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Greetings from Tampa, Florida and other locations in the Sunshine State

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From the travels and adventures of the 

“World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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Stampede Premium Covered Arena at the Florida State Fairgrounds

Dirt figure 8

 Lifetime Track #2,605

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Stampede Premium Covered Arena at the Florida State Fairgrounds

Dirt oval

 Lifetime Track #2,606

 

 

The EventVideo PlusPhotos

 

 

THE EVENT

 

 

I AM A TRACKCHASER.

My name is Randy Lewis (above with Amine one of my buddies from Tunisia). 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.

 

  1. 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. 

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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 of 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.

 

 

Trackchasing….this is exactly why I do it

 

 

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:

 

 

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

 

 

Thursday, February 6, 2020.

The more diverse that I can make a trackchasing trip the more I enjoy it. This was going to be a very diverse trip.

 

 

I got home from an 11-day trip, most of which was spent in the African continent country of Algeria, late Monday night. Then at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning I was headed to Florida.

 

 

I was expecting quite a bit from my trip to Florida. First, I was going to do some racechasing. I was planning to return to one of my top five all-time favorite racetracks. That would be the East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Florida.

 

 

One of my trackchasing goals for the year is to see several, “big” races. Seeing the Lucas Oil Late Models run the Winter Nationals at East Bay would qualify as a “big” race.

 

 

Another important aspect of my hobby is seeing and experiencing the local attractions of the places I visit. These might be racing-oriented options and they might not be.

 

 

On this four-day trip to the Sunshine State, I was expecting to head over to Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach is the headquarters for Speedweeks each February in Florida. Speedweeks culminates with the running of the Daytona 500, one of the most well-known race events in the world.

 

 

I am a subscriber to the NASCAR channel on SiriusXM satellite radio. I listen to the NASCAR channel more than any other channel on satellite radio. The host that I enjoy the most is a fellow by the name of Chocolate Myers (above). A few months ago I heard Mr. Myers referring to a special parade of vintage race cars. That parade would take place on the beach near Daytona.

 

 

I thought about going to this event last year. I had been down in Florida. However, I read somewhere along the line that local officials were thinking about canceling the event do to the pollution the cars might create at the beach. Amazing. Now I know why my friends are constantly complaining about the government. Then when I saw they were going to do the parade again this year for the ninth consecutive time I was thrilled. The Historic North Turn Beach Parade would be my Trackchasing Tourist Attraction for this trip.

 

 

I don’t leave the house very often on a racing trip that’s not associated directly with trackchasing. This trip to Florida would be no exception. I expected to see a race event at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday evening. Then I thought I would see some racing at another Florida track on Sunday afternoon. If all went well when that race took the checkered flag I would still be able to catch a plane back to Los Angeles on Sunday night. Now…..let me tell you how everything transpired.

 

 

As I mentioned I left our modest seaside college in the sleepy little seaside village of San Clemente at 4 p.m. on Thursday. I would be driving the Midnight Auto Parts sponsored Tesla Model X up to my Lot F parking garage at the Los Angeles International Airport. However, there was something just a little bit unusual about this drive.

 

 

I would be using the autopilot feature of my Tesla! What’s that? With autopilot engaged, while I’m driving on the freeway, the car stays within the white lines of my lane without any steering input from me whatsoever.

 

 

I can program my car’s maximum speed. If someone in front of me is driving slower than my maximum speed the car slows down and maintains a constant safe distance behind the car in front of me. If I need to change lanes I simply use my turn signal. If everything is clear the car moves into the lane on its own. If not it wait until things are clear.

 

 

Tesla also has a feature that I have referred to as “one-pedal” driving. During the entire 65-mile drive from my home to the airport, I applied the brake pedal exactly one time.

 

 

The car’s regeneration feature allows me to let off the “gas” (my Tesla is 100% electric powered) as I approach a stop sign or when the traffic slows down. In almost every case I do not need to tap the break at all. The only time I used the break today was to disengage the autopilot when I exited the freeway toward surface streets leading me to my parking garage.

 

 

I am told by the CEO of Tesla that the car’s self-driving capability will exist within the next few months. No, as a 16-year-old driver in 1965 I never could have imagined any of this. Heck, just 4-5 years ago I could not have imagined full self-driving. I love using new technologies and right now the autopilot feature is a very useful device that makes my life easier.

 

 

I really couldn’t resist flying to Florida this weekend even though I had just returned from a long international trip. Spirit Airlines was willing to fly me from Los Angeles to Orlando, Florida for 78 bucks. 78 bucks! I could afford that. I could fly with my small Costco purchased $29 rolling bag. That bag doesn’t incur any baggage fees whatsoever from the “charge happy” Spirit Airlines.

