As we head into August, many of us are locking in plans to travel to the NASA National Championships presented by Toyo Tires at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. 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 all major hubs and are served by all 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 shower facilities available. Be warned, though, that the showers are all in one open room, so if you are the modest type you might cringe a bit and get to know all sorts of fun things about your pals. If you want to camp out in style, Cruise America has depots near the Cleveland and Columbus airports, and there are two local outfits called Wilson’s RV and Alum River RV that can deliver all sorts of rigs to the track for you.
As for chain hotels, the closest two are a Quality Inn and a Comfort Inn right at the OH-97/I-71 junction. There are also multiple spots up and down I-71 that are all within a 20- to 30-minute drive to the track.
A final option is to try one of the many bed and breakfast-style inns that are scattered around the countryside near the track. There are also local homes for rent 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 for you. The track also has Domino’s Pizza stands and a roving guy in a golf cart selling pizza in the paddock most evenings during the Championships week.
Away from the track, my favorites are Buck’s in Lexington, the Brown Derby Roadhouse in Ontario, the Los Arrieros Mexican restaurant in Lexington and KC’s Steak and Ribs in Bellville near the OH-97/I-71 junction. Buck’s offers standard sports bar-type menu and also has a go kart track and other amusements attached to it. Los Arrieros 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, with a nice variety of steaks and also an incredible selection of pies. The Brown Derby is also a great choice, with premium steaks and all kinds of good stuff to eat.
Mid-Ohio is simply an awesome track to drive. It has a rhythm to it that is wonderful once you get it down, and the high-speed back straight, the rolling hills, and concrete canyons challenge you every lap. Check out this qualifying race footage from the Honda Challenge presented by HPD 2011 Championship Race and you’ll see what I mean.
As for services at the track, for the Nationals and most regional events, there will be an on-site dyno and also tire services. There is no on-site fab shop, but the NASA Great Lakes Region maintains a guide to local services, auto parts stores, and shops at http://www.nasamidwest.com/season/MO_parts.jpg. Mid-Ohio is also 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 www.mansfieldtourism.com. It also will have a hospitality booth operating during the Championships event.
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
Los Arrieros Mexican Restaurant
275 E. Main St.
Lexington, OH 44904
Buck’s Bar and Grill
192 E. Main St.
Lexington, OH 44904
Brown Derby Roadhouse
3895 Park Ave. West
Ontario, OH 44903
KC’s Steak and Rib House
844 State Route 97 W.
Bellville, OH 44813