As we head back to the east from Albuquerque, we make a run up through Kansas to our last three stops on the 2012 Tour. It's been a long, long journey so far and we are ready to conclude our road trip for this third year. But first, we wanted to take in three of the coolest dirt tracks we've seen to date.

The trip takes us up I-25 once again to I-70 east and on to our RV base camp at Topeka KOA where we will spend the next two weeks before heading home. From here we will travel to Lakeside Speedway just outside Kansas City, Heartland Park's Speedway near us in Topeka, and then to our final stop at Salina Speedway, a recently reopened track that had a huge show going on.

Kansas Auto Racing Museum

On the way to Salina, we made a stop in Chapman, Kansas, at the Kansas Auto Racing Museum and visited with the founder and curator, Doug Thompson and his brother, Roger. Doug also produces a weekly racing radio show from the museum. He is a racer himself and toured with the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series in the '90s as the Covenant Racing team.

Inside the museum are some great examples of cars that raced in Kansas including the very first ever Mini-Stock. The name actually came from Doug's description to a fan when he asked what this miniature stock car was called. If you are out that way, call Doug and make an appointment to visit.

I took a side trip to locate Lakeside Speedway after dropping Karen off at the Kansas City airport on a Thursday before the weekend races. I found the speedway sign and was amazed at how small the track was. A large sign said welcome to Lakeside Speedway and just beyond the fence was this tiny dirt track. After driving around the corner, I realized that this was not the stock car track, but a kart track instead. Whew! Turns out, just down the road about a quarter-mile was the "real" track.

Lakeside Speedway

This fast half-mile dirt track is owned by Marc and Page Olson and has quite a following. We arrived for the Friday portion of this two-day event to find a large gathering of campers. We would only be attending one day in order to visit another track in the same weekend.

In talking to the campers, some who were racers also, I came to understand how this track was special. In June 2011, it had flooded as the Mississippi River had overflowed its banks. One of the buildings showed a high water line some 4 feet above ground level and the entire infield of the track and the racing surface was covered by water.

The flood wiped out the entire season. But they came back from that disaster to clean everything up and resume racing for 2012. This $5,000-to-win, two-day event was the McCarthy Auto Group Jayhawk Modified Classic and it paid $1,000 to start the feature.

The track has a high-banked groove that is best to run when it gets slick. It was well prepared in advance, as were all of the facilities. There is a large grandstand with suites and the pits are located outside the track so that the fans can have an unobstructed view of the action.

The racing on this day included all of the qualifying and heat races leading up to the final night's main events, but we were able to see the quality of teams and drivers who were in attendance. Modified racing is huge in the Midwest, more so than we see elsewhere.

Maybe it is because there are a lot of people whose job it is to work with the dirt on the many farms that cover most of Kansas and bordering states. It just seems more natural to these racers and the thought of an asphalt racetrack really does make most of them cringe. We camped out in our motorhome and left early the next morning for Topeka.

Heartland Park Speedway

We arrived at the dirt track at Heartland Park, which is named the Speedway, for the Super Saturday Showdown. The Park has many different types of racing going on at various times. This 750-acre facility was founded in 1989 and cost $30 million to build. It has attracted many events and national television coverage since that time and is truly one of the premier racing facilities in the U.S.

There is a dragstrip, a 2.5-mile road course for cars and motorcycles, and this dirt track. The park is a large facility that can accommodate a lot of people. When we were there the weekend of the September 22, there were Modifieds, stock class, Late Models, and vintage race cars.