The 2022 Pontiac Nationals

The Pontiac Nationals, an annual drag racing event, is held at the Summit Motorsport Park near Norwalk, Ohio. This year marked the 31st anniversary of the event.

After a few years away, I again made the trip to watch the massive gathering of Pontiacs (and a few GMCs) take to the track and take in the sounds of engines and the smell of burnt rubber. Returning to this track felt like seeing an old friend.

THE EVENT

The Pontiac Nationals is a three-day event that features drag racing and more. Some of the fastest Pontiacs in the world come to compete.

A lot is happening at the Nationals aside from the racing. For example, there’s the Car Corral, where cars for sale are displayed, a car show, a vendor’s row, and a swap meet. The classic rock playing over the PA system helped to set the tone. On Friday, there was a wheelie competition (which I unfortunately missed).

The swap meet was expansive and offered everything from new and used car parts to garage art. It’s a great place to find stuff to get that project finished.

There was a lot going on and a lot to see. I found myself caught between trying to see everything and trying not to miss anything.

Advertisements

Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick

Once again, drag racing pioneer and Pontiac racing legend Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick appeared with his Tameless Tiger II GTO drag car. One of his earlier cars was even on display. I always look forward to seeing the iconic racer in person.

This 1963 Catalina was driven by Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick

THE TRACK

Located just east of the small city of Norwalk, Summit Motorsport Park is over 50 years. The quarter-mile track, founded in 1963, hosts various events throughout the year.

CAR SHOW

The car show brought out some awe-inspiring cars. In addition, it was an excellent opportunity to get a close-up look at some iconic Pontic models from the brand’s storied history.

From Firebirds to Bonnevilles, there was a little bit of everything. Several GMCs entered the show as well. In all, there were over 1,000 vehicles in the show.

This 1989 Turbo Trans Am is a rare sight
Advertisements

DRAG RACING

The drag racing featured multiple classes and some seriously fast competitors. I was fortunate enough to witness a 200 mph plus pass. Seeing a run down the track in person at over 200 mph helps you comprehend how mind-bendingly fast that is.

A 1964 GTO on the track
A show-quality GT-37 at the starting line
The Pontiac Nationals saw some extreme cars, like this doorslammer Firebird
It’s not every day you see a rail with a Pontiac motor.
An early Trans Am launches down the track

The cool, overcast day made for some great performance, but there was also a persistent possibility of rain that threatened to put an end to the day’s racing.

Aside from the race cars, it was cool to see relatively stock cars getting in on the action on the drag strip. Bracket racing rules allowed the less modified machines to be competitive.

Newer Pontiacs were represented as well. It was fun to watch the newer GTOs and G8s taking to the track alongside much older machines.

A classic Firebird Formula and a late-model G8 square off

It was always exciting to see what was pulling up to the line next. Several classes made me appreciate the earplugs I got at the track giftshop.

Walking through the pits was like a car show in and of itself, only you got to hear the rumble of cars as they headed for the starting line.

Advertisements

Nostalgia Super Stock

Nostalgia Super Stock, founded in 1989, is an organization that brings heads-up drag racing with period-correct race cars to tracks around the Midwest. Not only are they fast, but the cars featured are incredibly beautiful, show-quality machines. Watching them line up was like going back in time for a few seconds.

One of the races on their annual schedule was held at the Pontiac Nationals. They fit right in alongside the Pontiacs.

The Nostalgia Super Stock cars put on a great show
Amazing cars were a common sight in the pits

The Trucks

Pontiacs weren’t the only cars having fun on the dragstrip. Several GMC trucks, including a dually, competed in the drag racing.  As with the stock vehicles, it was fun to see the GMCs make passes down the track.

Pontiacs weren’t the only vehicles on the track, as this GMC dually demonstrates
Advertisements

WRAPPING UP

Even though the discontinuation of Pontiac happened years ago, it is great to see that the enthusiasm for the brand remains strong.

Whether they brought their cars to the car show or the drag strip, they are doing their part to keep the brand that means so much to so many people alive. In addition, over 10,000 spectators came out to enjoy the show.

For more information on the Pontiac Nationals, please visit their website. You can learn more about Nostalgia Super Stock at their official website. In addition, Summit Motorsport Park’s website can be seen here. Finally, click here to see my blog on the 2018 Pontiac Nationals.

