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Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
5/24/18 1:47 p.m.

In our world, rattling off how many tracks you’ve raced at, or at least driven, is a badge of honor. It’s a common bench-racing topic.

Recently, I put another notch in my belt by driving Thompson Speedway in rural northern Connecticut. This wonderfully tight, fun and seemingly very safe track got me thinking again about how many tracks I’ve driven and which ones are my favorites.

I took a look on Wikipedia, and there are more than 80 road race tracks listed in the United States. There are the big, famous tracks, like Daytona and Road Atlanta, and the not-so-famous ones, like Roebling Road, Gingerman and even PBIR.

Of course, some of them, like Riverside and Bridgehampton (two that I luckily did get to drive), are now defunct. And sadly, Miller Motorsports Park’s fate isn’t quite decided. Hopefully someone comes in and saves the day before it gets turned into yet another housing development.

Of these 80-plus tracks, I’ve been blessed to run nearly three-fourths of them, from Lime Rock (underrated, perhaps because of its diminutive size, but actually one of my favorites) to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

What are my top tracks? That’s tough. I’ve mentioned a few already, but VIR needs to be on that list. I also really like the Hutchinson Island course at Savannah; the venue is pretty darned cool and is right next to downtown Savannah, so it makes for an awesome event weekend. Mid-Ohio and Barber are right up there as well.

As an old autocrosser at heart, I prefer the tighter tracks: Hallett, Thompson and Atlanta Motorsports Park (although this one has a surprisingly long straight). Of course, I also get a kick out of the very fast tracks, like Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

Although I live 15 minutes from Daytona International Speedway, I consider Road Atlanta to be my home track. I probably run there more than anywhere else. Still, that downhill through the start/finish line scares the crap out of me every time I go through it. Man, that is a fast track.

And then there are the championship tracks. There is some debate over which tracks are worthy of hosting a championship event. History, top speed and number of passing zones all play into this often bandied-about discussion.

At first, the SCCA Runoffs bounced between Riverside and Daytona every year. In 1971, this event found a seemingly permanent home at Road Atlanta, but then it started moving around again in the ’90s. Its next longtime home at Heartland Park was centrally located, but racers complained that the track wasn’t suited to this level of event.

I’ve been there, but not to race, so I cannot judge. I can say that when the event started moving to more famous tracks, entries started to go up again.

NASA held their championships first at Mid-Ohio and then at Miller. The Miller events struggled to gain traction, partially because no one had been waiting their whole life to drive Miller and partially because it was too far from both coasts. Now NASA has both East and West Coast championships at more famous tracks, and this system seems to be working.

Tracks with storied histories simply tend to draw more interest, even if driving them can be a punishing experience. Sebring may be the roughest track on earth (a title it must wrestle away from the old Nelson Ledges). But still, everyone wants to say they’ve raced at Sebring. Having run a ChumpCar enduro there at night and in the rain, I can tell you that Sebring is a super cool place to race–for a few minutes. I felt like I knew what it was like to contest the rain-soaked 1965 12-hour race at that legendary track.

So how have I managed to sample so many tracks? One reason is that I’ve been in motorsports since 1982. In more than 30 years, you get around.

Another reason is that a lot of car and tire manufacturers turn journalists loose on race tracks when they want to show off new products. Recently I got to revisit Road America, Las Vegas and Gingerman that way. I can tell you there are worse ways to make a living than driving a new M3 at nearly full tilt at Road America.

If you’re looking for access, I guess becoming an automotive media person is one way to drive these tracks. Becoming a pro racer or factory test driver is another way. Some guys I know just keep entering events and clicking off tracks as they work their way through their bucket lists.

One of the quickest and most practical ways to hit a whole bunch of tracks is to enter the One Lap of America. If you run this one-week event five years in a row, you’ll hit most of the major and minor tracks in the country–and have a heck of a lot of fun along the way.

So how about you? How many race tracks have you driven? What are your favorites? Send me your thoughts. Heck, if we get enough input, maybe we’ll turn this whole discussion into another feature story on favorite race tracks. If nothing else, you can rest assured I will acknowledge every email, pass it on to my editor, and write you back.

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DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk PowerDork
5/24/18 3:48 p.m.

I've only ever raced on one track (for a decade) and that was Waterford Hills. You need to try it, say on their vintage weekend, in the Triumph. If you think Lme Rock is compact Waterford outdoes it.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
5/24/18 3:58 p.m.

Waterford Hills

Gingerman

Mid-Ohio

Hallet

Moroso Park, back when it was still called that

Nashville Speedway road coarse

New Hampshire Speedway road course

Portland

All were with the Alfa Club, most were the national convention time trial.  Waterford and Gingerman were where we hosted some fun track events.  Waterford is my favorite, but Hallet is a very close second- both were fun to drive in an Alfa.

snailmont5oh
snailmont5oh Dork
5/24/18 4:21 p.m.

