent was inexperienced. She couldn’t get me listed for the flight even though I had already purchased a ticket. I almost missed the flight because of her. That would’ve been a travesty. Had I missed the Grand Rapids flight I would have changed my trackchasing destination to Iowa for this evening. That’s how fragile my travel plans are.

 

 

As a late arrival I had to “gate check” my carry-on luggage. I don’t like to do that but gate checking a bag is better than sending it to baggage claim. With gate checking I’m get my bag back as soon as I step off the plane.

 

 

There was just one problem with gate checking the bag today. When I got off the plane in Grand Rapids the recessed handle of my carryon bag wouldn’t deploy. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the ultra-sturdy handle had been cracked. It was now jammed in the down position. I had recessed the handle when I gave it to the baggage handler. The only way that handle could’ve been broken was if it were thrown with some force onto a very hard surface….or maybe they closed the airplane’s cargo door on it.

 

 

I immediately mentioned this to the airline baggage handler in Grand Rapids. He was a nice guy and assured me they would handle things properly. Pun intended! They did. I made my way over to the lost baggage office. That’s normally not a very pleasant place to spend much time for me or the people who work there.

 

 

Along with the one lady working in the baggage office I was the only person in the room. I explained my problem. She quickly understood. The friendly woman confirmed that, yes the baggage handle was broken and yes, the airline had broken it. She seemed accustomed to such situations. That’s her job.

 

 

My options were explained to me. The airline would give an authorization for me to send my bag out via UPS for a complete repair of the handle. There would be no charge to me. If I did that I would be without my bag for a few days. In my line of work that’s never a good thing.

 

 

Alternatively she told me she could give me a replacement bag. She offered up two brand new types of replacements. One was a soft-sided rolling bag, the kind I like. It was just a little bit smaller than the one I had today. That was bad because it wouldn’t hold as much stuff but it was good because it would easily fit in the airline’s sometimes draconian bag sizers.

 

 

She also offered up a larger hard plastic-sided rolling carry-on. I’ve never been a big fan of these kinds of bags. I passed on that but accepted her offer of the soft-sided smaller carry-on baggage.

 

 

 

The upside to this situation was that I would get to keep my damaged Costco soft-sided bag. When I got home I could do one of three things. I could try to work with that bag as is. Secondly, I could probably take it to a luggage repair shop and get the handle repaired. Thirdly and probably the option that I will explore is I could take it back to Costco. They guarantee their products 100% no questions asked.

 

 

Now it was time to get my rental car. I always love seeing the canopy at the GRR airport on the way to picking up my rental car. I would have this car for two days. I will pick it up in Grand Rapids and I would be dropping it in Detroit. I selected a Toyota Camry. I like the Camry. It gets great gas mileage and is comfortable to drive.

 

 

However, after I got all my gear in the rental car I noticed that the windshield was filthy with bug stains. I casually mentioned it to the gate agent as I left the rental car lot. I really wasn’t expecting anything to be done about it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when she told me that she would give me a “credit” on my bill because of the dirty windshield. I’ll have to wait a couple of days to see what that credit amounts to.

 

 

Editor’s note: The credit amounted to $10.00 USD. Fair enough.

 

 

I spent some time in the lobby area of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. It’s a very laid-back place. It’s the only airport in the country that has a series of round tables in the lobby area. It’s sort of like you’re attending a banquet at a Marriott hotel. I did some “computer paperwork” to make the rest of this trip go as smoothly as possible.

 

 

It is this computer paperwork that allows me to be as successful in the trackchasing hobby as I am. It definitely takes some quiet, serious time to keep this railroad running. I wondered a bit how the trip was going to go with TWO rolling carry-on bags!

 

 

I went on Priceline.com to find a good hotel. I can normally get 40-50% off the very best rates that the major chain hotels offer their customers when I use Priceline. That’s why I so shocked when I checked for Grand Rapids area hotels today.

 

 

Their hotel prices were sky high! A Hampton Inn was going for $200 a night. It would take a $100 bill plus tax to get a room at the Motel 6. What the heck was going on? Later I would learn a large music festival was being held in the area. Stuff like that drives up hotel prices.

 

 

I was able to get an Extended Stay America hotel for $82/night. Quite often I can get those hotels for $35-$40 plus tax on Priceline but not in Grand Rapids today. It was what it was. I couldn’t sleep in my car for the third night in the past four that was for sure.

 

 

I will try to execute my infamous, and not yet patented, two for one hotel approach. I will try to check in early, get some sleep during the middle of the day, do my evening activity and then sleep in the more traditional hours as well. I’ll be trying catch up from sleeping in my rental car last night!

 

 

I told you things weren’t going real well today. Nothing major just small annoyances. By getting my hotel on Priceline I didn’t know if I would be able to check in early. That made the “two for one” hotel strategy a bit different. That strategy works best when I have not made a reservation in advance. I have the leverage of holding my commitment until the hotel allows me to check in at an early hour. I drove over to the Extended Stay America but they were sold out last night. They wouldn’t have any rooms available for an hour. They were nice enough about it. I appreciated it.

