RANDY LEWIS RACING - TRACKCHASER REPORT
DAYS 1&2 – “JULY/AUGUST – TIME TO PUT THE PEDAL TO THE MEDAL” TRACKCHASING TOUR
My ‘no chore’ policy is challenged …………..details in “Where have you been?”.
What is my competitive advantage over my fellow competitors?..................more in “The Plan”.
In all my airplane flying days this had never happened…………..details in “The Trip”.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
It was time to come back from trackchasing to begin a vacation.
Normally the above question is asked when I’ve been off the trackchasing trail for a couple of weeks. This time I’ve only been away for four days. This past Monday I was coming home from Quebec, Canada. It was important that I did get back to California. We were meeting up with our daughter, son-in-law and twin baby grandchildren. It would be a grand birthday celebration for James at a 5-star resort in Palm Springs, California.
However, when my flight didn’t get me back to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in time the plan needed to change. I no longer had the time to drive back home to San Clemente to pick up Trackchasing’s First Mother (of course, for new readers that is wife Carol). She would have to come to me…..at LAX.
Carol and I are both very flexible when it comes to travel. When changes need to be made we simply make them. She drove her car up to LAX. Then she swapped cars with mine that was already parked at the airport. We could then use my car for the 260-mile round-trip drive out to Palm Springs.
This was a plan that COULD have worked out well.
Yes, this plan COULD have worked out very well. But, it didn’t. After Carol had switched cars she waited at a fast food location for my plane to arrive. As soon as I landed I called her. She answered on the first ring. She would be right over to pick me up. I love it when a plan comes together.
However, just a few seconds later I received a call from Carol. There were problems. The Carol Lewis owned and Life of Virginia sponsored Lexus LS 430 wouldn’t start! Oh, my. Carol, although not a formally trained mechanic, feared it was a bad battery. She was going to have to call AAA road service. By the way of all the things we buy day in and day out, I can’t think of a better value than AAA. It’s FANTASTIC.
But Randy, what’s up with your great Lexus?
I know some of you might be saying, “But Randy, you’re always telling us how great the Lexus is. Now it won’t start. Are you embarrassed to even tell us this story?”. I would simply say, “Hear me out”.
While Carol waited for AAA to come I started calling car battery retailers out towards Palm Springs. There were several problems with replacing the battery out there. It was already 5 p.m. Every store would be closed by the time we got there. Of course we wondered, when we shut the car off overnight would it start the next morning? It would be a hassle just dropping off and picking up the car the next day. We were only in Palm Springs for three days and two nights. I didn’t want to be messing with a car repair during our short trip. To top it all off nobody who SOLD batteries wanted to INSTALL the battery. Under normal conditions I would not install a battery let alone in 100+ degree Palm Springs heat.
The verdict was in.
The AAA truck was on the scene in less than twenty minutes. Soon the verdict was in. The car had not only a dead battery but also a bad battery. However, the AAA driver had a great offer. He could replace the battery. Great. The replacement battery would have a six-year warranty. There was free replacement if it failed in the first three years. Additionally, if we bought a battery today’s service call would not be charged against the four we get each year. By the way, we rarely use any of the four service calls offered by AAA, but it’s nice to know they’re there.
When I had called AutoZone in Palm Springs they offered me a battery for $63. Of course, I would have to install it. Their battery carried only a one-year warranty and had no free replacement period. So what was the charge for the AAA battery? Just $99! Plus, the AAA serviceman could install it RIGHT NOW in just 15 minutes. Jackpot! All of our problems were solved at a nominal cost in 15 minutes.
Now back to the original question.
Yes, the original question. If the Lexus automobile is so great why did it have a bad battery? I guess everything is relative. Did I tell you this was the car’s ORIGINAL battery. The car is more than 7 ½ years old. The car has 104,000 miles on it. Have you ever heard of an original equipment battery lasting nearly eight years? The AAA serviceman hadn’t, especially in the heat of a place like California.
My “no chore’ policy was intact.
I was lucky on a couple of other fronts. First, what if the battery had failed at 4 a.m. while I was trying to leave on the first day of a trackchasing trip? That would have been a big problem. Today’s “event” also fit well into my “no chores” policy. I relaxed at the airport while Carol stood out in the hot sun waiting for AAA to show up. I was in the comfort of the airport’s air-conditioning and she did all of the work required to get the car back in service. I can still hold claim to never having personally raised the hood on this car in 7 ½ years of ownership. However, Carol is the champion of this story. She always comes through.
