We started our Tour a bit...
We started our Tour a bit early this year considering the turf. But, we did get to see some snow before spring really set in. What is that white stuff blanketing our bus?
We left Florida on March 22 headed for points north on our Northeast portion of the AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour. Our trip this year will take us to the upper right part of the map of America and our first race is in Maryland. We try to limit our distance per day in the motorhome to less than 500 miles and our rest stop was in Longs, South Carolina, just a few minutes from Myrtle Beach where we have friends.
We scheduled a two-day stay at Willow Run RV Park, a very modern and well-equipped park, and discovered we needed all of that. Seems like our LP system was acting up and we needed to have the bus looked at. We contacted the local Camping World RV center and to our surprise, it took us in right away. It had the problem fixed in less than two hours and we were back on the road.
Our trip to Potomac Speedway...
Our trip to Potomac Speedway saw a good many very nice Super Late Models ready to race. All of the cars were in super condition and like new. Such is the case when the season starts. We attended many “first race of the season” races on our trip north.
If any of you have spent any time at all in an RV, then you know that to remain sane, you must treat every problem as a challenge and expect the unexpected. There will be problems from time to time and knowing that and expecting those helps you cope.
Luckily, our Fleetwood RV has been great with pretty much the usual maintenance items needed. It's much more durable than what I imagined. This stint will take us to colder weather on the first part of our Tour for 2011 and we're working our LP bus heater hard. The heat pump A/C unit just doesn't want to keep up well at temperatures hovering around 32 degrees and lower, like we've seen. Some nights we keep the water running to keep the hoses from freezing up.
On Thursday March 24, we continued our journey to the R&D Family Campground just across the Potomac River from our first racetrack, Potomac Speedway in Mechanicsville, Maryland, for the Friday night show. This is a small campground and our big rig definitely stood out. But we squeezed in and out without any problems.
This stocker was immaculate...
This stocker was immaculate as were many of the lower class cars at Potomac. In the photo below, note the rear spoiler and how sophisticated it is.
The promoters of this speedway are also connected with Winchester Speedway, a track we missed last year due to a rain-out. Denise Hollidge is the general manager along with the promoter, Greg Gunter, for both tracks.
Having missed Winchester, we now had a chance to see how these two managed a racetrack and we were very pleased. This is one gem of a racetrack. There were lots of competitors for each division and being the first race of the season for some of the classes, the cars were perfect, with nice paintjobs, new sheetmetal, updated safety equipment, and crews that were ready to do battle.
The track itself was well groomed and rolled with a pig's foot roller that punches holes deep into the clay mixture. This lets the water penetrate into the dirt much deeper than if it were spread over a smooth surface. What this does is help the dirt stay moist and the track to stay tight longer without going all the way to dry slick.
This rear spoiler is one good-looking...
This rear spoiler is one good-looking piece. It seemed like the stock class racers at Potomac took their racing very seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many good looking and well prepared cars at one racetrack.
As I walked the pits, I noticed lots of very well prepared Super Late Models and some great looking Street Stocks. All in all, there were a total of 72 race cars present with 17 Super Lates. The Street Stock division was next with 16 entries and the four-cylinder division last with only 3.
I felt that the four-cylinder might be a growing class from what I see at other tracks and we can expect those numbers to increase across the country. And, the competition among all of the divisions was excellent. As for the Super Late Models, the winner was surprised.
Last year's Super LM champion, David Williams, didn't have a ride lined up for this season, but when past promoter Pete Cameron asked David to drive his car that was for sale, he jumped at the opportunity. The owner felt that running the car was the best way to advertise it and David drove it to Victory Lane. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it had a good chance at being sold after that performance.
Safety was evident too. This...
Safety was evident too. This is a Street Stock car and is well equipped with the interior looking like a new Late Model. This seat is above average for these types of cars.
Another thing I noticed was a couple of Street Stock cars that were very updated and well equipped for safety with some of the best racing seats money can buy. I'm really happy when racers understand the importance of investing in quality safety parts.
The weather was cold, but the stands were anything but empty. There was a good crowd that braved the mid-30s temperatures including Karen (my wife) and me. For some reason, I didn't feel cold until I arrived back at the motorhome after the races had ended.
Maybe it was the layering of clothes, a process I learned from my enduring two winters in Alaska a few lifetimes ago, but I suspect it was mostly due to the smooth running of the program and the great competition that kept my mind off the weather. Nonetheless, we had a great time and were ready for more.
The next day we were off to Ohio, initially via Prestonsburg, Virginia. I chose a route called Highway 50 that basically went west from Winchester, Virginia, to near West Virginia Motor Speedway where the promoters are doing a complete remake of the track. They are converting it from a long 1⁄2-mile length to a 3⁄8-mile configuration that is shaped to provide better competition and action.
The track preparation at Potomac...
The track preparation at Potomac was done using a pig’s foot roller that punches holes deep into the dirt to allow the water to penetrate much deeper. When the layer of wet dirt is thicker, the track stays tight longer and there is less dust and debris kicked up.