 

 

I had a hankering for some pancakes and hotdogs. No, they wouldn’t be for the same meal. It was an either or choice. I’ve noticed that Grand Rapids has a number of gourmet hot dog eateries. I needed to try one of those today and preferably one that I’ve never been to before.

 

 

Yelp soon directed me to Cook’s Hotdogs. They had a 4.5-star rating. You can’t beat that with a large number of reviews. I found the place easily on a gray overcast day and walked in the front door.

 

 

They had a huge selection of gourmet hotdogs. I asked my server what her two best sellers were. She described them from memory. I told her I would take one of each. Then I ordered a large Diet Coke. I am a Diet Coke attic. Most people have an addiction or two. That’s one of mine.

 

 

My server was a gregarious young lady who obviously had a stake in the business. She told me they made their own homemade root beer and had been doing so since they opened 19 years ago. Would I like to try some, she asked. Of course I would.

 

 

Being the older gentleman that I am I shared with her a boyhood story of mine. Being the young woman that she was she listened politely. I told her that when I was 10 years old it was quite a treat to go to the A&W root beer stand with my mother and sister. We would have root beers in frosty glasses and ice cream sandwiches. At the time a small root beer was a nickel, a large was a dime and an ice cream sandwich was another dime.

 

 

I was served the Cook’s Hotdogs version of diet root beer. I liked it. Then I looked sadly over at the large Diet Coke she just poured for me. She looked at the Diet Coke. She looked at me. She said, “I could replace your Diet Coke with the root beer if you like”? Of course I would, thank you very much. The hotdogs were good albeit a little pricey but I did get a free root beer!

 

 

I was now able to go back to my hotel and check in at a little past 11 a.m. I would relax in the room for a couple of hours. I considered taking in the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park which was TripAdvisor’s #1 tourist attraction in Grand Rapids. However it was a cool, cloudy and misty day. That probably wasn’t the best kind of day to see a botanical garden. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.

 

 

Most of the things that happen to me in life I can tell you about. Actually I can tell you about these things in greater detail that even you were probably looking for. There are somethings I can’t tell you about. If I told you about them it would either be bad for me or would be bad for you or be bad for both of us.

 

 

Today I made a mistake that cost me $250. No, I don’t like to share information like that. All during this trip I thought a side benefit of sleeping in my car was that I was saving money. I didn’t do it to save money but a benefit of doing it was saving money. Now all of that “saving” was going to be replaced by a $250 bill. That’s really all I can tell you about it and still feel comfortable.

 

 

I was in Grand Rapids to see some county fair auto racing at the Marion County Fair up in Marion, Michigan. The fairgrounds is a two-hour drive north of Grand Rapids. Two hours in my world is pretty much just across the street.

 

 

This was going to be a novelty racing program promoted by the USA Derby group. I’ve seen several events put on by USA as well as their fellow competitors Unique Motorsports. Both do a good job. Michigan has more county fairs that offer some form of motorsports than any other state in the country.

 

 

The weather forecast for this part of Michigan had called for rain in the advanced forecast over the past several days. Michigan gets a lot of bad weather. In the winter they get snow off of Lake Michigan. They always have a lot of cloudy, rainy weather as well. I used to call on Kmart headquarters during my business career. At the time they were our largest customer. Yes, times change. K-Mart was located in a Detroit suburb. I think I went there every month for a couple of years before I ever saw a sunny day in Michigan.

 

 

I wasn’t too concerned about the weather washing out tonight’s racing. These novelty county fair events rarely rain out. Normally the scheduled racing activity has only one date at the fair. If they were to cancel there probably wouldn’t be any other available dates for them during the fair when the crowds are the largest. They pretty much race rain or shine.

 

 

 

Marion County Fairgrounds – Marion, Michigan

 

 

I reached the Marion County Fairgrounds in Marion, Michigan about a half hour before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. starting time. This was a small fairgrounds. It was also the last day of the fair. Normally by the final day of a county fair all of the livestock have been moved out of the barns. I didn’t see much of an agricultural presence at this fair at all.

 

 

There was no admission to the fair. They had a small carnival and just a couple of food vendors. I ended up getting a six-dollar elephant ear, which was good but not great and certainly not terrible. I haven’t had an elephant ear in a few years I don’t think.

 

 

Tonight‘s admission price for the figure 8 race was $12 per person. That’s a shade higher than normal but the USA Derby group offers the very best big car figure 8 racing in the country. Of course, in my opinion, they are tied with Nebraska and Iowa in that regard. They also offer some outstanding four-cylinder figure 8 racing. Both big and small cars were racing tonight.

 

 

The Marion County Fairgrounds has a long covered grandstand. Tonight the demo ring was in front of about half of the grandstand. Their baseball field was in front of the other half. Let’s look at it this way.

