Five Favorite Motorsport Events for 2012

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Photo by Randy Stern

So, the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI a week-and-a-half ago. That's nice.

Remember sometime last month when I discussed how motorsport had started to become a sport I'd follow rather than the ones I used to love? Sure, there's serious money behind motorsport, but there is also a beauty in watching certain series that does not have the taint of ridiculously inflated salaries, performance enhancing substance use, over the top swagger and other forms of douchebaggery.

You could argue that most of that exists in some forms of motorsport. Formula One and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup are all about ego. Less so in IndyCar, but you can tell there's plenty of ambition to compete where the money is on the level of Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant.

Unfortunately, I have never attended a motorsport event. I wanted to. My mother was not keen on having me attend the Long Beach Grand Prix – even during the days of Formula One. It would have been nice, though, to get the experience of loud engines and fast action.

If I did, where would I want to go? Where would I start? Where should you go? How about a Five Favorites-formatted guide to suggestions and ideas as to motorsport events that would be of my interest…and, perhaps, yours?

TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH, LONG BEACH CONVENTION CENTER AREA (LONG BEACH, CALIF.) – APRIL 15: Since the early 1980s, IndyCar raced on the streets near downtown Long Beach – taking over from Formula One. The track hasn't changed much and the racing is almost the same. Even after the wake of Dan Wheldon’s death in Las Vegas, there is still hope and life in the IZOD IndyCar series. Some of the names have moved on to other series, but you still get the likes of Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Dario Franchitti (and his wife Ashley Judd), Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe…amongst others. If you go, tickets are $54.00-80.00 for Sunday. Weekend passes start at $88.00. You can add a paddock pass for another $25.00-60.00. If you have a camera and want to capture the best shots – that's $265.00, please? There are also more premium experiences available for those who truly want to spend the money. Camping sites are available – the only time it is allowed legally in the city of Long Beach. My strategy is to find a place to stay in the Los Angeles area, drive to a park-n-ride area (preferably in a safe location) and take Metro into the LBC. Why fight traffic and parking in downtown Long Beach on race day?

GRAND AM RACING AT ROAD AMERICA (ELKHART LAKE, WIS.) – JUNE 23: Road America is nestled west of Sheboygan off en route to Fond du Lac. If you fly into Milwaukee, it should be a nice ride up to the track. The track is one of the better ones in the country and always proves to be a challenge for the Prototype and GT cars. As we seen in the 50th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, Prototypes and GT racers provided plenty of great drama on the track. The Rolex Series Grand Am race is set for Saturday as part of a multi-series weekend, including NASCAR’s Nationwide Series and Grand Am's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Tickets for the session are $50.00 in advance, $80.00 at the gate. Weekend passes start at $85.00. There are also additional fees for a campsite on the venue or better parking near the main grandstand. In my case, I'd stay with a friend in Madison the night before and set off early towards Fond du Lac onward to Elkhart Lake – in hopes to beat the traffic into the venue. This is a great race to watch, but it's probably best to get out of town before the NASCAR folks show up for Sunday. If you prefer the American Le Mans series and its prototypes and GT cars, that series will race at Road America the weekend of August 16-18. Tickets start at $55.00.

CHUMPCAR WORLD SERIES, BRAINERD INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY (BRAINERD, MINN.) – JUNE 29-JULY 1: BIR is only two hours away and has two track formats ranging up to 3.1 miles. Mainly, the track attracts NHRA drag races and lower NASCAR classes amongst other events. However, this particular event caught my eye. You may have heard of the LeMons series – you get a $500 car and race it for hours on end. One such series is scheduled for BIR and it should be an experience for any motorsport fan. You get a mix of race entries that may had some experience on tracks such as BIR, along with others that may never seen a lap before. From the write-ups on other sites and publications, it looks like major fun. Even better are the admission prices for that weekend. If you go for one day, it's $10.00. A two-day weekend ticket is $20.00. Not only that, the Brainerd Lakes area is beautiful that time of year. It's worth the drive from Minneapolis.

ROLEX MONTEREY MOTORSPORTS REUNION, MAZDA RACEWAY AT LAGUNA SECA (SALINAS, CALIF.) – AUGUST 17-19: As Jeremy Clarkson found out, the Corkscrew is one of the most challenging bits of motorsport track in the USA. The G-Lateral forces change in an extreme fashion down a curved steep downhill. To describe it would take an advanced mathematician to explain. A journey to the Monterey Peninsula may be worth the exploration as racers from bygone eras will try to manage the Corkscrew along with other challenging bits at Laguna Seca. You get every kind of "vintage racer" trying their luck on this great course. This year, the race will feature the Shelby Cobra, designed by Carroll Shelby himself, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Cobra is also a celebration of the impossible and the excellent. If you go just for the Cobra, then you will miss out on everything else. Tickets start at $50.00 with three-day passes at $130.00. You could do a VIP package well worth the price of admission. You could fly into Monterey and stay locally, but you could also get away with a San Jose flight and stay. I'd be on the watch for traffic jams out of Salinas, Monterey and Seaside on race days. It would be a dream to see the Corkscrew up close and personal – if you dare.

GLENDORA WINE CELLARS U.S. VINTAGE GRAND PRIX, WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY (WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.) – SEPTEMBER 7-9: Watkins Glen is the original road course in America. Original in a sense that the first Formula One Grand Prix in this country was raced there. The history The Glen serves up is staggering. The name Phil Hill still resonates in this upstate New York paean to motorsport. This event is a celebration of the track's history with classic racing machinery stretching back to the 1930s. If you love the Trans Am or Can Am racers from the 1970s like I do, this event will not disappoint. Though it is 250 miles from Manhattan, you are better off flying into Syracuse, Rochester or Binghamton – all within 100 miles of the track. When you get there, be prepared for a flashback to the golden years of America's finest road course – something one may not get from the calculus formula that is Laguna Seca.

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