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Greetings from Albany, New York

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From the travels and adventures of the 

“World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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Time Union Center

Concrete oval

 Lifetime Track #2,418

 

 

The EventVideo PlusPhotos

 

 

THE EVENT

I have had the opportunity to follow my trackchasing hobby all over the world.  As this is written I have seen racing in 77 countries.  My lifetime track total is just over 2,400.  Long ago I wrapped up seeing racing in every American state.

 

 

Some twelve years ago I moved into the “World’s #1 Trackchasing” spot.  Of course, that’s if that title is awarded to the person who has seen the most lifetime tracks.  Frankly, I don’t think it should be.   Maybe “Most Prolific Trackchaser” is a better description for that category.

 

 

The World’s #1 Trackchaser title should be bestowed on the person who has seen the most racing in the most countries.  That’s what the “world” is made up of isn’t it?  Countries!

 

 

Tonight we were trackchasing indoors in the middle of the winter. No trackchaser likes to travel a long distance and risk having the event canceled because of weather. With an indoor race cancellations are rare. That’s a very good thing.

 

 

It’s important to note that my hobby is not only about racing.  Yes, that is one part of it.  However, of equal importance are the logistics of trackchasing (getting from point A to B to C, etc.) and the opportunity to see the world.

 

 

I live in Southern California.  The vast majority of tracks in the U.S. are located in the Midwest and East.  It takes a good deal of logistical planning to get from where I live to where the tracks are.  A typical weekend trip within the U.S. will cover more than 5,000 air and driving miles.  I do about forty of those trips each year.  For the past 15 years I have traveled about 175 nights each and every year.  Surprisingly to some, more than half of those overnights were not part of trackchasing.

 

 

A big part of trackchasing for me is simply travel just for the fun of seeing new things.  You won’t want to miss my “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” page or my “Sports Spectating Resume” page on my website at www.randylewis.org.  Search around on my site.  Use the drop-down menus.  They will take you all over the world!  My site will give you some understanding on how important seeing the world and just “seeing stuff” is with my trackchasing hobby.

 

 

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

 

 

Saturday, February 3, 2018.

 

 

When the ice racing on the Northwood Lake Ice Oval wrapped up today at about 1 p.m. it was time to boogey.  Trackchasing buddy Paul Weisel headed down to his home in Pennsylvania. We then made the long drive through New Hampshire and then Vermont before finally getting over to our final destination for the day Albany, New York.

 

 

It was a snowy, winter day. Most of the drive was done on scenic two-lane highways. New England living is about as far away from the cultural aspect of living in Southern California as you can get. Of course, each has its good points.

 

 

We stopped at a tourist location called Hogback Mountain in Vermont. There Carol did well with her postcard shopping. I landed a quarter pound of maple fudge. It was all good.

 

 

It’s kind of funny when you stop in a place like this. Going in you’re not thinking “maple fudge”. Then once you’re in all you’re thinking about is “maple fudge”. Maple fudge can do that to a person.

 

 

I’m usually pretty good at scoring the very best deals on hotels when I use Priceline.com. I have literally saved tens of thousands of dollars doing this over time. However, today I wasn’t as successful as I wanted to be.

 

 

I had a choice Marriott hotel reservation in Albany so close I could almost reach out and grab it. I tried to get one more five-dollar discount. In hindsight that was a mistake. I ended up paying just about retail price for a Best Western instead. I could share the details with you but unless you’re “into” this kind of hotel price shopping it wouldn’t mean much. However, if you don’t learn from your mistakes you’ll make that mistake again. I learned what I did wrong. I won’t make that mistake again.

 

 

No, the Best Western wasn’t as good as the Marriott would have been. Nevertheless, it was O.K. A hot breakfast was included in the price and our room was warm and comfortable. Once we were in the hotel we began to prepare for our evening of trackchasing. We were headed to the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, New York. Did you know that Albany is the capital of the York? It is.

 

 

 

The TQ midget division would headline the program tonight. In the past year or so I’ve seen three of these indoor TQ midget promotions. I wouldn’t say I’ve been thrilled with any of them. They were yellow flag infested crash rests. Maybe tonight would be different.

 

 

These indoor stadiums are professional venues. No this is not Yankee Stadium or Angels Stadium but the arenas do cater to minor-league teams in the smaller markets. One thing that all of these large arenas have in common is they charge astronomically high prices for their food and drink.

 

 

I didn’t check the prices all that closely tonight. We had eaten and drunk beforehand. I did have one friend tell me that a bottle of water sold for $4.50 USD. I wonder how much money they make on a four dollar and 50 cent bottle of water? I wonder how much money they make on that same bottle of water… if I don’t sell it?

