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My Favorite Tracks - THE TOP 5

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Yesterday we reviewed #16-20 - here are the next 5.

Even a day at a bad track is better than a good day at work.


#5b VIR, Alton VA

TrackPAX: 103.2

https://virnow.com/


I may as well let you know before you read on, that I cheated. There are TWO #5s on this page simply because I could not make a decision between the tracks as to which deserves a top 5 . In the end, VIR qualifies as 5B simply because it gets a 5 rating in only one category - Competitor Atmosphere. I am not sure what it is about the massive grass expanse at VIR, but whethers its a regional, a Major/Super Tour, or the Runoffs, my favorite hanging out with other people paddock is VIR. Then again, it might be because the track is in the middle of nowhere with a solid 20-30 minute drive to the nearest decent hotels, that keeps people on site for some awesome parties. And a "1" for offsite attractions. VIR is where GPFU was started (before you report me for obscenities, GPFU = Grass Paddock Family United), which was what formed the foundation for Grass Paddock Motorsports. So clearly it has some real positive vibes in the paddock togetherness arena.

The rest of the categories are a solid 4 across the board. The track is fun, althought the back straight is a bit long for my tastes considering the small cars I race. The uphill esses are fun, although not really challenging, but the 10-11-12 combination is a fan favorite. Turn 10 takes a lot of self confidence to do just a confidence lift before turning in, T11 is faster than you think and T12 is the iconic Oak Tree sans Oak Tree. Turn 3 is fun and the Hog Pen (16, 17 & 17a) are super technical and somewhat dangerous. The track missed getting a % rating because i seriously dislike Turn 1, Turns 5/5a and 14a, which in my mind are some of the worst turns in racing. But considering the legth of the track, that leaves a lot of positives.

FUN TO DRIVE

4

TECHNICAL DESIGN

4

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

5

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

4

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

1

AURA/MYSTIQUE

4

GRAND TOTAL

22/30 = 73%

#5a Lime Rock, Lakeville CT

TrackPAX: 100.2

https://limerock.com/


The only track that acts more like a circle track than Charlotte, is Lime Rock. I am not sure what insired the person who designed the track, but it is a flat out circle track with a singular left turn. The elevation change is quite awesome and brings character to what would otherwise be a fairly boring layout. That makes it fun to drive, but not really very technical (remember my opinions are limited to the low horsepower cars I tend to drive), and it also makes it pretty hard to pass at. But don't worry, my one race at Lime Rock was marred by constant contact, and not a single session from practice through the races made it to the end. So staying on track and out of trouble appears to be the way to advance through the field.


As far as iconic tracks with aura and mystique, Lime Rock finishes third on my list. You just feel like you are racing in the 60s. Blackhawk is similar in this respect without the mytique that surrounds the more famous road courses. While the onsite facilities are ok, with limited paddock space I understand why it doesn't host bigger events. The competitor atmosphere was well above above average, so that part is really cool. My one event was my first real paddock crawl so I look forward to going back just for that again.


The surrounding area is old school New England quaint and quite beautiful, so while there isn't a ton to do, just being at the track is awesome as the views are stunning.

FUN TO DRIVE

4

TECHNICAL DESIGN

3

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

5

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

3

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

2

AURA/MYSTIQUE

5

GRAND TOTAL

22/30 = 73%

#4 Laguna Seca, Salinas CA

TrackPAX: 98.2

https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/government/government-links/weathertech-raceway

There probably isn't a more iconic combination of turns in US racing than The Corkscrew. And trust me, the first time though lives up to every piece of hype you have heard from anyone who has driving it. My first time at the track I was lucky enough to win and get a victory lap and took my then 19 year old son on the circuit. He was NOT prepared. I have in car video of him screaming like a little girl that will certainly show up again at his wedding. A few sessions in, however, the turns were old hat and while blind, not that difficult to get right. For me the toughest turn at Laguna is Turn 9, Rainey Curve.


You see the downhill stretch really helps build speed after the corkscrew such that you approach T9 much faster than you can imagine. And with it comes what makes racing at Laguna so difficult, the sand. IT. IS. EVERYWHERE. The light breeze means it is constantly being redeposited on the track, which makes it much slicker than you can imagine. More than once I went thru T9 at speed only to find there wwas 20% less grip than the last lap. My life flashed before my eyes twice that weekend.

The rest of the track is fairly straightforward and easy. Only Turn 6 leading into the Rahal Straight requires real precision - you do NOT want to lose momentum continuing up the hill so nailing the turn perfectly is critical. The Paddock is really sub par for a track of this caliber and facilities are somewhat lacking. But you cannot miss the aura and mystique of being here. And then there is the area around the track. If you want to spend a fun time with your significant other and your offspring - this is a killer place to do it. Moneterrey has everything from Steinbeck to Seafood (and the whole in the wall BBQ place I eat at in Salinas is top notch).