Pittsburgh International Race Course 

Summit Point Main

Summit Point Shenandoah *

Nelson Ledges (pre-repave)

Pocono (Majors configuration, parade laps only)

* = favorite/home track

All tracks were driven in an HPDE event, except Pocono. 

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
5/24/18 4:59 p.m.

I'm a bit behind here:  Little Talladega, Road Atlanta, Barber, Mid Ohio, Nashville Speedway, I've done a hillclimb too, but not sure that counts.  Of those, Barber is probably my favorite.

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) PowerDork
5/24/18 5:02 p.m.

NCM.  I need to do more track days. :-(

imgon
imgon Reader
5/24/18 5:46 p.m.

I've been on Lime Rock, New Hampshire Motor Speedway,  Watkins Glen, Monticello, NJ Thunderbolt and Lighning, Palmer, Pocono, Summit Point, Mosport, Thompson and Tamworth. Would love to go to get to a bunch of the south east tracks, VIR, Road Atlanta,  Roebling Road, Daytona etc.  My favorite up my way is Watkins Glen, it just flows so well.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
5/24/18 6:20 p.m.

Added trivia bit:  From what I understand, Thompson is the oldest purpose-built road course racetrack in the US.

buzzboy
buzzboy Reader
5/24/18 6:37 p.m.

Carolina Motorsports Park-Home track. Fun but the surface sucks big ones. It's tight enough to be fun in our slow Benzs but was also lots of fun in the 928 I got to drive there once.

Charlotte Motor Speedway-Nascar experience. I count it.

Road Atlanta-Jesus was that track fun, and in a manual swapped XJ6 to boot. The car was fast enough to feel out the long sweepers but not so fast to scare me. Flat through the final turn!

Sebring-Such an amazing and huge track. We were running a bit off pace with 31 lbs/hp but it was everything I expected. I love how I already knew the track from Forza and it was exactly like I expected, weird bumps through 17-17a included. Fastest I've seen our car on track, 88mph going into 7.

National Corvette Museum-Absolutely love this track. Paved paddock, air conditioned bathrooms, awesome elevation change and a great mix of fast and slow corners. I do wish we'd gotten the full track though.

Barber-Disney Land for racers? I say pretty much the same things about Barber as I do about NCM. I've had one of my most memorable battles there, 5 laps between me in a V6 SN95 and my friend in a 302 swapped Fairlylame.

Gingerman-I really like the layout and the elevation change but I wish the track was a bit wider. It made passing more difficult which means almost impossible with how hard passing already is for us.

Fr3AkAzOiD
Fr3AkAzOiD Reader
5/24/18 8:12 p.m.

VIR and NJMP (both tracks) are awesome with plenty of run off room.

NOT A TA
NOT A TA Dork
5/24/18 9:34 p.m.

If we're just talking road race tracks.

Lime Rock

Road Atlanta

Sebring

 Moroso track a Palm Beach

New PBIR track at Palm Beach

Went to Pocono once but it was pouring buckets with 6" standing water in places.

LanEvo
LanEvo HalfDork
5/25/18 2:18 a.m.

Tremblant and Mosport have long been favorites of mine.

Watkins Glen, VIR, and Sebring are also way up there for me.

The updated PIRC (formerly Beaver Run) and Calabogie were fun venues to race. They’re long with some technical sections. Lots of passing zones. 

kazoospec
kazoospec SuperDork
5/25/18 6:21 a.m.

Got a late start, so my "collection" is pretty small.  Gingerman, Grattan and MIS (track laps only, but I'm counting it) 

Of that small sample, Grattan is my favorite.  Elevation changes, "the jump", off camber and blind corners, a huge back straight, followed immediately by what feels like an impossibly tight turn (but isn't).  Finding speed there really feels like an accomplishment.  Cons: Facility could use an update, not a lot of overrun/safety margin on some of the tricky bits.  Can't even imagine trying to pass here.  

Gingerman: Would probably be my favorite . . . if I wasn't driving a Miata.  Great facility, great people, great track.  It just feels sort of "Driving Miss Daisy" without power.  I'd love to go back some day in something with 4 more cylinders.

MIS - if you've never had a chance to toss a car into the high banks and feel it stick, you need to.   

 

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
5/25/18 7:00 a.m.

I really miss Bridgehampton. 

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
5/25/18 7:42 a.m.

Texas World Speedway (RIP) 
MSR Cresson (all three configurations)
MSR Houston
Eagles Canyon Raceway
Mid America Motorplex
High Plains Raceway
Pueblo Motorsports Park (sort of)
Hallett
NCM
Summit Point
Road America
Autobahn (North) 
Memphis Motorsports Park
Road Atlanta
Sebring
Carolina Motorsports Park
Gingerman (just fun laps)
Gateway (one lap, then wall) 
NOLA

The more I drive particular tracks the more I tend to like them. It takes a weekend to even start to understand the subtleties and where you can really go fast. High Plains is still one of my favorite. Sebring, Road Atlanta and Summit are in the running as well. My long term goal is to do laps at at least 50 tracks before I hang up my helmet. I have two more new ones that are semi local to do in the next year and then whatever One Lap throws at us for 2019. 
 