 

 

When you don’t know the answer to a question follow the money. I don’t know how much money they make on a $4.50 bottle of water sale. I’m going to guess they think it’s more than if they sold three bottles of water for $1.50 each.

 

 

I knew that we could eat elsewhere before we got to the indoor arena tonight and save quite a bit of money. We were going to do exactly that. However, I wasn’t doing it to save money although that would definitely be a side benefit.

 

 

I enjoy eating unusual foods in unusual quirky restaurant settings that are highly rated my previous users. I use the smartphone app Yelp as my go to app to help me out in that area.

 

 

For those very few of you who don’t have a smartphone AND/OR don’t know how to use your smartphone I can only say this. Your stubbornness or unwillingness to challenge yourself to learn new things is stunting your cultural, emotional and financial growth. I can’t say it much more clearly.

 

 

Upstate New York has more that it’s fair share of mom and pop restaurants. I’ve noticed they have some very unusual hotdog eateries. That being the case I did a Yelp search for hotdog locations that were highly rated in Albany. By doing that I struck gold.

 

 

The Yelp app and the users who left reviews after they dined at these restaurants were recommending a place called Gus’s Hot Dogs. It wasn’t very far out of the way. I headed the National Car Rental Racing Nissan Maxima in the direction of Gus’s.

 

 

Gus’s is located in a nondescript residential neighborhood in the unusually named burg of Watervliet (yes, that is the correct spelling). Stuff “back east” is generally old. I think lots of the residential housing must have been built in the 20s and 30s. It’s old, quaint and often times run down.

 

 

In reading the reviews about Gus’s we were told we could order from a walk-up window or dine inside. The reviews stated that more than half the fun was going inside to eat. That’s exactly what we did. I’ve got to be honest with you. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in such a small, unusual and authentic location. They opened for business in 1954. I doubt the interior of Gus’s is very much different from the day they opened!

 

 

When we entered we were greeted warmly. The place was small, real small. It was probably about 10-12 feet across and maybe 25-30 feet long. Inside that small space there were six employees. When we walked in we were the only customers.

 

 

The venue was simple. The items on the menu were priced cheaply. The service was friendly and very attentive. We soon ordered up three mini hotdogs, a sausage sandwich as well as a Diet Coke and a hot chocolate.

 

 

I couldn’t believe how fast the service was. Our server told us their goal was to serve everyone within 90 seconds. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every restaurant had a goal like that?

 

 

All of the sandwiches at Gus’s are dressed with a “meat sauce“ as well as onions, catchup, mustard etc. The mini hotdogs are small but with their bun and all of the stuff that goes on them they look a lot bigger. After I downed three mini hotdogs I could not resist ordering a sausage sandwich. You truly do not want to miss the photographs of Gus‘s hotdogs.

Gus is only takes cash. No credit cards. No debit cards. I guess this makes it easier for them to do their taxes (wink!).

 

 

More than 99% of the time when I travel I only carry $20 bills as my largest denomination. About once or twice a year I’ll have a fifty or a one-hundred-dollar bill. Tonight our check was about $15. That amount of money might have bought a beer and a hotdog at the Times Union Center and then maybe it would not have. Tonight it covered five sandwiches and two drinks.

 

 

I gave my server what I felt was a $20 bill to pay for the total check for $15.73. When he came back with my change he started giving me a twenty and a ten and more. I knew something was wrong. I corrected him and then he reminded me that I had given him a $50 bill and not a twenty. Of course, he was a nice honest guy. Then I remembered I brought a $50 bill on this trip but had totally forgotten it was in my money clip.

 

 

By the way I told you that saving money was a side benefit to not eating at the racetrack. Yep. The real benefit is eating where you want and what you want and not being limited to the limited selection offered at racing venues. Makes some good sense huh!

 

 

Next we were off to downtown Albany which was only a 10-minute drive from Gus’s Hot Dogs. Paul Weisel had told us about a place where we could park nearby for free. However when we scoped out the location we thought he was describing there was no way to get into the lot. That would not be a problem. We found a place about a block away venue charging just five bucks. The lot was full but the parking attendant agreed to move his car, which was in spot number one, so we could take it. Nice guy.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

Times Union Center – Albany, New York

We knew in advance the admission price for tonight‘s racing was going to be high. Were the prices only “high” or would exorbitant be a more accurate descriptor? I would call it somewhere between high and exorbitant.

 

 

This building opened in 1990. The first commercial event was a concert by Frank Sinatra of all people. The place is large. It seats about 15,500. It’s a nice enough arena for something that was built nearly 30 years ago.