 

 

I would be landing in Orlando at nearly 5 p.m. Tonight the East Bay Raceway Park was featuring the Lucas Oil late models. The first heat race scheduled to begin at 7:10 p.m. I wasn’t going to be able to make that.

 

 

Florida traffic especially getting through Orlando is horrific. Additionally, a severe thunderstorm weather system was expected to hit the racetrack in Gibsonton, Florida at 10 p.m.

 

 

By the time I got my rental car and fought my way through the Orlando Thursday evening rush-hour the best I could do was get to East Bay by 8 p.m. If I did that I would miss most of the heat races. Additionally, I didn’t feel like getting trapped in a severe downpour at 9-10 p.m., if the storm came in just a little bit early. I would pass on the East Bay racing tonight knowing that tomorrow’s weather forecast was perfect at East Bay.

 

 

Hotels in the wintertime in Florida are more expensive than normal. Why is that? Florida is generally much warmer than our midwestern and northern tier states during the winter months. As folks retire they are more than willing to come down to Florida during the wintertime for a month or two or three.

 

 

I was staying at a place called the South Tampa Hotel and Suites (aobve). Their normal rates were about $150 a night. I found one travel company selling a room in this hotel for about $100 a night. I took it. If I was passing through South Georgia on Interstate 75 a hotel like this will cost about $50 a night. You take what you can get.

 

 

 

Friday, February 7, 2020.

With Florida being three hours ahead of California in time zone changes I slept in today. I didn’t get out of my hotel room until about 10 a.m. At that point, I went on a three-mile power walk along the city streets of South Tampa. I am slowly recovering from my foot surgery that took place on November 15, 2019. I can really feel the effects of having laid off of aerobic exercise for nearly three months.

 

 

In the afternoon I used my Regal Club Unlimited move pass to catch a movie in Tampa. I pay $23 each month and can watch as many movies at Regal Theaters as I want. If I watch two movies each month I pretty much break even. During the first month that I had the card I saw six movies. Today I saw a movie starring Matthew McConaughey called “Gentlemen”. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be but the plot twist or interesting.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

East Bay Raceway Park – Gibsonton, Florida

 

 

Soon I was headed to the East Bay Raceway Park in the Tampa suburb of Gibsonton. This would not be my first visit to Eastbay. I have seen racing at East Bay during the month of February, which is the month of speedweeks often.

 

 

I don’t know if it will surprise you but I have seen racing on 24 different nights at East Bay. I think that is a noteworthy achievement considering that I live nearly 3,000 miles from Gibsonton, Florida.

 

 

There are only a handful of tracks where I have seen more than 24 race nights. Of course, that shortlist would include my boyhood track and still all-time favorite race facility, the Peoria Speedway. Additionally, I’ve been to famous tracks like the Rockford Speedway and the Santa Fe Speedway both in Illinois more times than I’ve been to East Bay. Finally, I’ve been Ascot Park many times more than EB as well. I would say that East Bay, Rockford, Santa Fe and Ascot Park are all pretty well-known racing venues.

 

 

Tonight’s admission charge for the Lucas Oil late models at East Bay was $40. I was pleased I was able to pay for my ticket with a credit card. Cash is king!

 

 

Last year when I stopped by East Bay for a single night of racing I was able to score a reserved seat in the very top row of the grandstand. That was fantastic. I wasn’t so lucky tonight. However, the lower 16 rows of about a 20-row grandstand were unreserved. I was there early enough to get a seat in row 16, which would give me a very good view of tonight’s racing action.

 

 

The East Bay Raceway Park is one of my all-time favorite tracks. Actually it ranks in the top five. That’s saying something since I’ve seen racing at more than 2,600 tracks.

 

 

I don’t expect to see all that many races at East Bay in the future. A few months ago they announced to the public that the track had been sold to the next door local concrete manufacturing company. The agreement is that the track can race for five more years including this month. That gives me four more years beginning in 2021 to rack up a few more visits to one of my most favorite tracks.

 

 

Using a phrase that many people in my family and close friends often use, the East Bay Raceway Park “has their shit together”. Tonight they were having a one division show, late models. There were 58 of those cars in the pit area tonight. The grandstand was full.

 

 

Despite East Bay being very efficient I was reminded how much I dislike hot laps and time trials. I watched nearly two hours of that tonight before the heat races began at 7:10 p.m.

