Race Place: Miller Motorsports Park
High Class in the High Desert
This facility, designed by Alan Wilson, is spread out over 500 acres in Tooele, Utah, about a half hour drive from Salt Lake City. It hosts major series, such as the HANNspree Superbike World Championship, GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series.
Miller Motorsports Park has four different configurations, ranging from two 2.2 mile, East and West Circuits, the 3.08 mile Perimeter Course, to the 24-turn 4.5 mile Full Course. The main straight is 3500 feet in length, allowing speeds of up to 200 MPH before braking for Sunset Bend. The track is rimmed by six different spectator areas.
The track is located in a high valley of just over 5000 feet, surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. The modern facility has excellent amenities for patrons and participants alike and is staffed by friendly folks who greet all with respect and take the time to ask if you need anything, such as an event schedule.
Miller Motorsports Park is easily accessible from Rout 80 west, to exit 99 towards Stansbury/Tooele, follow Route 36 and go right on Route 138 for 5 miles, left on Sheep Lane and the track is just over 2 miles away on the right.
Max Biaggi slices through the Attitudes en route to a double victory
We had great accommodations in Salt Lake City at the Chase Suite Hotel on 765 East 400 South; for reservations, call; 801-532-5511. It is located near many great restaurants and the units also have full kitchens and a Whole Foods Grocery Store is right next door. Free Internet access and a friendly staff have us looking forward to another stay during our next trip to Miller Motorsports Park.
Race Place: Sebring International Raceway
Enter Racing History
Sports Car Road Racing existed in America before Sebring, but on New Year’s Eve of 1950 a tradition of racing was established on an airfield in Florida, that is still alive today. The Twelve Hours of Sebring is an annual ritual that should be on ever race fan’s to do list. Equal parts party and equal parts race meet, many of the revelers never even make it trackside. In fact, during the energy crisis in 1974 the race was cancelled, but several hundred fans showed up to party anyway!
Sebring International Raceway is the oldest permanent road course in the US. In addition to its history of Sports Car Racing, it is also the site of the first US Grand Prix and first race of the Trans AM Series.
There are no other cultural attractions to speak of in Central Florida, the track is located in the midst of the citrus growing territory and the surrounding landscape is agricultural and industrial. There isn’t a great amount of lodging in the area either. The best way to experience Sebring is to spend the weekend camping at the track, reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones.
The true partiers camp in the Green Park area and there is somewhat of a reputation for rowdy behavior. There is also a family camping area, but truth be told, everyone is out to enjoy themselves and there is nothing to worry about wherever you go at Sebring. After one gargantuan conflagration, campfires are no longer allowed onsite; so leave the firewood in the woods. My favorite method of enjoying the experience is to see both sides of the coin.
The Tiki Hut
I get my work out of the way in advance of the race; driver interviews, press conferences and photo shots during practice and qualifying, before race day. Then I can go to the Tiki Hut, meet up with friends and enjoy some food and drink. Fortified, then I take a track walk and enjoy watching the different driving styles and speeds of different classes and how they approach getting through the various sections.
If you go to Sebring, remember, this is an endurance event. If you start out pounding beers at 10 in the morning, you may be one of the refugees that don’t make it to the finish. The old adage applies; to finish first, first you must finish. My rule is, no Tequila until after sunset! Water and sunscreen during the day are well advised. Racing history has been made on this site and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, presented by Fresh From Florida continues to attract the World’s top drivers and machinery each March. You should be there too!
For a detailed history of the first five decades of racing at Sebring International Raceway, a must read is Sebring by Ken Breslauer; David Bull Publishing. Racing buffs will enjoy pouring over the great races and the people who made Sebring history.
Race Car after 11 Hours & 2 Much Tequila!
Race Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Signs Point to Indy
The Brickyard, The Racing Capital of the World; call it what you may, racing has been in the Hoosier bloodlines for over a century. The entire greater Indianapolis area embraces, contributes to and indeed, is the racing community. Open Wheel, Sports Car and Motorcycle race teams are based in Indy and nearby Brownsburg. Shops dedicated to fabrication, research and design also makeup a segment of the motoring related businesses that are a key component of the area’s economy. Chevrolet and GM Allison Transmission plants are also within earshot of the Speedway.
All these factors create a mood felt by visiting race enthusiasts and residents alike that makes for a unique climate to say the least. When you take almost a half million people and funnel them into the two mile speedway each May, the passion of the communal gathering is part New Year’s Eve in Time Square, part Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Our most recent trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was for the 2008 Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. The inaugural Moto GP was the first time in 99 years that bikes have raced at The Brickyard. Although the remnants of Hurricane Ike shortened the Moto GP and 125cc races and cancelled the 250GP, the day was historic and eye opening to those not familiar with racing in the rain.
Besides the event itself, history was made when race winner Valentino Rossi scored his 69 th World Championship victory, passing the legendary Giacomo Agostini for most career wins. It rained during Friday practice, Saturday qualifying was sunny and hot and race day was gusty and wet. Fans got to witness how teams and riders either excelled or suffered in the extreme conditions. Rossi’s victory was not only historical for the number of wins achieved that day, but will be remembered for years to come for his determined talent.
World Champion Casey Stoner shot out front to lead in the beginning of the race aboard the Marlboro Ducati. He was then caught and passed by Andrea Dovizioso, who fell back into the clutches of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi. Rossi stalked Hayden and made the pass for the lead on the back stretch and pulled away. The Red Flag just simply moved up the timetable on a certain victory. The call to end the race was, for all involved, the right decision considering the conditions.