 

 

I learned from PW that one of the best places to watch these indoor races is high above the turns. At a normal outdoor oval track I would never sit in a location like that. However, for indoor racing that position is an excellent spot. That’s where we sat tonight.

 

 

When I bought my ticket I asked if we could get a seat in the upper deck. The ticket seller told me they weren’t selling seats in the upper deck yet. Heck, it was only a minute or two before race time. When WERE they going to be selling tickets in the upper deck. She gave us two tickets in the top row of section 112. Section 112 was in the lower level.

 

 

When we entered the arena we noticed the restrooms were few and far between. They were also located down a series of steps below the main level. That was very inconvenient.

 

 

Then we ran into a lady who was cleaning up debris from the floor of the stadium. She recommended we use the handicap restrooms, which were on the main level. We did as directed. The cleaning lady even accompanied Carol to the level she was recommending so Trackchasing’s First Mother wouldn’t get lost. Yes, these east coasters look a little rough around the edges. However, once they understand you’re not trying to scam them they become your best buddies. Yes, it IS a very skeptical clientele but you’re on their turf. You just gotta work with them!

 

 

Once we were inside the stadium I saw there were a few people sitting in the second pack. I’m going to guess that tonight‘s crowd was between 2,000-3,000 people. There couldn’t have been more than 50 or 100 people in the top deck which, in total, sat about 8,000. Virtually the entire crowd was seated in the lower level. I think I’m pretty accurate on the crowd count in the grandstands.

 

 

By the way I always look at the seating location printed on my ticket as a recommendation. The venue operators are telling me I can sit there and I have a right to sit there. However, I often want to sit in a more preferred location. When I feel that way I act on my feelings.

 

 

If they had 3,000 people at $30 a pop that’s $90,000 USD. I have no idea what it costs to rent a facility like this. I’m not sure what the racing purse was tonight and the insurance and all the rest. Probably more than half of these indoor racing venues never see a second season. Promoters are always optimistic. I’ve got to give him that. We’ll know next year if this year’s promotion was profitable….if they race here again.

 

 

The PA systems at these large venues often leave a lot to be desired. That was the case tonight. In most circumstances we had to strain to understand what the announcer was saying. Most of the time we couldn’t even do that.

 

 

I did enjoy hearing long-time announcer Bob Marlow give the command for drivers to start their engines tonight. I met Bob at the last indoor show. If I could only tap into all of his auto racing memories!

 

 

Carol is not a big woman. She’s definitely in the best shape of any trackchaser currently competing in the hobby. Nevertheless, she had a hard time fitting her bottom into the very narrow chairs. You can imagine how difficult it was for me if it was tight for poor Carol.

 

 

The past three indoor racing shows promoted by the fellow who owns the Area Auto Racing News have been yellow flag infested crash fests. When I went to in Trenton, New Jersey event they had more than 100 yellow flags during one feature, the heat races and the supporting qualifying features. One group of two heat races had 15 yellow flags. They could never race for more than a couple of laps at a time without a stoppage. I hoped that would not be the case tonight but I wasn’t counting on it.

 

 

Tonight in addition to the TQ midgets the support divisions included senior champ karts and slingshots (above). I’m going to guess they had about 10-12 heat races. Then there were four B mains and three features.

 

 

Tonight‘s program was dramatically better than the other three indoor shows I’ve seen. They started on time. The entire show ended about 2 1/2 hours later. I think that’s exactly the right amount of time that one of these promotions should take.

 

 

Granted car counts were down a good deal compared to the other shows. There were very few yellow flag delays in the heat races or the B mains. However, the TQ midget main event had more than 10 yellow flags. They started 24 cars and only 11 finished the 40-lap main event.

 

 

In Carol‘s opinion the TQ main event was the worst race of the night. From a racing point of you, when they raced, it might have been the best. However as a novice fan, Carol felt there was no question. The TQ midget event was the worst place of the night!

 

The races started on time at 7 p.m. They were finished by about 9:30 p.m. We were back at our hotel just a couple of minutes before 10 o’clock. We were happy with all of that.

 

 

The plus of seeing a show like this is that you are seeing auto racing in the middle of the winter in a location that has a very bad climate. When the TQ midgets were racing under the green flag they were exciting to watch. The cars are very quick. You’re close enough to see them with all of their brightly colored paint jobs as well.

 

 

On the less than positive side (negative?) were the really high general admission prices. I’ve come to expect that I’m not gonna be able to hear the announcer very well at these indoor shows. It was shocking at how narrow the theater style seats were. The exhaust fumes were not as bad as other indoor shows that I’ve seen. Nevertheless, I could feel them by the end of the night.