Palm Springs here we come.
Soon we were in Palm Springs. It’s warm in Palm Springs in the summer time. Temperatures can reach 115 degrees and more. During our stay the highest we saw was 105. That’s warm but it is “desert heat”.
We were all staying at the Marriott Shadow Mountain Resort & Spa (resort reviews), a very upscale place. Both of our units overlooked their beautiful golf course. There were several swimming pools. The twins, now three years old, love “pool time”. A highlight of the trip was riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (about the tramway) up into the mountains at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet. Once there we picnicked and hiked through the forest.
Later that night we went onto the golf course…..in the dark. By this time the temps had dropped into the 80s with a strong cooling breeze. The twins loved running at full speed around the golf course fairways. It was all the more fun when the strong wind would blow their cowboy hats off…..they rolled and rolled while we adults chased them.
We capped off the evening by using some “glow” sticks. You know the kind. The ones that give off fluorescent light in the night. The glow sticks were shaped like “bunny ears”. We all took turns running around the golf course with our bunny ears glowing. This must have been quite the sight to all of the patrons enjoying a desert summer evening from their condominium balconies.
On getaway morning we used Yelp! to find our breakfast location. If you’re ever in Palm Desert you’ll love the 1950s/60s type diner called Keedy’s Fountain and Grill (More about Keedy's) However, on the way to breakfast we had a somewhat unexpected delay.
What were the odds?
You may have heard that former first lady Betty Ford died at age 93 this week. She was a long time resident of Palm Springs. As happenstance would have it, we were stopped at an intersection as her funeral procession came past. Her body was being transported to the Palm Springs airport. From there she was to be flown back to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be laid to rest next to her husband, former president Gerald R. Ford. What were the chances that we would be at that intersection during the 60 seconds it took the motorcade to pass. What were the odds that Betty Ford would be flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan on the same day I started my trip to GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN? Weird!
GREETINGS FROM BIG RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
VIDEOS! PICTURES! SEE WHAT I SAW TODAY!
It’s simple. There are three different ways for you to see what I saw today at the races. You can watch a movie (always less than ten minutes). Secondly, you can see my still photos via YouTube.com. Finally, you can see my still photos by using Picasa. With Picasa you can view the pictures at your own pace or watch them in a slide show produced by Picasa. Pick the method you like best from below.
Click on the link below to see the short movie I made from today’s track visit. You’ll probably enjoy it best when you can see it on the FULL SCREEN of your computer with the sound volume turned up. The movie will focus both on the racing and the adventure.
Mecosta County Fairgrounds - The racing action
STILL PHOTOS ON YOUTUBE.
To see my still pictures on YouTube right now, click on this link:
Standard Definition (for computer connections that aren’t quite so fast)
Mecosta County Fairgrounds - The trip from start to finish
STILL PHOTOS ON PICASA
To see my pictures at your own pace on Picasa (slide by slide) right now click on this link:
Mecosta County Fairgrounds - The trip from start to finish
THE PLAN, THE TRIP, THE PEOPLE…AND A WHOLE LOT MORE
It’s the ‘busy time’ of the year.
If I want to remain competitive against the trackchasers who have it so much easier than I do, I need to “keep at it”. I could probably see a track everyday starting from July 1 and going through August 31. The July/August period is when most county fairs hold their once a year races. It’s the busiest time of the year for trackchasers.
I spend a good deal of time stringing these trips together. After Michigan I’ll likely be in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. In order to minimize the driving and gas expense I will fly a couple of time “inter-trip”. This is my competitive advantage over my fellow competitors.
Why Big Rapids?
I would find my first trackchasing day of this trip beginning in Big Rapids, Michigan. Big Rapids is some 210 miles north of Detroit but just 60 miles north of Grand Rapids where I landed Thursday morning.
Why did I choose Big Rapids for today’s trackchasing trip? First, they were racing at the Mecosta County Fairgrounds. I always need a race to get the plan started.
Next up the weather forecast looked good for Big Rapids. There was just a 10% chance of rain with a high temperature of 75 degrees. That’s ideal.
Finally, I had that very important third part of my “trackchasing triangle”. I had a way to get there. I could fly from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Grand Rapids. There probably aren’t too many people who would fly from Los Angeles to Michigan simply to see a county fair figure 8 race.