 

 

The weather was clear. However, it was cold. I had my long underwear, tops and bottoms, a stocking cap, a neck gator, gloves and four layers of clothing above my waist. I brought my racing goggles but didn’t use them. I simply went with my regular glasses.

 

 

Normally, I strike up a conversation with the people sitting nearby me. However, today the seats on my right and left were not occupied. That was OK. I simply relaxed on a hard board without a seat cushion and watched the racing.

 

 

Tonight‘s program consisted of six 10-lap heat races, three 12-lap B main events, a last chance eight-lap qualifier and then the main, a 50-lap feature. Tonight’s feature was paying $7000 to win.

 

 

East Bay is what I would call a small 1/3-mile track. Its dirt surface is slightly banked. The track is not dusty but the cars are so powerful that they generate a lot of, “grit”. I was on the borderline of switching to my non-prescription racing goggles but hung in there with my prescription trifocals.

 

 

Nowadays when I go to the races by myself my phone is my friend. I used the app, “My Race Pass” quite a bit tonight. My Race Pass is an app that provides to the racing fan lineups, driver names and car numbers and a lot more. It’s a very useful tool. I think it costs me $4.99 per year.

 

 

With the track took a very brief intermission between the “Strawberry Dash” non-qualifying race and the main event I took the opportunity to head down to see what I could get for a snack. I came away with a Florida staple, boiled peanuts. They had three different, “flavors”. I chose the “cherry bomb” boiled peanuts, which I was told were hot and spicy.

 

 

I asked the gentleman what was in the recipe for the cherry bomb boiled peanuts. He responded wryly like most Southerners do when they don’t want to tell you the answer to your question. He simply said, “everything”. I am a connoisseur of hot and spicy food. Sadly I have found that when people tell me things are spicy in their world they are not in mine.

 

 

Tonight the racing was excellent. Virtually every one of tonight’s 58 Drivers had come from a 15-20 state location around the South and Midwest. I suspect that just about every driver racing tonight was a top-three driver back at their home track. There were virtually no spins or time-consuming butt-numbing yellow flag delays. They just raced and they raced hard.

 

 

East Bay, with their late models during speedweeks, is noted for passing. Last night a driver came from 29th place in the main to finish second. I once saw Jimmy Mars from Wisconsin drive up from the last starting position to win the feature. Folks, that stuff just doesn’t happen in short track dirt racing any longer. However, I am happy to report that it does at East Bay.

 

 

The thirty-car 50-lap main event was excellent. There were three or four yellows that didn’t delay the program by more than one or two minutes each time they happened. The race leaders caught lapped traffic early so it was fun to see them dicing through the slower cars.

 

 

The last 10 laps in the feature offered some of the best racing I can ever call seeing anywhere. I am virtually certain that I will not see better racing in 2020 than what I saw tonight at East Bay. The driver from the seventh-place starting position passed all of the leaders in the last 10 laps to take to victory. The winner was Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania. Mr. Zeigler nipped Kyle Bronson, an East Bay regular, by 6/100 of a second at the finish line. The crowd was on its feet collectively for the last several laps in the race. 

 

 

I could tell from looking at the demographics of tonight’s crowd that these were long-time veteran racing fans. Tom Deery, President of the World of Outlaws race group, once told his audience that last year the average age of a WOO fan was 55. Next year that average age will be 56 and the year after that it will be 57! Yes, he was joking….sort of.

 

 

This was not a young group of racing fans. This was not a gender-diverse group of racing fans. This was not a racially diverse group of racing fans. This was a race fan base that consisted of older white men.

 

 

I first came to East Bay some forty years ago in 1980. I was 31 years of age at the time. Now 40 years later, doing the math, I am 71 years of age. I fit into this crowd pretty well.

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

 

 

Since my hotel was only 12 minutes from the racetrack I had no need to get back to the hotel early. That being the case I strolled through the pit area seeing the huge race car haulers. It was funny to see the racing teams have huge tarps and blankets over the rear end of the car. This was to mask whatever trade secrets they had from their fellow competitors.

 

 

From the pit area, I’ve ventured out onto the track itself. Just moments before thirty of the world’s best late model drivers battled for position exactly where I was standing. Timing is everything. Now things were much quieter. I took a walking lap around East Bay Raceway Park. That was fun. Then I walked out to my car which had been parked strategically along the entrance road and headed back to the hotel. Today had been a good day.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Today was going to be a big day. As a guesstimate, I’m going to say it would one of the biggest days of my 2020 season even though that’s just a prediction at this point.

