2021-12-17 | New Roads Magazine
No matter where you reside in the U.S., there’s almost certainly a historic, challenging, or simply beautiful racetrack nearby. Take a trip to one and make a memory.
A Sunday drive can be good for the soul — a nice way to get out into the world even during times with limited options to do so. But for as much fun as it is, a quick drive is no substitute for a proper weekend getaway. By the same token, enjoying your Corvette or Camaro on a bit of country road or length of open highway (within reason, of course) isn’t the same as taking your Chevrolet performance car to the racetrack.
You might assume track days are more expensive than they actually are, or that any track worth the trip is too far away or so remote as to offer nothing in the way of vacation interests for the rest of the family. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are tracks all over America catering to all skill levels, with configurations to challenge novices and experienced drivers alike.
Fact is, if you’re reading this in the continental U.S., you’re likely within a day’s drive of a great racetrack. Many are located near major cities or areas friendly and of interest to tourists. As a bonus, many feature track days run by a regional or national Chevy-centric club.
A weekend getaway — or indeed, even a longer vacation — to one of America’s great racetracks is a way to unwind, see more of the country, have fun with the family, make new friends, and get more involved in the Chevrolet enthusiast community. That’s not to mention the perks of becoming a more skillful, experienced driver. Let’s scout out some of the best tracks you can visit, spread out across the country.
WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
Nestled on Seneca Lake in upstate New York west of Ithaca, Watkins Glen has hosted road racing since the late 1940s. Renovated in 1971 and renamed in 1983, Watkins Glen International is one of America’s best-known and most revered tracks. Accommodations can be found in town or on the lake, with many booking packages available through the track itself.
The track features tricky technical runs amid a series of fast straights. Starting in the spring, anyone can “Drive The Glen” almost daily for a more-than-reasonable fee, paced by a Watkins Glen pace car. More intense experiences are available through third-party track days.
VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY: GRAND COURSE
Paul Newman once said that “if there’s a heaven on Earth, it’s VIR.” Virginia International Raceway is well situated for families visiting nearby; it’s located about an hour’s drive from Virginia’s scenic Smith Mountain Lake; Greensboro, North Carolina; or the Durham-based Triangle area. With an on-site hotel, villas, and rooms literally on pit lane, VIR is a vacation destination unto itself.
Bring your Chevy onto the track with a VIR Club membership or keep an eye out for one of the Corvette Club of America’s High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) events there. Other clubs have VIR track day packages available as well.
MICHELIN RACEWAY ROAD ATLANTA
About an hour from its namesake city, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is close enough for city visitors, but also an attractive destination for families with a nearby four-star resort, camping locations all around the course, and free entry for kids 12 and under. With 12 turns spread out over 2.54 miles, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is an especially quick racetrack, popular with motorcycle and car racers alike. Though the facility doesn’t run track days of its own, you can go through companies like Chin Track Days or Just Track It, or go full instructional with the renowned Skip Barber Racing School.
Road America is situated almost exactly halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. The track’s configuration remains virtually unchanged from its opening in 1955, though visitors today can find lodging in Road America’s cabins, chalet, and campsites. All street-legal cars are welcome at Road America’s track days, and you can get on track through a number of driving schools, autocross events, and hot laps in the official Road America 2020 Corvette Pace Cars.
During IndyCar’s weekend at Road America, the Kettle Moraine Corvette Club hosts the “Corvette Corral,” a Corvette-only parking lot and gathering area.
BUTTONWILLOW RACEWAY PARK: RACEWAY #1
Buttonwillow Raceway Park, about 150 miles north of LA, is somewhat remote but still only a couple hours from the Paso Robles wine region and top-notch surfing at San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.
Buttonwillow is unique in that it’s really three tracks in one that can be configured into over 40 different courses (we’re looking at the “Race #1” setup here). Fair warning: The track doesn’t use official turn numbering either, leading to some discrepancies map to map. Some turns can be banked up to 10 percent, while others have negative camber, and quick elevation changes can develop a full skillset. Get on track with companies like Speed Ventures, or bring your car to Buttonwillow’s Performance Driving Clinic.
STORY: JAMES TATE / ILLUSTRATIONS: SCOTT HOFFORD / PHOTOGRAPHY: JENNY RISHER / TOP PHOTO: COURTESY ROADWAY AMERICA