On Wednesday afternoon Carol and I made the 130-mile drive from Palm Springs back to LAX. Once there we would “switch” our cars again. To be more specific, Carol would switch the cars after she dropped me off at the airport. Then she would be left to drive 65 more miles back home in the heart of rush hour Los Angeles traffic.
I needed to be gone this weekend for two reasons. First, I’m in the July/August trackchasing time frame. There are more tracks racing during these two months than any other two-month period all year.
Even more importantly, this weekend is “Carmagedden” (Learn more about Carmagedden) in Los Angeles. Have you heard of it? The San Diego Freeway (also known as the “405”) will be closed from the I-10 freeway to the 101 highway. That’s a distance of about ten miles. This section of freeway is one of the most heavily traveled in the world. The road will be closed for major renovation for 53 hours. That’s right, hours.
The road closure has been in the news for months. The event is called “Carmagedden”. I surely didn’t need to be in town for that even though we wouldn’t be affected. That location is 70 miles from our little place in the sunny little town by the sea, San Clemente.
I would sleep on the floor tonight.
In good conscious I couldn’t ask Carol to go on this trip. We were just returning from a 5-star stay at a gorgeous Palm Spring hotel and spa. Where would I be sleeping tonight? In the Minneapolis airport!
That’s right! I was landing at 11:30 p.m. into Minneapolis. At 7 a.m. on Thursday morning I was departing for Grand Rapids, Michigan. There would not be enough time to make getting a hotel room worthwhile. Additionally, my “bible” on the subject, www.sleepinginairports.com, told me that the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is one of the very best to sleep overnight in.
The remainder of my six-day/five night trip would be equally challenging with all kinds of early morning wakeup calls. Carol is still a trackchaser however, some trips like this one are not built for her.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Today’s flight was scheduled to takeoff at just past 6 p.m. We had one little problem. Our jet got stuck in the soft asphalt of the runway. Wow! The pilot told us he could get out on his own if he wanted. However, the power needed to make that happen would blow away the storage buildings directly behind our now stuck plane. If you do this long enough, you will see EVERYTHING.
We landed uneventfully at nearly midnight. Then I used my “research data” from “SleepinginAirports.com” to find the best place to sleep for about five hours. One night in a deluxe resort. The next night sleeping in an airport terminal. Of course, this is a good way to stay grounded!
I didn’t follow the recommendations from www.sleepinginairports.com all that well. I did end up finding a very quiet place in the airport to sleep. It was just like a large hotel room….except it didn’t have a bed. Folks, that’s the price of “free”.
I went to sleep about 1 a.m. I was “up and at ‘em” at just past 5 p.m. With all of today’s most active airport security I surprised people are allowed to sleep in airports. If I ever run out of money, I’m just going to live in an airport. If Tom Hanks can do it (The Terminal) then I can too.
After sleeping in the airport it was time to board the slightly more than one hour flight to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I would be landing at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR).
O.K., I don’t have the financial resources of my fellow competitors but I keep trying anyway.
After I landed I tried to improve my trackchasing “cost structure”. Folks, there’s a reason no one routinely travels 5,000 miles round-trip nearly every week to see racing for 3-4 days. It’s just too darned expensive. However, I’ve been doing it for years so there must be a way to get by.
It was only 9 a.m. when I landed at GRR. I wouldn’t be leaving for the track tonight until nearly 5 p.m. I took the time to see if I could decrease some of the profit margins of the travel partners serving Grand Rapids.
First, I went on Priceline.com to find a hotel. This was only after I researched the “default” price of a local Motel 6. I could get a room at M6 for just $35 including taxes. I figured if I could find something better within ten dollars of that price it would be a good deal. Priceline rejected all of my overtures. Then I tried www.hotwire.com. I’m not really a fan of Hotwire but they have begun to show up as an option with Kayak.com (formerly Sidestep.com). I gave them a try and had decided to go with one of their choices. Only after jumping through several hoops did Hotwire.com tell me the room at the agreed upon price was no longer available. I don’t do well with folks or companies who say one thing and do another. I decided to go with the Motel 6.
Now I went “nibbling” for my rental car. I couldn’t beat my $49 price with National Rental Car plus their $15 rebate that seems pretty much exclusive to my trackchasing sponsorship.