 

 

Have you ever tried to push a rock uphill? It isn’t easy is it. That’s a little bit like trying to run one of these shows without a lot of yellow flag delays. It’s really just the “circumstances”. The track tends to be one groove. The racers in the back want to race to the front. With a one groove track what happens? You get bumping. Bumping with these types of cars means spins and worse. Spins mean yellow flags. Yellow flags mean delays. It’s just circumstances.

 

 

I will say this. The track crew worked as hard as any I have ever seen to make the yellow flag delays be as short as possible. As soon as the yellow was displayed they rushed onto the track with a “mover’s dolly”. The stopped racecar was tilted on its side and the dolly placed under the entire car and whisked away to the waiting pit area. They tried as hard as possible to keep things moving. They were just dealing with “circumstances”.

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

 

 

Getting back to the hotel by 10 p.m. was wonderful. That meant we would get a full night’s sleep. Tomorrow, although we didn’t know it until the next morning would come with some surprises.

 

 

 

Sunday, February 4, 2018.

 

 

We were all set to run up to the Lake George Winter Carnival for some Sunday afternoon ice racing. However, the power of a smartphone and the ability to use it saved us the trouble. They had cancelled their program earlier this morning. Warmer temps and rain had caused their course to flood. Yes, ice racing can be fickle.

 

 

I check my email and social media sources about every 10 minutes during the day. If there is new news I usually find out about it quickly. It was 10 a.m. Carol and I were in the Best Western parking lot in Albany. We would not be heading north now. We already had a hotel reservation in Boston tonight. That meant we were staying the night on the east coast.

 

 

I checked into the idea of seeing a college basketball game on this Sunday afternoon. The good news was that both New Hampshire and Vermont had home games starting at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. The bad news was that we couldn’t get to either game in time for the tip-off. I checked into a couple of ice racing opportunities. One group had already cancelled their show today. I kept trying. They were going to race on the Berry Pond in Moultonboro, New Hampshire. I’ve got a great racing contact in Linda Hanson Cook with the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club. 

 

 

It would be a four-hour drive over to Berry Pond. It would be touch and go to see if we could get there in time. They were expecting rain. If it rained they might shorten their show. We didn’t have much to lose. The entire drive would take us out of our way by about two hours. In the big picture that wasn’t much. I had been to Berry Pond just last year. However, this would be a new track for Carol. She was up for the drive. I rarely go out of my way to visit tracks that are new for Carol and not me. We just don’t roll that way. Had either one of the basketball games been accessible we would have gone there.

 

 

Linda was a great help in keeping me posted on how their program was going. We arrived at 2:17 p.m. onto the Berry Pond. They had a huge crowd. They always do. We had missed the first two feature races but were in time to see the last four classes race their mains. The Lakes Region club is one of the strongest in the country when it comes to ice racing. Thank you Linda for all of your help!

 

 

We finished off with a fantastic Chinese early dinner at the Lee Wah Chen Chinese restaurant in Moultonborough. We weren’t sure how good it would be and it was great. From there we made the drive down to our Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Revere, Massachusetts. We had stayed their two nights ago. Again, they gave us all the upgrades and freebies befitting my platinum status.

 

 

 

Monday, February 5, 2018.

 

 

This had been a fantastic week of celebration. We first came to New Orleans to celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary. We ate all kinds of delicious Cajun food in and around the French Quarter. We saw the Mardi Gras parade, enjoyed a fantastic food tour in New Orleans and visited the huge New Orleans World War II Museum. From New Orleans we made it to Harvard University for a college basketball game. Then we saw two vastly different racing operations in two different states in one day. Although suffering a last minute cancellation we turned that into a plus for the World’s #1 Trackchasing Couple. It was a great trip!

 

 

 

Randy Lewis – 77 countries – 2,418 tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

New York

 

 

The Empire state

This evening I saw racing at my 78th lifetime track in the Empire state, yes, the Empire state.  I’ve seen 78 or more tracks in eleven different states. No other trackchaser can touch that stat.

 

 

 

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

New York sayings:  New York now leads the world’s great cities in the number of people around whom you shouldn’t make a sudden move. 

 

 

 

QUICK 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 600 tracks of my lifetime total.  Don’t blame me.

 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 2,418

 

 

Total Trackchasing Countries

There are no trackchasers currently within 20 countries of my lifetime total. 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 77

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Gus’s Hotdogs and indoor racing from New York’s capital city, Albany

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A last minute switcheroo had us ice trackchasing in New Hampshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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