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Top 10 Racing Venues
By Larry Edsall
Today’s topic: Ten motorsports events the car enthusiast needs to witness in person:

10. Monterey Historics
Each summer, many of racing’s most historic cars, and quite a few of its famous -- if aging -- drivers, gather on California’s Monterey Peninsula for a weekend of vintage racing, on the track and in the paddock, where tales are told of days of old.

9. Sprint cars at Eldora and the Knoxville Nationals
Sprint cars may appear almost prehistoric, but that’s part of their appeal, that and the fact that to make your way around the left-turn oval, you crank the steering wheel to the right, hang out the tail and put down the power, all the while negotiating your way through traffic. This is the ultimate in local short track Saturday night racing.

8. SCCA Runoffs
Early each autumn, the best local sports car racers from across the country gather for the Runoffs, an automotive Olympics that offers everything from nearly stock sports cars to the most exotic.

7. Baja 1000
Motorized mayhem in Mexico. This is where Ivan “the Ironman” Stewart earned his nickname, and earned it the hard way, driving the entire distance solo. Forget television’s Survivor series. This is real reality -- without the TV script.

6. Bonneville Speed Weeks
Land speed record runs may get the attention; Speed Weeks is for speed freaks. Well beyond drag racing’s piddling quarter-mile limitations, the salt strip gives you a mile to build speed, then another mile to see just how fast you can go, and even a mile to slow down and stop.

5. 24 Hours of Le Mans
Racing ‘round the clock, and mostly on regular roads closed to daily traffic only while the racers are in practice or competition, with the rest on a closed circuit that includes some of motorsport’s most historic turns. Ferrari. Porsche. And much more. This race may have heritage that even exceeds Indy’s!

4. Daytona 500
Each year, the Daytona 500 signals the start of the racing season. Baseball has its leisurely spring training, pro football its drag-it-out summer exhibition season and golf its excruciatingly slow build up to the Masters, but stock car racing comes right out of the blocks with its most important single event of the season, and you better be ready when the green flag flies.

3. Indianapolis 500
The Brickyard celebrates its centennial in 2009, though the first 500-mile race wasn’t held until 1911. The place has changed a lot over the years – and many would argue that all the changes have not been for the better – and yet, somehow, Indy continues to produce the most dramatic competition and the most heart-warming – and heart-breaking – stories.

2. Saturday night at Bristol
We’ll get to Daytona in a minute, but NASCAR’s best show happens not on the banks of the Big D but inside the bowl of the Little B, the half-mile track at Bristol, where Rusty Wallace once compared the racing to trying to fly fighter jets around the inside of a high school gymnasium.

1. Pikes Peak Hill Climb
The annual Climb to the Clouds is one of America’s great motorsports events, even though many Americans have no idea it takes place. That’s sad, because Europeans and even the Japanese have a real love for the annual race up the road to the summit of Pikes Peak, where vehicles range from old-style, home-built racers to ultra-modern, high-tech, factory-prepped machines.

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