No trip to Indy would be complete without a race weekend visit to Indiana’s oldest bar; The Slippery Noodle. You’ll hear great Blues music have fun people watching and enjoy good food at the Noodle. They even have the original Bluesmobile from the Blues Brothers movie and half priced drinks on Thursday nights! We’re lucky to have great friends in the area that provided hospitality that no VIP package could match. No Police escort to the Speedway is necessary when you can walk to the races from a friend’s house in Speedway, IN! Thanks to Wendy and Chris Kerr from Vance and Hines Motorsports and the Lucas Oil Stadium, Mike McKee and Chickie Doodle from the Noodle. A visit to Indy is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should be repeated as often as possible.
IMS Event Poster of Nicky Hayden, "The Kentucky Kid"
Race Place: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Fifty years of racing at Laguna Seca will be celebrated in 2007. The track’s configuration has changed more than once in those five decades. Most notably for the US Grand Prix Motorcycle Race in 1988 and for the return of the World Championships with the Moto GP bikes in 2005. US riders won both of those races; Eddie Lawson on his two-stroke Yamaha in 1988 and Nicky Hayden on a Honda at the Red Bull US Grand Prix. Both American’s are now among the sport’s World Champions.
The track is located just inland from the scenic Monterey Peninsula and presents travelers with excellent tourist destinations, in addition to the always exciting on track action. The website for Laguna Seca has contact information for area lodging and restaurants. We have had great luck using Monterey Peninsula Reservations.
The track is operated by the non profit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula. The organization uses volunteers from over 70 charities and civic organizations to staff the events and those agencies in turn benefit from proceeds. This is a great format of operation, which ensures the future financial health of the racing facility and gives back to the local community as well.
Lone hawk watches the race
The latest innovative fundraising campaign is The Steps to The Corkscrew Program, where corporate and individual contributors are recognized with an inscribed paving stone in view of the historic corner. It is this particular turn which has made Laguna Seca among the world’s most fabled road racing circuits. The Laguna Seca Raceway Fund is an initiative that underwrites ongoing track improvements to the circuit.
Besides witnessing those two historic motorcycle races above, we were lucky enough to be in attendance for some of the Champion Spark Plug 200 bike races in early 80s, which featured Champions like Kenny Roberts, Randy Mamola, Wayne Rainey and Mike Baldwin. The FIA GT race of 1998, with Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta in the beautiful Mercedes CLK was also a memorable highlight.
The track now features five major events in its season. To say that the beautiful setting is anything less than Holy Ground for American Motorsports would indeed be sacrilegious. In fact, The Pope himself made Laguna Seca a destination during a World Tour of appearances. No, we are not referring to Mario Andretti!
Infineon Timing Tower
Race Place: Infineon Raceway
Known formerly as Sears Point, this Northern California facility has undergone a major renovation. The track is located in Sonoma California at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121. With over 50 million dollars invested, the track is one of North America's premier road racing facilities. The complex includes a quarter mile drag strip and the year round racing facility hosts events sanctioned by a wide variety of racing bodies including, NASCAR, NHRA, AMA, ALMS and the SCCA. The 2.52-mile road racing course was constructed on 720 acres in 1968. Ground was broken in August and paving of the race surface was completed in November. The first official event was an SCCA Enduro, held on December 1, 1968.
In 1996 Skip Berg sold the track to O. Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. In the summer of 2002, Sears Point Raceway became Infineon Raceway. The facility, a property of SMI, which also owns and operates Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, sold naming rights to German based Infineon Technologies. Infineon Technologies AG, Munich, Germany, offers semiconductor and system solutions for applications in the wired and wireless communications markets. Until April 1st, 1999 Infineon Technologies was known as Siemens Semiconductors. The company, which sponsors the Audi ALMS entry, will also be presenting sponsor of the annual ALMS round at the Northern California facility. The event will be known as the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma.
With growth comes the inevitable growing pains and it is how the facility has reacted to those situations that proves that management is dedicated to maximizing safety and enjoyment for competitors and fans alike. During last summer's Winston Cup event, race day traffic backed up some twelve miles. Those that didn't want to wait in the delay were offered their money back and track president Steve Page was contrite in his apology and promise to rectify the situation. In a proactive plan a consulting firm, that has worked on a variety of traffic management projects for public facilities, has been hired to help develop a new strategy for race-day traffic circulation. A new strategy will be in place for 2003, which will offer genuine relief to race-day congestion.
Also, several top AMA riders were brought to the facility to ask their input on improving rider safety for the annual motorcycle race. Many top AMA riders, along with Ron Barrick, the Road Racing Manager for the AMA, got together at Infineon Raceway, at the request of track President and General Manager Steve Page. Barrick and the riders spent the day with Page, as well as track architect Bob Davis and Jere Starks, vice president of facilities, looking at Turns 1 and 9 on the 12-turn, 2.32-mile road course. The riders offered various options that will both increase rider safety, as well as maintain fan excitement when the series visits the Sonoma Valley in 2003 for the Supercuts Superbike Challenge, presented by Honda of Milpitas (May 2-4). Track officials will incorporate the riders' input when designing alternative track configurations for those two corners. A commitment such as this can only be a harbinger of success because fans and race participants alike feel welcome at Infineon Raceway.
Copyright 2001-2011 Greg Sarni, USA