 

 

I was staying in Tampa, Florida. My first event of the day this morning was being held over in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was going to take me about 2 1/2 hours to drive over to Daytona Beach. I would have to go through the traffic snarl pit they call Orlando.

 

 

My midday destination was going to be the Historic North Turn Beach Parade. I was thinking this parade was going to be great fun. It turned out to be more fun than even I expected.

 

 

On the way over to the parade, I stopped at a McDonald’s along the interstate. I do that quite frequently. Today there was a long line of cars waiting in the drive-through. It took me six or eight minutes to get up to the speaker. When I did get there the lady informed me, “My manager just told me I can’t take no more orders because of our plumbing system”.

 

 

What did I think of that announcement? Frankly, the first thing that came to mind is that the English instruction in our country is beyond poor. If this woman had reached employment age and couldn’t handle the grammar of the sentence she was relaying to me sad on her and sad on our educational system.

 

 

Today’s weather was an improvement over yesterday. The temperature would be in the low 70s with blue skies, no wind and no chance of rain. That sounded like California weather to me.

 

 

The NASCAR racing organization is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida. NASCAR originated in Daytona Beach. The lead organizer and founder of NASCAR was big Bill France.

 

 

In 1959 NASCAR and the France family built the famous Daytona International Speedway. Daytona began and is to this day a steeply banked 2.5-mile superspeedway. However, there was NASCAR racing in Daytona for about ten years before the superspeedway opened.

 

 

Daytona featured “beach” racing on a long 4.1-mile road course shaped track. About half of the track was situated on a permanent highway. Then the cars turned off of the highway and raced down the sandy beach of Daytona Beach. Sometimes the sand was so thick that competitors got stuck and that ended their race.

 

 

 

Today’s parade featured about 50 vintage and probably in some cases replica historic stock cars. In order to be in the parade the cars had to be from the 1938-1956 model years. This was not really a NASCAR vintage event. These were short track stock cars that had a raced all over the southeast.

 

 

I arrived just in time to take a photo of every car at the event. The place was packed with fans, many of them older. I tried to squeeze in a photo or two of every car. I think you’re going to enjoy these special cars when you look at my photo album.

 

 

The absolute highlight of the day was getting to meet and shake hands and have my photo taken with legendary Leonard Wood of the famous Wood Brothers racing team. Leonard is now 85 years of age. He still looks great and walks better than most of the people I observed in the crowd today.

 

 

Mr. Wood gave me a manly, “you’re my bro” handshake when we had our picture taken together. I suspect that the racing last night at East Bay was the best I will see all year. I can’t imagine meeting a celebrity that will top meeting Mr. Leonard Wood today. As Don Salzer, one of my Facebook friends commented, Leonard Wood is, “Royalty”.

 

 

There were several celebrities that would be driving in the parade today. Of course, in the pace car was the local congressman. The U.S. senator from Florida was on hand as well. I can only imagine how they got those coveted in spots. When they were introduced they received a spattering of applause and no catcalls which surprised me. That might have been because most of the fans at the parade were visitors from out of state!

 

 

The first real racer driving a Nash Ambassader was the president of NASCAR Jim France. He was followed by the aforementioned legendary Leonard Wood. Right behind the Wood Brothers Ford racing machine was a car driven by NASCAR President Mike Helton. Behind Mike was none other than Danny, “Chocolate“ Myers driving his dad‘s racing machine. Chocolate’s father was Bobby Myers who was tragically killed in a racing accident at Darlington nearly half a century ago.

 

 

Behind those lead cars were a number of notables that I wasn’t familiar with. Had I been a short track racing fan in the south I’m sure I would’ve known all of the original drivers of these cars by name.

 

 

I ask that you look at my YouTube video and my SmugMug photo album so you can experience, at least a vicarious manner, what I did today. I took photographs of all the cars in the pit area as well as when they drove past me on the beautiful flat sand beach area of Daytona. I know you’ll like these photos.

 

 

The parade was finished by about 1 p.m. That gave me time to have a relaxing lunch at Culver’s, which is a casual fast-food chain headquartered in Wisconsin. I like Culver’s. Culver’s is like Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burgers. Each of these chains has an outstanding staff and great food.

 

 

I spent the next 2 1/2 hours driving into a setting sun and making my way through the traffic plagued Orlando area. I had plenty of time. Racing was not expected to start at the Florida State fairgrounds until 7 p.m. I was going to pull into the fairgrounds at about 5:15 p.m.