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler UberDork
5/25/18 7:44 a.m.

Waterford Hills, Grattan, M1 Concourse, and MIS.

Armitage
Armitage HalfDork
5/25/18 7:48 a.m.

Summit Main

Summit Shenandoah (also my favorite/home track, be there tomorrow!)

Summit Jefferson

VIR all configurations

CMP

New Jersey Lightning

Watkins Glen long

Lime Rock (also a favorite)

Nelson Ledges

PittRace

Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly Miller Motorsports Park)

Lof8
Lof8 Dork
5/25/18 7:50 a.m.

New tracks are very exciting!  I’d love to get to more. 

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
5/25/18 10:16 a.m.

Road Atlanta -- in the dark, in the rain.  After putting in so many laps there, it was like our Civic Chumpcar suddenly gained 50hp.  The only time in a 14hr race that we weren't a rolling chicane. Awesome.

AMP -- This is a great place to do HPDE if you have a lower HP car.  It's very technical, visually interesting, and features a lot of design elements from some of the best tracks in the world.  If you have a high HP car, the back straight sweeper into the tight, downhill, off-camber T1 will test your brakes and your balls.  SCCA TNiA here last year was one of the most relaxed, fun events.  Didn't even change tires or tow.

CMP -- I've done over 1000 laps in Lemons here.  Flat through the kink.  I'm pretty sure belt sanders are less abrasive, than the track surface.  The facility is great in that old-school track way.  It feels remote -- way out in the country.

Roebling Road -- Did my first track day ever here, and from sharing war stories I'm not alone.   Seems like this track was a first for many. Flat and sandy.  Haven't been there in a long time.

Sebring -- this is a 14hr tow for me.  Glad I did it once.  Love bugs, flash floods, pissed off fire ants, and rough as hell.  This is the ultimate endurance course.

 

docwyte
docwyte SuperDork
5/25/18 10:21 a.m.

Nelsons Ledges, back in the late '90's when it was really crappy

Mid Ohio

Mt Tremblant.  Both original and redone

NHIS

Autobahn

Hallett

Miller Motorsports Park (outer loop and full course)

Continental Divide Raceway

Second Creek Raceway

Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway

Pueblo Motorsports Park

Woody Creek Raceway

High Plains Raceway

Hastings

 

Miller Motorsports Park is amazing.  It could host F1, easily, it's that caliber of facility.  Why it never really had any professional series there (Although I did see ALMS there once) boogles me.  Totally mismanaged, as usual.

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
5/25/18 10:39 a.m.

Watkins Glen-first version of present track

 Lime Rock-  More laps than I can coun't.

Pocono- several versions of the infield courses.

Mosport-never really figured how fast I could go.

Waterford Hills-Can't believe they do actual racing there.   Would make a great kart track.

Shenandoah.

 

2GRX7
2GRX7 Reader
5/25/18 11:03 a.m.

Sebring

Daytona 24 hour course

LimeRock 

New Hampshire

Mosport

Waterford Hills

Gingerman

Road America

Mid Ohio

Road Atlanta

Las Vegas (Infield)

Fontana (AAA)

Willow Springs, Horse Thief Mile

Buttonwillow

Sonoma

I don't know why but Hallett's calling my name!

 

 

Ransom
Ransom PowerDork
5/25/18 12:52 p.m.

If we count cars and bikes, I've got:

  • Portland International Raceway (both, and the only one I've raced on, if you can count being a backmarker on an 11hp bike racing)
  • The Ridge (Shelton, WA) (bike only, too busy being overwhelmed by my first bike track day and a sudden tripling of power over my previous bike to have full impressions, but still had neat moments)
  • Oregon Raceway Park (bike only; neat track, hard to get reference points when it's all pavement, sky, or brown grass. The blind kink past start/finish running CCW is alarming)
  • Nürburgring Nordschleife (car only) (my post about the experience)

I've visited Sonoma (when it was Sears Point) and Laguna Seca, but only as a spectator in both cases.

Wizard_Of_Maz
Wizard_Of_Maz New Reader
5/25/18 2:36 p.m.

I'm just getting into track driving (and ideally racing soon) but so far I've been out at:

NJMP Thunderbolt

Watkins Glen (probably my favorite track in the US)

Lime Rock.

All awesome in different ways

Floating Doc
Floating Doc HalfDork
5/25/18 10:53 p.m.

If we count racing horses (and we don't), my personal count is 50 racetracks. 

Got a ride on the road course at Daytona a few weeks ago, so as for Motorsport tracks, I'm up to one. That was a good one to start with, since I work across the street from the grandstand. 

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