Like me, I know several of you out there are true motorheads. Yes, snowmobiling is my favorite motorized activity, and snowmobile racing truly does get my heart rate to increase. But in the off-season, I enjoy many other forms of motorized racing as well.
Tonight, I’m headed out to my favorite dirt track (Cedar Lake Speedway near New Richmond, Wisconsin) to watch the World Of Outlaw Sprint Car races on its high-banked oval. Seeing the winged sprint cars come to this track once each summer is like a religious experience to a motorhead like me. The banking of the track makes it so the drivers rarely if ever have to ease up on the throttle. In time trials, for instance, the only time the fans hear the RPMs drop at all is when the car gets a little too much traction. We’re talking 900 horsepower and 700 foot-pounds of torque in a 1,200-pound vehicle. It’s thrilling, especially when 24 of them are bombing around the track at once in the final, and it makes my Friday Fast Five list for Best Non-Snowmobiling Race Events I’ve ever been to.
I’ll roll through my list (in no particular order), but I’d like to hear about your own experiences in the comment section below.
- MotoGP – When the MotoGP returned to the U.S. in 2005, me and a co-worker flew out to California wine country to see some of the coolest bikes in the world race on one of the coolest racetracks in America — the Laguna Seca raceway. Once there, we got to see Nicky Hayden shock the motorcycle racing world by edging the Italian dominator at the time, Valentino Rossi, for the win. The celebrity sightseeing was kind of cool (it attracted a surprising number of stars – at the Red Bull party afterwards, we hob-knobbed with Brad Pitt, Michael Jordan and the dude who played Joey on Friends), but the racing and the track are what made it thrilling to attend and experience.
- World of Outlaw Sprint Car Races – As noted above, the World Of Outlaw cars are spectacular beasts with unmatched power-to-weight ratios for cars that turn laps. Seeing them at Cedar Lake Speedway is my tradition, but this is a national tour that you can likely catch someplace near you. Tip of the day: Bring goggles or some sort of eye protection, because the dirt really gets flying!
NASCAR Event – Yes, I admit it, I’m a NASCAR rube. Call me a redneck, call me a hillbilly, but also call me next time you have a spare ticket to a race. My F-1 snob friends will tell you that NASCAR isn’t “real” racing because of its limited technology, and they are right when they point out that the rules seriously hold the cars back. But NASCAR is easily accessible for fans, the racing is very close, and the plotlines are interesting and fun, plus going to an event is a celebration of motorsports. My most recent race was at Texas Motor Speedway to see Jamie McMurray race with Arctic Cat painted on the side of his car. My mission: Get to a short-track or road-course NASCAR event.
- GNCC – The Grand National Cross Country series features ATVs, dirt bikes and UTVs turning VERY long laps over the river, through the woods and between the trees, traversing tight trails pitted with tree roots, rocks, sand, clay and whatever else you can possibly fathom. Imagine the gnarliest and tightest course for a snowmobile cross-country race, and then double it. GNCCs are true tests of man and machine, and the fans who wander deep into the woods to see the racing are a hoot to watch, too. At the Big Buck National I attended in the Carolinas, I wandered three miles back in the dense woods, and there at a river crossing, there were fans hooting and hollering, including guys who carried their own keg of beer back that far!
- NHRA Nationals – If you’re a race fan or somebody who appreciates horsepower, getting to an NHRA National is a must. The races I’ve been at were at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota, but this also is a national tour. You just can’t appreciate big power until you stand somewhere in the vicinity of the starting line when one of the 7000-plus horsepower Top Fuel car launches. Every one of your internal organs vibrates and shakes when the car is rumbling at the line, and when the light turns green, it’s a massive concussion of sound and heat — even your eyeballs shake! Zero to 300-plus mph in a quarter-mile in under 4 seconds? To call it thrilling is an understatement.
Honorable mention of other cool non-snowmobile race events I’ve been at: the Loretta Lynn’s ATV Nationals in Tennessee; powerboat racing on the Mississippi River; Indycar and Trans Am racing at Road America; indoor Supercross MX races; and NASCAR Camping World Truck series events. And, ultimately, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the Friday-, Saturday- and Sunday-night short track races in Anytown USA (and other countries, I suppose) on dirt and paved tracks that are the very heart of the sport.