 

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that in my opinion, Florida drivers are the worst of any state in the union. I know what you might be thinking. Florida caters to older people and older people are bad drivers so, therefore, Florida has a lot of bad drivers. That really wasn’t my experience.

 

 

I did see a lot of bad, aggressive and rude driving. However, it wasn’t the old folks doing that. It was younger people who would move from the fast lane over four lanes of the interstate and take an exit in the space of 75 yards. It was the driver who was speeding in a 1986 Honda hatchback that somehow had conveniently lost its muffler. It was the driver who likes to drive through a pink/red stoplight at 50 miles an hour never touching the brake. Florida drivers generally do suck.

 

 

On another front, I first learned from the trackchasing email group last year about this time that some countable racing had taken place during a demolition derby event at the Florida State Fair in February. Whenever I read something like that I make a mental and physical note. Then I check back the next year to see if that racing action is going to happen again. It was.

 

 

I should tell you that I have been kicked out of the Will White (above left) created trackchasing email group by current commissioner Guy Smith. Other than the creator of the trackchasing group Mr. White himself I was the longest-tenured living person in the entire group. I suspect if Mr. White was aware of this he would turn over in his grave…..and he’s not even dead yet!

 

 

I received no notification whatsoever from Mr. Smith about my ouster. Therefore, I can’t really tell you the reason why I was eliminated. I will tell you this. I was listening to the radio today and heard that President Trump had fired all of the people from the White House staff that were against him during the impeachment proceedings. I guess there is no room for honest feedback in today’s world be it the political world or the trackchasing world!

 

 

Being removed from the trackchasing group doesn’t really bother me. I don’t want to be associated with anything that is led by Guy Smith. I would only ask that Mr. Smith not review my website for leads about future trackchasing endeavors. I know that he does that. Talk about being hypocritical!

 

 

Of course as part of my security system, I do monitor IP addresses that access my website. I do have Mr. Smith’s IP address. I will be able to see and notate each time he goes onto my website and where he goes. Maybe someday I will share that with my readers.

 

 

My day wasn’t finished. As a matter of fact, the trackchasing part of my day was just beginning. Tonight I was scheduled to show up at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. I was planning to see some figure 8 racing at the Stampede Premium Indoor Arena.

 

 

This was not my first trip to the Florida State Fairgrounds. Back in 1981 and then again in 1985 I saw racing at the Florida State Fair Speedway. One of those races featured the USAC Silver Crown cars. Another was for local stock cars. NASCAR’s Morgan Shepard (above) raced on the dirt as well as former Peoria Speedway favorite Ernie Schaeffer, who had relocated to Florida at that point. Those were entertaining races.

 

 

I told you earlier that I absolutely love the East Bay Raceway Park venue. Tonight they were having their Lucas Oil late model finale paying $12,000 to win. I was in town. If I liked East Bay so much then why didn’t I go there tonight?

 

 

It’s pretty simple really. I am a trackchaser. I started out as a racechaser. However, I am no longer a racechaser. If I have to choose between trackchasing and racechasing I will almost always pick trackchasing. Any questions?

 

 

I had been in contact with a couple of guys who run the, “Tour of Destruction” operation. They were a father-son duo named George and Keith. I think they are originally from out toward Riverhead, New York.

 

 

I got in touch with them a couple of weeks ago. I think George, the father, was a little incredulous at what I do with my trackchasing hobby. He and I spoke on the phone for several minutes. I mentioned that I wasn’t fully interested in demolition derby, which is the Tour of Destruction’s main draw.

 

 

I asked George if they were going to have a race of any kind. I explained the type of racing that counts in the trackchasing hobby. We talked some more. George ended the conversation by telling me that there would be a race of some kind for me to count.

 

 

I should point out something that is very critical to my approach to trackchasing. I am all about, “ethical trackchasing”. Who wouldn’t support being ethical right? Then, on the other hand, what exactly is ethical trackchasing. Let me offer an example.

 

 

I’ve told you many times that trackchasing is a, “counting” hobby. People go trackchasing, especially at the more intense levels, for the main purpose of adding another track to their lifetime trackchasing resume. Nothing wrong with that. I do exactly the same thing.

 

 

In a nutshell, the rules allow for the counting of a track when there is wheel to wheel racing by adults on ovals, figure 8 tracks and road course configurations. All of the cars must start the race at the same time. There are a few other nuances to the whole operation but that’s pretty much it.

 

 

Sadly, some Trackchasers have been known to, “manipulate” the system. This type of manipulation in my book would better be described as cheating. Being clever is cool. Cheating is not cool.