 

 

Consider the grandstands as being like a 100-yard football field. Tonight’s demo ring, where the figure 8 racing took place, went from pretty much from one goal line to about the 40-yard line of a football field. Tonight’s grandstand was virtually sold out. That meant that fans sitting from the 40-yard line to the opposite goal line, a distance of about 60 yards, did not have the figure 8 racing in front of them. That was a weird seating arrangement.

 

 

On the other hand, with our football field example, I was sitting on about the 20-yard line. However, the 20-yard line where the game (racing) was being played was actually the 50-yard line within the 40 yards that overlooked the racing. Does that make sense?

 

 

I had an excellent seat about 10-12 rows up from the bottom. This is figure 8 RACING. It is not figure 8 demolition derby. They are not trying to crash each other. The racers are trying to beat each other by speed. I like that approach to figure 8 racing.

 

 

They had a huge field of cars in both the small and big car groups. They ran about six or seven cars in each heat race with the winner advancing to the feature event. If the small car driver didn’t win his or her heat race he/she was done for the night. That was for the most part true with the big cars as well. I’m going to guess the small cars brought about 35 entries and the large cars nearly that many. Getting 60-70 figure 8 cars at one of these shows is a very large number. I will see that many car maybe once or twice a year.

 

 

A fellow by the name of Sonny Hall has been the owner/operator of USA Derby for many years. I don’t know how long he’s had that position but I know it’s been a very, very long time. Tonight Sonny was at the microphone. He told the crowd over a very crappy PA system that USA Derby now had new owners. I’m going to guess that Sonny is in his mid to late 70s. It was probably time to pass the torch. I hope he got a good price!

 

 

If you want to see some very good figure 8 racing in both the V-8 group as well as the small four-cylinder class you need to watch my video. Tonight’s Racing was as good of a county fair figure 8 race as I am likely to see anywhere. I’ve seen approximately 315 figure eight racetracks now. Most of them have been at county fairs. I’ve now seen 124 racetracks in Michigan and 39 of them are figure 8 venues. There are still nearly 100 county fairs that have hosted some form of racing over the past 10 years in Michigan that I haven’t seen. The Randy Lewis Racing research group is kept pretty busy on all fronts. If they wanted to do research exclusively in the Wolverine state I think they would uncover a lot of action.

 

 

With about 12 hard-hitting heat races and possibly some last chance qualifiers with the V-8 group there was a lot of figure 8 racing. Toward the end of the show some people started to leave. I stayed through to the very last feature race. It checkered at about 10:15 p.m. It’s rare to see a two hour and 45-minute figure 8 program. If you do it’s probably not run efficiently. Tonight there was no inefficiency in the program’s operation. They still needed two hours and 45 minutes to get the whole thing in. My butt was getting a little sore, despite sitting on my foam rubber seat cushion. There was a LOT of figure 8 racing.

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

Tomorrow night I plan to see a county fair motor sports event promoted by Unique Motorsports. Unique has been a long time competitor to USA Derby. Both have done a good job and provided a lot of entertainment to fans over the years. The state of Michigan definitely has more of this kind of racing than any other state in the country. I have no idea why that is. It just is.

 

 

When most night time races finish up I’ll give Carol a call if she has not been part of the trip herself. We’ll normally talk for 20 minutes maybe a little bit longer. Tonight we had a lot of things to cover and our call took nearly an hour. Talking with her helped me stay alert for the two-hour drive back to my hotel in Grand Rapids.

 

 

I would like to personally thank and wish the very best in the future to USA Derby long-time owner Sonny Hall. I would love to have seen and experienced all the things that he has been a part of in the demolition derby business. They say that I could write a book with my experiences. That is true. I’m sure Sonny could do the same thing. I would buy a copy.

 

 

Good night from Marion, Michigan.

 

 

Randy Lewis – 80 countries – 2,456 tracks.

 

 

 

 

Michigan

 

 

The Wolverine state

This evening I saw racing at my 124th lifetime track in the Wolverine state, yes, the Wolverine state.  I hold the #4 trackchasing ranking in Michigan.  I’ve seen 124 or more tracks in two different states.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,

 

Randy Lewis

World’s #1 Trackchaser

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

Michigan sayings: You know you are from Michigan if you know why someone would bring an octopus to a hockey game. 

 

 

 

QUICK FACTS

 

 

LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS 

The threemost important trackchasing comparisons to me are:

 

Total lifetime tracks seen

Total “trackchasing countries” seen

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

 

Total Lifetime Tracks

There are no trackchasers currently within 655 tracks of my lifetime total.  Don’t blame me.

 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 2,456

 

 

Total Trackchasing Countries

There are no trackchasers currently within 25 countries of my lifetime total. 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 80

 

 

 

Current lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 4.14

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Broken luggage along with some excellent gourmet hot dogs and figure 8 racing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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