2021-12-17 | New Roads Magazine

Mapping Speed

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.

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TURNS 6 TO 8
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TURN 9
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TURN 10
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TURN 1
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TURNS 2 TO 4
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TURNS 6 TO 8

The Boot, comprised of turns 6, 7, and 8, was added in 1971 and is Watkins Glen’s most famous feature.

TURNS 6 TO 8

The Boot, comprised of turns 6, 7, and 8, was added in 1971 and is Watkins Glen’s most famous feature.

TURN 9

Take care with the blind approach to turn 9 and learn the line before trying to break any track records.

TURN 9

Take care with the blind approach to turn 9 and learn the line before trying to break any track records.

TURN 10

Brake before turn-in at turn 10, find the apex, and take advantage of the elevation change to maximize acceleration into 11 and back around to 1.

TURN 10

Brake before turn-in at turn 10, find the apex, and take advantage of the elevation change to maximize acceleration into 11 and back around to 1.

TURN 1

Brake early heading into turn 1 as it heads downhill; “slow in, fast out” sets you up for the quickest part of the track.

TURN 1

Brake early heading into turn 1 as it heads downhill; “slow in, fast out” sets you up for the quickest part of the track.

TURNS 2 TO 4

Turns 2 to 4 include The Esses; better to lift than brake through here before exiting to the back straight.

TURNS 2 TO 4

Turns 2 to 4 include The Esses; better to lift than brake through here before exiting to the back straight.

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.

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TURNS 22 TO 23
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TURN 1
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TURN 5
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TURNS 7 TO 9
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TURN 12
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TURNS 22 TO 23

You can brake earlier or later as you transition through turns 22 to 23 before heading back onto the front straight. Experiment and find the technique that’s most comfortable for you.

TURNS 22 TO 23

You can brake earlier or later as you transition through turns 22 to 23 before heading back onto the front straight. Experiment and find the technique that’s most comfortable for you.

TURN 1

Horse Shoe comes at the end of the front straight and sees a lot of passing; mind the mirrors if others are on the track.

TURN 1

Horse Shoe comes at the end of the front straight and sees a lot of passing; mind the mirrors if others are on the track.

TURN 5

Keep the wheel steady through turn 5, and come out into the lower esses known as the Snake.

TURN 5

Keep the wheel steady through turn 5, and come out into the lower esses known as the Snake.

TURNS 7 TO 9

The Climbing Esses through turns 7 to 9 is the section requiring the most adaptation to VIR’s many elevation changes.

TURNS 7 TO 9

The Climbing Esses through turns 7 to 9 is the section requiring the most adaptation to VIR’s many elevation changes.

TURN 12

The iconic turn 12, Oak Tree, is a tricky right turn heading into the back straight.

TURN 12

The iconic turn 12, Oak Tree, is a tricky right turn heading into the back straight.

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.

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TURN 1
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TURNS 2 to 4
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TURN 6
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TURN 10
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TURN 11
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TURN 1

The internet is littered with videos of drivers overestimating how fast they can take turn 1. Don’t become the subject of one of them.

TURN 1

The internet is littered with videos of drivers overestimating how fast they can take turn 1. Don’t become the subject of one of them.

TURNS 2 to 4

Turns 2 to 4 can be taken nearly full throttle with judicious use of the track and curbing. Use some braking through 3 to make sure the line into/through turn 4 is straight.

TURNS 2 to 4

Turns 2 to 4 can be taken nearly full throttle with judicious use of the track and curbing. Use some braking through 3 to make sure the line into/through turn 4 is straight.

TURN 6

Cut out to the edge of the track exiting turn 6, then brake hard and late entering the over-90-degree turn 7. Get back out to the edge out of 7 to make the most of the long straight that follows.

TURN 6

Cut out to the edge of the track exiting turn 6, then brake hard and late entering the over-90-degree turn 7. Get back out to the edge out of 7 to make the most of the long straight that follows.

TURN 10

The chicane at turn 10, at the end of the long back straight, is the most dramatic braking point on the track, and where a lot of passing action occurs.

TURN 10

The chicane at turn 10, at the end of the long back straight, is the most dramatic braking point on the track, and where a lot of passing action occurs.

TURN 11

Set up your line through turn 11 as you pass under the bridge, and you should be able to stay on the gas through 12 and back around to turn 1.

TURN 11

Set up your line through turn 11 as you pass under the bridge, and you should be able to stay on the gas through 12 and back around to turn 1.

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.

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TURN 11
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TURN 13
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TURN 1
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TURN 5
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TURNS 6 TO 7
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TURN 11

The trickiest bit of Road America is the dogleg turn 11 known as The Kink, between the fast exit from turn 10 and the high-speed straight approaching the hard right at turn 12 known as Canada Corner.

TURN 11

The trickiest bit of Road America is the dogleg turn 11 known as The Kink, between the fast exit from turn 10 and the high-speed straight approaching the hard right at turn 12 known as Canada Corner.

TURN 13

Take care entering turn 13; slow down, find the line out, and gradually accelerate through the exit.

TURN 13

Take care entering turn 13; slow down, find the line out, and gradually accelerate through the exit.

TURN 1

Road America starts heading uphill, cresting just before the entry to turn 1; swing right and clip a late apex to come out the other side at speed.

TURN 1

Road America starts heading uphill, cresting just before the entry to turn 1; swing right and clip a late apex to come out the other side at speed.

TURN 5

Be mindful of braking heading into the 90-degree left-hander at turn 5.

TURN 5

Be mindful of braking heading into the 90-degree left-hander at turn 5.

TURNS 6 TO 7

Passing under Corvette Bridge on approach makes the left-right turn 6 to 7 combination tricky; get comfortable with entry before trying to push it.

TURNS 6 TO 7

Passing under Corvette Bridge on approach makes the left-right turn 6 to 7 combination tricky; get comfortable with entry before trying to push it.

ROAD AMERICA

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.

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TURN 1
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TURN 2
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TURN 6
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TURN 11
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TURN 17
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TURN 1

Located in between straights, the first turn can be taken at speed, but take a couple laps to build confidence before doing so.

TURN 1

Located in between straights, the first turn can be taken at speed, but take a couple laps to build confidence before doing so.

TURN 2

Coming into turn 2, Off Ramp, find the first apex quickly. Slow into the apex of the hairpin and get the power down heading into the following straight.

TURN 2

Coming into turn 2, Off Ramp, find the first apex quickly. Slow into the apex of the hairpin and get the power down heading into the following straight.

TURN 6

Turn 6, Grapevine, can be taken at speed with a smooth line and throttle maintenance with an eye toward the Club Corner, turn 7.

TURN 6

Turn 6, Grapevine, can be taken at speed with a smooth line and throttle maintenance with an eye toward the Club Corner, turn 7.

TURN 11

This is a fast, long curve leading into a straight. Turn in and brake late heading in to find the apex and avoid lifting or steering adjustment through the turn.

TURN 11

This is a fast, long curve leading into a straight. Turn in and brake late heading in to find the apex and avoid lifting or steering adjustment through the turn.

TURN 17

Mind the apexes and maybe get the tires a bit dusty through the Esses and they can be taken confidently.

TURN 17

Mind the apexes and maybe get the tires a bit dusty through the Esses and they can be taken confidently.

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

*The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.

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