 

 

I know that some trackchasers, Guy Smith being one, Rick Schneider being one and others have paid promoters to run a race just for the trackchaser’s benefit that wasn’t on the original schedule. That’s unethical in my book. That’s cheating. Remember, clever is cool. Cheating is not cool.

 

 

Often times when I have pointed out these “discretions” the questionable behavior changes. These folks lay low. Guy Smith and Rick Schneider and others have paid promoters CASH to run special races that would only benefit these trackchasers. That’s just wrong.

 

 

A couple of years ago, after I had exposed this bribery system, they came up with a new “influence” plan. They would have a special event at a traditional dirt oval track. Trackchasers would make a “donation” (wink!). In exchange for the donation, the drivers would change from their normal oval racing and compete on a road course. I wonder if the people wrote that donation off on their tax return? Clever is cool, cheating is not.

 

 

Guy Smith kept telling everyone how the drivers would benefit from this special purse. He rarely, if ever mentioned, that he and others stood to benefit by being able to add a new track. Essentially, a $20 donation really wasn’t much different than paying twenty dollars for a race ticket.

 

 

I guess if the group followed up year after year with the special purse “donation” program then the situation would have really been for the drivers’ benefit. Did they? You know the answer to that question. No, they did not. The next time you run into any of these trackchasers you might want to ask them why the donation idea was “one and done”!

 

 

I would never ask a promoter to run a race for my benefit. I will ask a promoter exactly what their program is going to include. If it includes something that will benefit my trackchasing I will likely show up. If it doesn’t I probably won’t.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

Stampede Premium Indoor Arena @ the Florida State Fairgrounds – Tampa, Florida

 

 

 

For tonight’s racing, I asked George the promoter exactly what they were going to do when I talked when him two weeks ago. I knew that the Tour of Destruction event last year included some countable racing. When I asked George what the plan was he simply told me there would be a demolition derby and a race of some kind. Two weeks ago he couldn’t tell me exactly what that race was going to be like. Fair enough.

 

 

Over the past couple of days, I began to see ads touting figure 8 racing as part of the demolition derby plan for Saturday night. That was great. I was coming to the Florida State Fairgrounds to see some junk car figure 8 racing and bypassing the nearby East Bay Raceway Park. I did that because I am a trackchaser.

 

 

Tonight when I showed up at the Florida State Fairgrounds the place was jampacked. Remember, I’ve been to more than 500 county and state fairs. I would say that virtually every one of those fairs was extremely crowded. The fairs only last for a week or so. There is lots of free entertainment, including something as simple as people watching. The people of America just love these outings.

 

 

Parking was free. I paid $14 to get into the fair. Tonight’s demolition derby would be free as well. Fourteen bucks for parking, admission to the fair (especially a state fair) and admission to the race entertainment was more than reasonable.

 

 

It was not exactly easy finding where the demolition derby was going to take place. That wasn’t a major problem as I had plenty of time. I took time to look at the commercial exhibits, the carnival and all of the fair food.

 

 

It wasn’t that long until I did find where the demolition derby would take place. This was an indoor arena with open walls on the side. There was no way an event here could be rained out.

 

 

It didn’t take long for me to find promoter George. He was busy like most promoters are an hour before the event. He said hello and told me he wished he could talk longer and then introduced me to his right-hand man a fellow named Jeremy.

 

 

Jeremy was the operator of a salvage yard. His company Stepp’s Towing had supplied virtually all of the cars for tonight’s racing. He told me he does that as a business building idea for all of the Tour of Destruction events held in Florida. Jeremy also stressed that these shows were held for just one reason. The Tour of Destruction group wanted to entertain the fans.

 

 

Jeremy told me what tonight’s Figure 8 racing was going to look like. As he explained things I realized I was going to see something that I had never ever seen before despite having seen racing at more than 2,600 racing operations.

 

 

Tonight’s figure 8 racing would include five teams. Each team consisted of two cars and drivers. When the green flag dropped one team member would push the other team member around the track in the figure 8 configuration. This was virtually identical to the F8 train racing that I have seen in Utah amongst other places except there was no chain attaching the cars.

 

 

I always find it amazing when I encounter something absolutely brand new that I’ve never seen in the past. Of course, as time goes by and I see more and more tracks it’s difficult to remember each and every one of the things that I have seen in the past.

 

 

I also got to meet Keith, who is with the Tour of Destruction primarily as their announcer. A couple of weeks ago he and I talked on the phone for several minutes. Tonight he texted me back and forth with details about the event. Keith did an excellent job entertaining the crowd and keeping them psyched up about the action on the track tonight. The PA system was stout and Keith really entertained the fans tonight.

