In a return to the place where it all began, the 2019 NASA National Championships presented by Toyo Tires will take place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the track where NASA held its first National Championships in 2006. This installment of the Motorsports Tourist will give you some tips on how to make your stay truly top notch.
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was built in 1962 by Les Griebling and a group of Mansfield, Ohio, area businessmen. In 1981, Red Roof Inn founder and accomplished racer Jim Trueman purchased the track. Trueman made major upgrades to the track until his passing in 1986. Trueman’s daughter Michelle Trueman Gajoch continued her father’s legacy, making constant improvements until the track was sold in 2011 to the Green Savoree group, which is headed by longtime racing impresarios Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. The track has played host to most major automotive and motorcycle racing series in the United States over the years and boasts a large and enthusiastic group of local fans. Mid-Ohio is truly one of the most picturesque and beautiful tracks in the nation, with lush forest surrounding it and an almost state park-like setting.
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is located midway between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio off Interstate 71. The Cleveland and Columbus airports offer connecting flights to major hubs, and are served by all of the major domestic airlines. Rental car access in Columbus is super easy because the lots are connected to the main terminal, but in Cleveland you have to ride a shuttle, so you should allow extra time to pick up and return your car.
Once you get out of the metro areas, I-71 offers a smooth and easy drive with plenty of spots to pull off for gas and chow. The easiest way to reach the track is to exit I-71 at OH-97 and head north toward Lexington. After winding through some beautiful rural scenery, you will turn left on U.S. 42, which leads through Main Street in Lexington. As you go through town you will bear right when the road splits into a “Y” and continue toward Steam Corners Road past the local fire station. Turn left on Steam Corners and enjoy a ride through the country until you reach the track about 2 miles later. You will turn right off Steam Corners to enter the track at the main gate.
You have many options for places to stay near Mid-Ohio. Camping at the track is always a good time and there are very nice recently remodeled shower facilities available. If you want to camp in style, Cruise America has depots near the Cleveland and Columbus airports, and Hatfield RV, the Preferred RV Rental Partner of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, has turnkey RV packages available for every spectator weekend.
As for chain hotels, the closest two are a Quality Inn and a Comfort Inn right at the OH-97/I-71 junction. If those are full, there are multiple spots with hotels up and down I-71 that are all within a 20- to 30-minute drive to the track. You can also try one of the many bed-and-breakfast inns around the countryside near the track, and there are many private homes available through online rentals such as Airbnb that can accommodate large groups.
The track has a good snack bar that offers standard track-side fare like hotdogs, sandwiches and hamburgers as well as a full array of breakfast choices. There are also independent vendors who show up for the National Championships and provide all sorts of tasty choices.
Away from the track, my favorites are Buck’s, the Brown Derby Roadhouse, Los Jarritos, KC’s Steak and Ribs, and the Happy Grape Wine Bar and Bistro. Buck’s offers a standard sports bar-type menu and also has a go kart track and other amusements attached to it. Los Jarritos has great Mexican food, and I give a special nod to the chile verde and margaritas the size of fishbowls, which are quite well made.
KC’s is a favorite NASA hangout near the hotels at the OH-97/I-71 junction, with a nice variety of steaks and also an incredible selection of pies. If you don’t mind driving a bit, the Brown Derby in Ontario is also a great choice, with premium steaks you can select from the cooler along with a huge selection of sides and appetizers. If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, the Happy Grape Wine Bar and Bistro has a diverse wine selection with solid small plates and entrees on offer.
Mid-Ohio is simply an awesome track to drive. It has a rhythm to it that is wonderful and the high-speed back straight, the rolling hills, and concrete canyons challenge you every lap. You have to be a little careful not to get stuck in one of the gravel traps, but once you get the hang of linking up the turns, the track is a thrilling rollercoaster that will keep you very busy behind the wheel.
As for services at the track, for the Nationals there will be an on-site dyno and tire services. There is no on-site fabrication shop, but the NASA Great Lakes Region maintains a guide to local services, auto parts stores, and shops.
Mid-Ohio also is blessed with an awesome local convention bureau that is ready and willing to help find you anything you need. You can find the Mansfield-Richland County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at destinationmansfield.com
Hope to see you soon at the NASA National Championships at Mid-Ohio enjoying the best amateur road racing in the nation!
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
7721 Steam Corners Rd.
Lexington, OH 44904