Bob Tremain and his wife had a summer retirement adventure of buying a motorcoach, trailering a racecar and driving the country’s top road courses. But as Tremain learned life doesn’t always work out as planned.
“Our whole life was like a Cinderella story, everything was super,” Tremain said. “And then unexpectedly one morning, she just didn’t wake up. No warning, no nothing. It was pretty devastating.”
Bob and Dianne had been married for 47 years before her unexpected passing in 2018. While grieving at his home on Kona, Hawaii, his grown children encouraged him to take the trip he had never got to take with his high school sweetheart.
“The kids just watched me for a while and they go, ‘Dad, go do it, figure it out,’” said the 66-year-old Tremain.
Tremain plotted the trip sans the motorcoach to visit the top racetracks in the mainland United States and lower Canada. He would drive to the tracks in the same Ford Shelby GT350 he would run during an HPDE event. The key was fitting everything into the car he would need during his nearly eight-month journey on the road.
One of Tremain’s first calls was to Will Faules, NASA Texas Regional Director, to help with trip planning. Faules instantly liked the personable Tremain and the purpose behind the adventure.
“When he told me what he was up to, it was a no-brainer. I had to help this guy,” Faules said. “I found out what tracks he wanted to go to, sent him schedules and got him connected with every NASA regional director I could.”
Tremain started by putting a large U.S. map and a calendar on the office wall after schedules were released in January and February. He had a list of road courses he wanted to drive starting in California and slowly moving east with lots of golfing between race weekends.
“I had to figure out where it all worked out so I could keep traveling and progressing,” Tremain said.
Living in Hawaii, Tremain needed a car on the mainland and knew he wanted to drive a Ford Shelby GT350. A new GT350 wasn’t in the budget so he purchased a 2017 GT350 Mustang in Texas that was still under warranty. The warranty came in handy during his 32-state journey with Ford dealerships handling routine service and repairs.
Since Tremain wasn’t trailering, everything he needed had to fit into the two-door car. The spare tire well was filled with tools, extra parts and a jack, while three duffle bags had his personal clothing for the trip. Race gear fit around the golf clubs and a cooler with food and drinks was a must-have for Tremain. He even traveled with a printer for event forms.
Tremain rented a garage at each of the 20 tracks he drove and unloaded the car for the weekend. “I got a garage because I had so much stuff,” he said. “You’ve got to get everything out of your car.”
Since Tremain was driving the Mustang to each track, he knew that a bad crash on the track would have ended his trip. (He did budget $25,000 for bodywork.) It’s one of the reasons he participated in NASA’s HPDE program for more track time and reduce the chances of damaging the car.
“The flexibility of being HPDE allowed me to move around from venue to venue and not be locked into (one race) schedule,” said Tremain, who raced in nine NASA regions during his journey from March-October 2019. “The other thing, too, is that you’re not putting a car quite in harm’s way that would be during an actual race.”
By driving HPDE with NASA, Tremain didn’t have to install a cage in the car. His safety equipment included a four-point racing harness, HANS device and a full racing suit including a helmet and gloves. The only modifications to the exterior were front and rear tow hooks.
Scott Adams, a driving instructor in the NASA Texas Region, said Tremain was smart to focus on HPDE. Adams worked with Tremain when he drove the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
“You have that kind of competition feel regardless of whether you’re in a racecar racing or in a Time Trial car, trying to put down the fastest lap, you’re still trying to catch the dude in front of you in HPDE,” Adams said. “You’re competing regardless of whether you’re getting a trophy or a lap time.”
At Your Service
Tremain put more than 25,000 miles on the Ford Shelby GT350 during his road course tour and keeping it running required logistic gymnastics. Tremain scheduled service work at local Ford dealerships to coincide with his track days. He would typically run two events and change the oil.
Over the course of the tour, Tremain had the oil and filter changed 11 times, replaced the front brake pads five times and the rear brake pads twice. Additionally, Tremain changed the transmission fluid three times and the brake system flushed four times.