However, tomorrow I will need a car in Cincinnati for two days. National had given me a decent price of $99 ($84 with my trackchasing rebate) for a full-sized car. A little dickering with Priceline got me an Alamo full-sized car for jut $53 saving me 31 bucks. Folks, if you save 31 bucks often enough, it gets to be a good-sized number.
It is always fun to meet interesting local people.
I met an interesting fellow while photographing the races tonight. “Bob” was a local reporter for the Big Rapids News (Big Rapids News). The travel and number of racetracks I had seen fascinated him.
What interests a stranger about my hobby?
I find one thing most fascinating when I explain my hobby to strangers. They seem interested in two things. The first is the amount of travel this activity requires. They are also amazed at the NUMBER of tracks I have seen. However, I don’t think some folks differentiate between 1,600 tracks and 16,000 tracks!
No interest in rankings?
There is one other aspect of trackchasing that strangers don’t seem all that interested in. It’s the trackchasing rankings. To trackchasers, rankings are paramount. If you don’t agree to be part of the rankings then you can’t even vote on trackchasing proposals! Without rankings I don’t really think the hobby would exist.
The folks I meet seem to enjoy meeting the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”. However, I think they are most amazed at someone who’s been to as many tracks as I have been at as many locations as I have visited. This continues to make me rethink the value of rankings.
We enjoyed our conversations tonight.
My newspaper contact and I spent some time talking about his business. The Big Rapids News charges for people to read their material online. I subscribe to several newspapers via my iPhone that don’t charge anything to subscribe. One of the most difficult problems facing online businesses is how to charge for their services.
Bob also covers high school sports. His favorite is football. We spent a good deal of time talking about the high school playoff systems. It sounds as if the parochial schools are the powers in Michigan high school sports just like they are in California. Santa Ana, California’s Mater Dei high school was in our conference with our kids went to high school. As a Catholic school they could actively recruit kids to come to their program. One year they were the season’s #1 ranked team on a national basis by USA Today for BOTH basketball and football!
MECOSTA COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS – BIG RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
We’ve been counting figure 8 tracks for about ten years.
This type of “racing” is most unusual. I’m talking about county fair figure 8 racing. Figure 8 racing was added to the “countability” of trackchasing just about ten years ago. When the rule was approved it was made “retroactive”.
Retroactive meant that ALL figure 8 tracks seen before the rule passed would be added to a trackchaser’s overall total. That meant during the 2001 season my overall total was credited with ten “retroactive” tracks. At the end of the 2001 season I had 546 tracks. To put that number into perspective current second place worldwide chaser, Guy Smith had 759 tracks at the time. By the way, the individual who proposed adding figure 8 tracks was Allan Brown. Allan received the largest number of retroactive tracks, which was forty as I recall.
Retroactivity, past or present, is never a good idea.
I am against rules that are retroactive in the past and, for all practical purposes “retroactive for the future”. I am also against trackchasers adding rules where they are the primary beneficiary. That, at the time, was the case with adding figure 8s. That, at the time, has been the case with our “new” road course rule change. That, could have been the case with the proposed “flat kart” rule change. Folks, there is more “gerrymandering” in trackchasing than in the U.S. congress!
Nevertheless, I was seeing my seventh figure 8 track of this season. As of the close of the 2010 season I was the world leader in figure 8 tracks. Due to an uneven exchange of the record-keeping responsibilities in the hobby I have no idea where I stand now.
The Michigan economy is hurting car counts.
Tonight was your typical Michigan figure 8 county fair figure 8 program. Michigan is one of the most popular states for figure 8 racing. Tonight they had both 4-cylinder (small car) and eight-cylinder (big car) racing. I think that Michigan, along with Iowa has the best big car figure 8 racing in the nation.
Tonight’s car counts were on the “smallish” side. The small cars brought eight and the big cars had nine competitors. The announcer made an unusual statement. He told the crowd that the “cash for clunkers” program initiated by the U.S. government was hurting figure 8 racers. Wow! I would imagine the congress had no idea their legislation would have such as outcome. I don’t imagine the Michigan economy, maybe the worst in the nation, is helping things.
The “cash for clunkers” program was designed to encourage people to get rid of their old cars and buy a new one to stimulate the economy. One of the program’s requirements was that the “old” vehicle had to be destroyed. Those old cars were the “supply system” for figure 8 racers. The announcer urged the crowd to consider selling their old cars to figure 8 racers.