We were assured that this was a "good" highway for our 40-foot motorhome, but soon discovered that it was in fact a switchback road suited more for sports cars or road racing bikes. After doing about two hours of that, we bailed and resorted to an interstate that took us to our destination near Granville, Ohio. Oh well, WVMS was probably still covered in snow anyhow.
We arrived at the Lazy River RV Park a day early due to a rain-out of our intended next race stop at Hagerstown Speedway. By Wednesday it was snowing where we were, just outside of Granville. We left 75-degree weather in Ormond Beach, Florida, just a week before and were now in winter conditions.
The next race on our schedule was Attica Raceway Park, north of us by about 70 miles. The track is only 25 miles south of Lake Erie. This is what we Floridians always referred to as "up north."
Attica Raceway Park
The Late Models were in force...
The Late Models were in force at Attica and put on a great show. The heats and feature provided plenty of action. This track configuration allowed side by side racing all night long.
This Friday night race takes place at the Attica Fairgrounds and the actual track is situated inside a much larger horse track. So, the grandstands are some distance away from the racetrack. Nonetheless, the viewing was excellent and the dirt and dust was removed from the fans.
That night we would be treated to races including 305 and 410 Sprint Cars as well as Super Late Models. Track manager Rex LeJeune put our motorhome right next to the grandstands where we got lots of looks. Unfortunately, later on we would be reminded that a very busy train track was just 50 yards away and I never knew rail transportation was so popular in northern Ohio. We heard a train blow its horn every half hour throughout the night.
We were pleased to see the...
We were pleased to see the 305 and 410 Sprints that run at Attica Raceway Park. The number of competitors was high. A total of 30 of the 305s and 49 of the 410s have run at this track so far this year. There were 39 different Late Model teams running here also. That’s 118 teams competing in all. Nice numbers.
We usually arrive at most tracks at around 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon and at dirt tracks the track preparation is well under way around that time. It was no different at Attica and I immediately noticed something that had also caught my eye at Cherokee Raceway last year.
The water truck was an agriculture tanker that had large, wide tires. This type of tire is used so that there is less pressure put on the ground under the tire. On fields, farmers don't want to pack the dirt the crops grow in too tightly or the irrigation water won't seep into the ground.
These trucks have the same usefulness on dirt tracks. When watering, the tires won't pack the material and that way the water soaks much deeper into the soil and the track stays wetter longer. As the night went on, there was little dust and what was thrown up was blown away from the stands by a strong wind coming from behind us.
One of the tricks for proper...
One of the tricks for proper preparation of a dirt track involves using equipment that will allow the track to absorb the water spread onto it. By using a truck desgined for agricultural applications with large, wide tires, less pressure is put on the dirt and there is less compaction. The soil stays wet longer and we see better, cleaner racing as a result.
There were many Sprint Cars there for this event and the show went like clockwork. Rain was predicted to come before midnight so the program was started early with each heat and feature run one right after the other.
The whole show ended right at 10 p.m. and the rain started falling just 10 minutes later. The timing was excellent and I can't say enough about how great the racing was. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this night of racing as much as I ever have, and more than most.
The winner of the 410s, Dean Jacobs's, car was setup perfectly and he had so much bite coming off Turn 2 that he pulled wheelies several times. There was a fierce battle for second behind him that went on the whole race.
We visited UNOH, the University...
We visited UNOH, the University of Northwestern Ohio, during our stay in Ohio and took a tour of the facilities. The students in the High Performance Motorsports program get to work on real, top-tier race cars. Everything needed to become a professional race team member is taught.
In one of the Late Model heats, John and Mike Bores, father and son, battled side by side for position with Mike taking position over Dad. John is the promoter of Attica Raceway Park and the two of them put on quite a show. I have much of the action on video and it can be seen on our website, www.circletrack.com.
Also running in the 305 race was someone I've been communicating with over the past few years, Chuck Butler. He's the engineer for one of the teams and is working on a new steering system using a rack-and-pinion. He promised to keep me informed as to the progress.
The next week proved to be special as we visited a racing performance school many of you are familiar with. It's just up the road from our campground and we jumped at the chance to visit.
UNOH High Performance Motorsports Program Steve Farmer is the person who was entrusted with forming and promoting the motorsports program at the University of Northwestern Ohio. The school is a college for technologies and business and the motorsports program is operated under the College of Technologies where students can learn all about a variety of automotive related topics.
Students get hands on training...
Students get hands on training using the most advanced equipment and machinery there is. Many students go from graduation directly to working with race teams in NASCAR and ARCA as well as other motorsports series.
I visited with Steve the Wednesday after Attica and he gave me the dime tour of this large facility. I was impressed with how advanced the course structure was and how many different areas of study were included.
The school boasts placement of graduates directly into professional race teams right out of school. One photo I saw mounted on the wall in the student area showed two ARCA cars on pit road at Talladega and identified about eight former students servicing the cars shown.
The school is expanding each year and adding more and more equipment and curriculum to the High Performance Motorsports program. We talked about doing some projects together and we may be making some announcements in the near future.
Our next race weekend will include the asphalt tracks of Kil-Kare Speedway and Columbus Motor Speedway, both NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racetracks. Meanwhile, we'll try to stay warm and dry, but it won't be easy with the forecast showing more rain.