FUN TO DRIVE

3

TECHNICAL DESIGN

4

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

3

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

2

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

5

AURA/MYSTIQUE

5

GRAND TOTAL

22/30 = 73%


#3 Sebring, Sebring FL

TrackPAX: 102.9

https://www.roadatlanta.com/


Our seats have just been upgraded to the orchestra pit as the next 3 tracks are a veritable who's-who of racing circuits - with two iconic tracks and a new interpretation in the mix. Sebring is da schnizzle, fo' sure. Lets start with the two lowest rated categories, which are still solidly average. First, the competitor atmosphere is good but not great. Not sure exactly why but the party atmosphere you would expect appears to move off premise as soon as the last flag has waved for the day. The off-track options don't seem to justify that as aside from one small but really, really good restaurant, and a popular restaurant, it is a sea ofast food and chain establishments. However, if you are the kind of person who enjoys a air bnb on a small lake, or straying in a hotel on site at the track, perhaps you would rate things higher than I have.

Moving on from the average, the track is fun to drive and even more fun to race as there are numerous passing places around the circuit. Turn 1 is really fast if you can be comfortable brushing the inside wall, and Turn 17 is bumpy and scary if you enter a car width too wide. For me every turn on the track is interesting and fun, which makes for a happy driver. And then you remember there used to be Ferrari 512s and Porsche 917s here and you stop in awe. Close your eyes and you can almost hear them!

The Paddock is a nice combination of heavy grass, concrete and some less grassy areas. There are plenty of "facilities". Best of all is the upstairs viewing deck on both ends of the pit area which allow you a pretty good track view. Other parts of the track also offer great viewing just a short drive away in your truck. Given a choice of racing anywhere in the country (that I have been), Sebring is my #3 pick.

FUN TO DRIVE

4

TECHNICAL DESIGN

5

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

3

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

4

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

3

AURA/MYSTIQUE

5

GRAND TOTAL

24/30 = 80%

#2 Barber, Leeds AL

TrackPAX: Not Rated

https://barberracingevents.com/


The interloper in the list of top 3 rated tracks is less than 20 years old. For that reason alone it is not number 1. You cannot really have or develop an aura or mystique in 20 short years of racing, especially when you only have one SCCA race a year. Taking that measurement out of the equation, this would have easily been my favorite and top rated track.

On the other end of the rating spectrum, the design of Barber's Paddock is as close to perfect as I can imagine and the ONLY 5 on my list. The paddock area is tiered and flush with greenery and FLOWERS! It was like working on the race car in a park. The tiered design also meant there was plenty of room and ample access to facilities, as each tier got their own. And surprise, surprise, there was more than enough electrical hookups that pretty much anyone who wants it can have it.


Offsite is nice with sufficient hotels within 5 minutes to manage the particpants (and they are right next to a Buc'ee's). There isn't much to do unless you drive in to Birmingham, but there is no need to as the track itself is a destination with art sculptures and installations all over the property./ And then there is the on site museum. Seriously, there is no reason to go anywhere else.

And we haven't even started talking about the race track itself yet. Top 3 fun to drive and top 5 technical - I could write a whole article on how much fun the different sections of the track are. Because that is really the result - its like 3 different tracks in one, and they all flow PERFECTLY together. I cannot wait to go back and even though it is almost 800 miles from my home base - if they raced there 3 times a year I would make the trip 3x.

FUN TO DRIVE

5

TECHNICAL DESIGN

4

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

3

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

5

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

4

AURA/MYSTIQUE

3

GRAND TOTAL

24/30 = 80%



#1 Watkins Glen, Watkins Glen NY

TrackPAX: 100.7

https://www.theglen.com/


At this point, if you have followed our racing trajectory, you would have figured out our top rated track from it being missing in all the discussions to this point. It really should not be a surprise, because when I tell people this is my favorite track, no one argues the point or says I am wrong. It is my second favorite track to drive only because the lap is maybe slightly too long for the low horsepower cars we drive.

But it has a couple of corners that are top notch starting with the Bus Stop (the Inner Loop). Its almost stupid how giggly I get when I do it just right and carry crazy speed with a right-left-right flick of the wheel. But it doesn't stop there. The Chute is also a top notch corner, as is Turn 11 coming onto the front straight.

There are also so many great places to pass, the track is just plain racey all the way around.

But the real gem of Watkins Glen is the town. Perfectly situated on the lake, with numerous opportunities to hike and see massive waterfalls, it is the one track where I cannot wait for racing to end and I get the chance to leave.

Great restaurants combined with road racing history make it the perfect location to take the doggies for a walk.


And speaking of history - it is also the location of the SCCA Archives housed at the International Motor Racing Reseach Center. Second to the Barber Museum, this is something you HAVE to add to your track visit.

I could go on about how much fun the track is to drive, the town is to visit and the history it brings to justify why it is the top rated track of all that I have visited. But I am just going to leave you with a few pictures.




FUN TO DRIVE

5

TECHNICAL DESIGN

4

COMPETITOR ATMOSPHERE

3

PADDOCK/FACILITIES

3

OFF TRACK ATTRACTIONS

5

AURA/MYSTIQUE

5

GRAND TOTAL

25/30 = 83%

That does it for our ratings and ranking of the track.


If this is your first segment and you want to read top to bottom, here are the next ones

https://www.grasspaddock.com/post/my-favorite-tracks-6-10


To read from the beginning, go here to see my rating criteria

https://www.grasspaddock.com/post/my-favorite-tracks-your-mileage-may-vary


Next up I will summarize my top 5 in each category!




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