Tremain did get stuck in Pittsburgh for 10 days while Ford replaced the 6-speed Tremec transmission but overall the car performed well. He praised the dealerships that replaced other parts included a header assembly, cam-sensor wires and an exhaust pipe section.
“I would tell them I was using the car down on the track,” Tremain said. “Nobody ever fought me on (warranty work) but it’s also a purpose-built amateur track day car.”
For tires, Tremain worked with Discount Tire, ordering tires online (eventually he got a sales representative) and the tires would be waiting at a company store on the way to the track.
“I would just pull in there on an appointment, put the new tires on and drive away. It was that easy,” said Tremain, who went through six sets of tires.
Life on the Road
Spending nearly eight months on the road, Tremain had lots of time to fill between track days. Passionate about golf, Tremain played 52 rounds during his trek around the country.
“It’s my therapy. I really love golf,” Tremain said. “I play by myself quite a bit. It allows me to just relax and enjoy, and really appreciate it.”
While on the road, Tremain generally stayed at Best Western hotels because every third night was free. Tremain did stay with friends when he had the opportunity but most of his nights were logged in hotel rooms.
Eating healthy while traveling had its challenges, especially when it came to the budget. Tremain knew this and it’s why he brought along a cooler for drinks, fruit and to store food. If he picked up a sandwich for lunch, Tremain would save the other half for dinner.
“I mean eating correctly saved me a lot of money. I caught on to that really quick,” said Tremain, who spent $70,000 on the trip. “If you go out to eat, you get a couple of cocktails, there’s another hundred bucks gone.”
Laidback and outgoing, Tremain made friends at the tracks where he raced. Once fellow NASA members heard Tremain’s story, they were on board to help create a memorable experience. In Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the race teams dedicated its victory Tremain’s late wife, Dianne.
As his road course tour was wrapping up, Tremain was hoping to run HPDE at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course but the National Championships don’t include either HPDE or Time Trials. NASA Texas’ Faules set him up to drive the pace car with Donny Edwards from the Ford Performance Racing School.
“It’s kind of like the pelican just flew over and dropped Kona Bob off into the NASA family,” Faules said. “It’s was great to hang out with him. He’s a really awesome guy.”
Adams was impressed with Tremain’s courage to go out on the road on his own, especially for eight months. Tremain did go back to Hawaii twice for family celebrations.
“His story starts off sad, but everything about the story after that one point is super positive and it’s really cool,” Adams said. “I wish I could do it with him, I could jump into Mustang and ride the passenger seat with him to the next track.”
The road course tour helped Tremain through the grieving process.
“It was good for my spirit and I really miss my wife,” Tremain said. “I just thought about her a lot and just gave me a lot of time to myself to realize how lucky I was.”
Over the course of eight months in 2019, Bob Tremain ran some of the top road courses in the country. Here’s the list of the road courses:
Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, Ala.
Buttonwillow Raceway, Buttonwillow, Calif.
Calabogie Motorsports Park, Ontario, Canada
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Ontario, Canada
Chuckwalla Raceway, Chuckwalla, Calif.
Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio
NCM Motorsports Park, Bowling Green, Ky.
NOLA Motorsports Park, Avondale, La.
Pittsburgh International Race Complex, Wampum, Penn.
Pueblo Motorsports Park, Pueblo, Colo.
Road Atlanta, Braselton, Ga.
Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
Utah Motorsports Complex, Erda, Utah
Virginia International Raceway, Danville, Va.
Watkins Glen International Raceway, Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Phoenix, Ariz.
|Hometown:||Kailua Kona, Hawaii|
|Racing Class:||HPDE3 and HPDE4|
|Sponsors:||Railing Systems Hawaii LLC|
|Day Job:||Retired, building a track, golf and fishing|
|Favorite Food:||Ahi sashimi|
|Favorite TV show:||Golf Channel|
|Favorite Movie:||“Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman”|
|Favorite Track:||Watkins Glen, VIR, COTA|
|Dream Racecar:||Corvette C-8 Z06 or Z07 whatever they will call it|