Unique Motorsports does a nice job.
The Unique Motorsports group sanctioned tonight’s promotion. They run nearly fifty figure 8, demo derby and “off-road” programs all over Michigan. I don’t think they promote outside the state.
The announcer did a great job. He also had a stout P.A. system. A small crowd was in the grandstands. There may have been an even larger crowd watching from inside the county fairgrounds ½-mile oval track. The figure 8 pit was constructed inside the oval.
The program consisted of four heat races. The top two in each heat moved onto the feature event. Then the winner of two small car consies made it into their feature. All nine of the big cars made the “A” main. Notably, the “A” main for the big cars paid $1,000 to win!
The racing improved as the night wore on.
The racing at the beginning of the program wasn’t very good at all. The track was very muddy. It was so muddy the cars couldn’t get enough traction to even start the race. They raced a “figure 8” around two large tractor tires. The tires were only about 40 yards apart. Seeing four cars “race” around two tires that close together at speeds of 20 M.P.H. certainly qualifies as “novelty” racing in my book.
However, by feature time the mud had turned to dirt. Additionally, a “bobcat” had cleared off much of the “soup”. This created a very fast track for the feature races. Despite the shortness of the track, the racing was good although the speeds were still on the slow side.
If you want to see some good county fair figure 8 racing on a small track I recommend you check out my racing action video linked above. I took the images from ground level. I was within 20 yards of the racing action.
Bad behavior is…..bad behavior.
During the small car feature the leader was black flagged for leaking fuel. He was none too happy about his disqualification. It amazes me how badly some folks act on the racetrack when rulings go against them. Contrast that with golf where the competitors call the minutest penalties on themselves!
Overall, this was a good figure 8 racing program. They started on time at 7 p.m. They kept the crowd entertained with small giveaways thrown into the stands. Unique Motorsports has been doing this for a long time. They know what they’re doing.
At intermission they had a “burnout” competition. There was only one entrant. He won! The Ford pickup driver burned his tires down for the crowd. I had never seen so much rubber smoke drift into the crowd in my life. You won’t want to miss the video.
This evening I saw my 71st lifetime track in Michigan, the Wolverine state, yes the Wolverine state. As this is written I have now trackchased in 25 American states this year. I like to move around.
I have a fifth place ranking here well behind Norm Wagner’s 101-track total. P.J. Hollebrand brings up sixth place with 69 tracks. Allan Brown leads in his home state with 160 tracks!
I have seen seventy or more tracks in these states:
I still have an incredible 105 tracks remaining to be seen in Michigan. Some five of my 20-25 remaining Friday night tracks are up here. The rest of this large total are mainly one time per year county fair locations. That’s a lot of county fairs!
Now you can see the entire up to date trackchaser rankings for these states. Just click on this link or paste it in your browser:
Michigan State Trackchasing Standings
Note: I am not certain how long state trackchasing standings will be available. I will post them for you as long as I can. This link may not work when the www.autoracingrecords.com site no longer posts trackchasing standings.
Coming Soon – RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Exclusive Features!
How is the transition going from unofficial trackchasing commissioner Will White to his successor?
Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,
World’s #1 Trackchaser
Michigan sayings: What are the longest three years of a Michigan football player's life? - His freshman year.
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Minneapolis, MN (MSP) – 1,535 miles
Minneapolis, MN (MSP) – Grand Rapids, MI (GRR) - 406 miles
RENTAL CAR #1
Gerald R. Ford (Grand Rapids) International Airport – trip begins
Big Rapids, MI – 73 miles
TRACK ADMISSION PRICES:
Mecosta County Fairgrounds - $10
LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS
There are no trackchasers currently within 200 tracks of my lifetime total.
1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 1,673
2. Guy “The Kid” Smith, Effort, Pennsylvania – 1,391
3. Ed Esser, Madison, Wisconsin – 1,388
Other trackchasing comparisons.
If you would like to read about other trackchaser comparisons (rankings/standings) please click on this link:
All kinds of trackchaser comparisons
My trackchasing locations in 2011.
If you would like to see a list of the tracks that I have visited this year please click on this link:
Randy's Official 2011 Track List
Click here for current trackchaser rules
Official Trackchasing Rules
Official end of the RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Report