 

 

I took a brief tour of the pit area getting some photos of the four-cylinder junk cars that would be competing. Then I found a spot where I could stand near the railing and get a good view of the action. The arena had several different aluminum grandstands and lots of people stood like I was doing. I’m going to estimate there were about 1,000 people watching but that’s just a guess. I know this. The place was sold out.

 

 

The show started right on time at 7 p.m. I liked that. There was something else I liked as well. The figure 8 race was the first event of the night. By about 7:10 p.m. or so the figure 8 race was complete.

 

 

Don’t miss my photos and video on the figure 8 race action. I’m going to guess they ran 10 or 12 laps. I think all but one team finished the race. The crowd loved it. My lifetime track number 2,605 was in the books.

 

 

Next up was a rollover event. One single car and driver drove a distance of some 50-75 yards into a ramp that launched him into a side over side flip. The driver landed on his wheels and the crowd cheered wildly.

 

 

The third and final event of the night was the demolition derby. These guys at the Tour of Destruction are very creative. They did a demolition derby tonight like I have never seen before.

 

 

There were going to be about ten cars in the demo derby. These were all four-cylinder front-wheel-drive cars. This is what was unique about this specific demo derby.

 

 

They started the demo with just two cars. They let those guys go out for a moment or two and beat up on each other. Then they sent another car in and another car in over the space of about 5-10 minutes until all of the cars were giving each other some pretty good whacks.

 

 

In a total of about 15 minutes, a winner of the demolition derby had been determined. I looked at my watch. O.K., it’s not really a watch but it’s sort of like a clock inside my phone. You know the type. It was 7:34 p.m. Tonight’s show was finished.

 

 

The show began at 7 p.m. Just 34 minutes later it was all done. I could never recall seeing a program like this that was finished so quickly. I liked that. They didn’t have a lot of downtime between events. They just did their thing quickly and efficiently so that people could go out and enjoy the state fair after the demo.

 

 

What a creative group of people make up the Tour of Destruction. In all of my trackchasing, I have never ever seen a figure 8 event where one car pushed another as part of a team. I guess that’s not too different than NASCAR‘s tandem racing on the superspeedways. I had never seen a demolition derby where one car was added at a time. I have never seen an entire demolition derby program completed in 34 minutes. I liked it all.

 

 

There was something else that I really enjoyed too. In talking to Jeremy, the auto salvage operator, he told me there was going to be an event tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. It would be another demolition derby. However he had some surprising news, which was exactly what I was looking for.

 

 

This event was not going to be a figure 8 race. All of the cars would start the race at the same time. He said the layout might include a course with a chicane. The drivers would likely need to turn both left and right to navigate the configuration. That’s a road course in trackchasing lingo. 

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

 

 

When I walked back through the Expo building toward the parking lot I found something for sale that I really needed. What was that? Strawberry shortcake!

 

 

Florida is proud of its strawberries. I don’t find good strawberry shortcake at very many fairs these days. Tonight’s serving with plenty of juicy strawberries and whipped cream PLUS a dollop of ice cream for another buck was outstanding. It was my reward for having had such a successful day.

 

 

Well! If you’ve read this far you can see I’ve had a pretty active two days here in Tampa. One more day to go and if everything runs really well I could be back at our modest seaside cottage in the sleepy little seaside village of San Clemente before midnight in California on Sunday night. If that all worked out this would be an ultra-successful weekend.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 9, 2020.

I slept in this morning. For some reason, my trips over the past few weeks have all allowed me to sleep in with very few early morning wake up calls. There hasn’t been much need to sleep in my car or in an airport. Sleeping in is the preferred method just like I do at home!

 

 

I am beginning to round into shape with my powerwalking as my foot begins to heal from my November 15, 2019 surgery. This morning I did a quick 2 miles in the neighborhood of my hotel.

 

 

My walking goal for the day, as it is virtually every day, would be 4 miles. That would be a piece of cake now that I had already knocked out two miles. There will be plenty of walking at the state fair. I would certainly get in another mile or so of walking inside the airports I would visit today. Then I would get in another mile walking back from the airport to my parking garage. Yes, four miles and more would be a piece of cake today.

