Off To The Races
January 5, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
It’s amazing that after feeling burned out when the checkered flag fell in Atlanta last November, you can be completely re-energized in anticipation of the new season only a few weeks later.
I know I’m not alone in planning my racing calendar, so as a public service, here are my must see events to help you formalize your travel schedule:
“Speedweeks”, Daytona (Feb. 9-19) – There’s no better way to kick off a new racing season than to surround yourself in the veritable motorsports smorgasbord of Daytona. In addition to all of the activity at the “World Center of Racing,” the surrounding short tracks offer nightly action that includes asphalt racing at New Smyrna Speedway, dirt-track racing at Volusia County Speedway, and this year, the ASA opener at nearby St. Augustine Speedway. Top it all off with the biggest stock-car race in the world and you have a racing vacation that’s the ultimate race fan’s dream.
Indy Racing League, Phoenix Int’l Raceway (March 16-18) – The perfect racing Spring Break is in the Valley of the Sun to watch the IRNLS season opener at the beautiful PIR oval. This year’s event has been revised to include the track’s famous Copper World Classic program, bringing the USAC Silver Bullet and national midget series in to race alongside the Indy Cars. Throw in a couple of Cactus League baseball games and you have a great weekend to escape the winter doldrums.
Winston Cup Series, Talladega Superspeedway (April 20-22) – They call it the “White Knuckle Weekend,” and if it’s anything like last October’s Winston Cup visit, this could be an instant classic. If NASCAR leaves the same aerodynamic package in place, there will be 180,000 people standing on their feet for three hours.
Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (May 28) – Forget about the split in open-wheel racing, nothing in sports compares to the Indy 500. Sure, all the “best” teams won’t be there again this year, but there’s enough competition in the IRL these days to make for a competitive and exciting race. Throw in teams from Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske, and the 2001 Memorial Weekend classic has the potential to be the best in quite sometime. And where else can you be among 350,000 of your closest friends?
Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal (June 9-10) – Forget the boring U.S. Grand Prix held on that non-passable track constructed inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the best F-1 race in North America is held north of the border. The beautiful circuit also provides some of the most competitive events on the Formula One calendar.
Winston Cup Series, Chicagoland Speedway (July 14-15) – Maybe I’m a little prejudice being a born-and-bred Chicagoan, but the thought of NASCAR’s top series coming to my hometown is a dream come true. Joie Chitwood has built a gorgeous state-of-the-art facility that will finally showcase Winston Cup racing to the Windy City.
Target Grand Prix, Chicago Motor Speedway (July 28-29) – In only two years, this race has become one of the most popular CART events of all time. It’s not just a race, it’s a happening, and the entire city of Chicago comes alive in an almost Mardi-gras-like atmosphere. What a sight to see the city skyline behind the main grandstands as the cars take the green flag.
Winston Cup Series, Bristol Motor Speedway (August 24-25) – Bristol. Winston Cup Series. Under the lights. Say no more.
National Short Track Championship, Rockford Speedway (September 21-23) – It’s the grand daddy of short-track end-of-the-season spectaculars, and it’s a virtual non-stop avalanche of every kind of racing imaginable. Topped off by a 400-lap feature for NASCAR’s RE/MAX Challenge Series late models, Northwest Illinois is definitely the place to be this fall.
Winston Cup Series, Lowe’s Motor Speedway (October 6-7) – An October weekend in the heart of NASCAR country. Hopefully the weather will cooperate this year and fall colors will be in bloom. This is also a good weekend to get a jump on Christmas gifts for the race fan on your list since the area has more outlets for NASCAR merchandise than anywhere on the planet.
So get out your Rand McNally maps and count up those frequent flier miles. The new race season is almost here.