 

 

Today’s weather was perfect. At noon it was 72° with no wind and almost completely blue skies. I was hoping to catch an airplane at about 7 p.m. tonight. It looked like that wouldn’t be a problem as the airport was only about an hour and a half from the fairgrounds.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

Stampede Premium Indoor Arena @ the Florida State Fairgrounds – Tampa, Florida

 

 

I had expected to go trackchasing in Florida on this Sunday. I just hadn’t expected the location to be at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

 

 

That’s right. I had somewhere else in mind. However, that deal fell through. So…where was that other track? Well, you see I can’t share that with you here….in public. Prying trackchasing eyes are watching. I already mentioned about “people checking out my website for their own personal gain”.

 

 

I will simply say this. I was more than elated when I learned just yesterday that I would be able to add another track to my lifetime list simply by returning to the Florida State Fairgrounds.

 

 

Today’s fairgrounds start time was 2 p.m. I arrived early so I could check out the fair a bit more. The fairgrounds looked a lot different in the daytime than it did last night. I knew my way around much better today after having been lost much of the time last night.

 

 

I returned to the Florida Future Farmers of America (FFA) food trailer. I ordered the same thing I had last night, the “Iowa chop”. For seven bucks this was a thick steak-like cut of pork. I didn’t know if the pork chop was from Iowa or Florida. I suspect Florida. Whatever it was good.

 

 

Last night I stood all night to watch the racing. Today I grabbed a spot in the top row of one of the side grandstands. On the way over to the grandstand I stopped by the announcing tower to say hello to Keith, the commentator. I wanted to make sure I told him what a good job he was doing entertaining the folks. That’s important. It doesn’t take long to say, “thank you” or “good job”. People don’t do that enough. I go out of my way to say both when it is warranted. That kind of thing can make someone’s day.

 

 

Just like last night, there were three racing items on the motorsports agenda. The first was what I needed to see. They were going to have a “flagpole” race. There was no flagpole. However, there was a series of plastic barrels filled with water at one end of the temporary oval. When the cars raced down this section of the track they would have to drive around this tight circle of barrels and then continue you on complete a tour around the larger oval. Yep. This is what is called a “flagpole” race.

 

 

Carol and I often marvel at the things that happen that I’ve never seen or experienced despite having visited so many tracks. Yes, I had seen flagpole racing. However, in the previous 2,605 track visits, I had never ever counted a flagpole configuration as my primary configuration. Today I did that. In the past I had always seen racing on a “regular” oval so I couldn’t count a separate flagpole “oval”. Today the flagpole oval was the only oval track where I saw any racing.

 

 

This was an entertaining race for about ten competitors. Down the backstretch two junk cars had been buried in dirt creating a mound. The drivers, if they chose, could shoot up over this mound much to the fan’s enjoyment. Don’t miss the video!

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

I elected not to stay for the two remaining demolition derby events. I very much would like to have stayed. However, if I wanted another serving of strawberry shortcake and if I wanted to make it home tonight I had best leave at that point.

 

 

The strawberry shortcake was once again tasty. I made my flight. This had been a very diverse trip just like I mentioned at the beginning of this Trackchaser Report.

 

 

The racing at East Bay was excellent just like it always is. The parade on the beaches at Daytona was everything I expected and more. Finally meeting the guys from the Tour of Destruction capped off a great weekend with my trackchasing hobby.

 

 

Good evening and good afternoon from Tampa, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

Randy Lewis – 85 countries – 2,606 tracks.

 

 

 

Florida

 

 

The Sunshine State

This weekend I saw racing at my 74th and 75th-lifetime tracks in the Sunshine State, yes, the Sunshine State.  I hold the #1 trackchasing ranking in Florida. Florida ranks #12, amongst all the states, in tracks seen for me in the U.S.

 

 

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

Florida sayings: Florida: the gunshine state

 

JUST THE FACTS

 

 

LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS 

The three most important trackchasing comparisons to me are:

 

Total lifetime tracks seen

Total “trackchasing countries” seen

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

 

Total Lifetime Tracks

There are no trackchasers currently within 735 tracks of my lifetime total.  Don’t blame me.

 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 2,606

 

 

Total Trackchasing Countries

My nearest trackchasing competitor, a native of Belgium, has seen racing in more than 30 fewer countries compared to my lifetime total. 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 85

 

 

 

Current lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 3.96

 

 

 

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.

 

 

From the Florida State Fairgrounds….first, figure 8 racing and then flagpole racing 

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If you get the chance don’t miss the Historic North Turn Legends Beach Parade….or watch this video

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Historic North Turn Legends Beach Parade

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It was a busy weekend of racechasing, trackchasing and just enjoying the sights and sounds of Florida during Speedweeks

 

 

 

 

 


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