Did you attend the Pontiac Nationals? Let me know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational

An account of the 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 2021 PRI Show

A guide to the closed-to-the-general-public 2021 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show.

The 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational

While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is most famous for hosting the Indianapolis 500, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other exciting events held at the track. One of which is the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational.

First held in 2014, it’s an annual event put on by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. The 2022 event took place on June 18th and 19th and brought together hundreds of cars for an unforgettable weekend of racing. I had a chance to attend it for the first time, and I was not disappointed.

Arriving at the track Sunday morning, I was greeted by the sound of American V-8s storming around the course. I knew immediately it was the place for me.

A Chevy Corvette makes its way around the road course

On Sunday, the pace car for the races was driven by Indy racing royalty and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, Jr.

The Track

The races took place on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. The roughly 2.4-mile course uses part of the main oval, including the start/finish straight, which is run backward from the standard Indy 500 configuration. The Road Course goes inside the oval and features two long straights and plenty of sharp turns. It also features different configurations.

A car takes the first turn of the course
Advertisements

Spectators have several options when watching the road races. Along with the grandstands, several hills provide a vantage point to corners on the track.

Picture by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Classic Indy Cars and “Ragtime Racers”

Historic Indy cars and vintage race cars made exhibition laps around the track. The vintage race cars were brought by a group called “The Ragtime Racers.” Dressing in period-style clothes, they drive their antique machines on racetracks and at events around the country. Seeing the vintage cars on the track was an epic experience.

A line of early 20th century racecars
This 1916 racecar features an aluminum V-8 aircraft engine
Advertisements

It was amazing to see race cars that are not only over 100 years old but getting driven around a racetrack. Restoring these machines was undoubtedly a serious undertaking, and the old cliché about if walls (or, in this case, cars) could talk certainly holds true.

Along with the vintage cars, there were a variety of mid-20th century IndyCars making exhibition laps. The ‘60s was a significant time for cars competing in the Indy 500. It heralded the phasing out of the front engine “roadsters” in favor of the modern mid-engine machines.

A mid-engine car on display
Plenty of racing history could be seen at the event

In my opinion, the streamlined roadsters of that era were some of the most beautiful race cars ever made—their sleek design and traditional front-engine layout made for a stunning racecar.

Classic roadsters on display
Advertisements

The Races

The cars racing ranged from American muscle to open-wheel racecars. The variety of cars at the event made for some unique on-track combinations. For example, open-wheel cars shared the track with sports cars; some races had cars with decades of difference in age.

An Austin Healy Sprite, an iconic British sports car, crosses the famous bricks.
A classic MG heads down the front straight
A classic Mercedes Benz heads down the track

It was always fun to see what would come down the start/finish straight, the same front straight that just weeks before featured the cars of the Indianapolis 500.

When I arrived at the track Sunday morning, the Group 6 cars were up. While the Group 6 class encompasses a range of cars, those racing today were American V-8-powered machines like Corvettes and Mustangs.

Advertisements
A classic Mustang charges down a straightaway
It was fun seeing classic cars competing on the track

It was a real thrill to hear the roar of the V8s and see the cars storm down a long straight.

When it comes to heritage, the Formula Vee class has lots of it. Founded back in 1963, it features air-cooled VW-powered open-wheel race cars. The idea being it would be an affordable style of racing.

Formula Vees getting ready to take to the track

Not only was watching the Formula Vee cars on the track fun, but when the top drivers pulled up for the award ceremony after the race, they couldn’t contain their excitement. They looked like they had about the most fun you could have racing.

A Formula Vee racecar waiting to race

After the Formula Vee race, a man next to me told me the story of one of the cars in the winner’s circle. He had built that car decades ago at his in-laws but had stopped racing at age 79. It’s not every day you get a firsthand account of a racecar’s history.

Later came the NASCARs, representing 20 years of cars, from 1987 to 2007. A NASCAR Pickup even competed.

Drivers preparing to take to the track
Drivers coming across the start/finish line

The winner, with a dominant lead, was professional NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek. Seeing him step out of his car up close in the winner’s circle was a definite highlight for me.

Professional NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek in the winner’s circle.
Advertisements

The event produced some incredible sounds. The distinct tone of a classic Austin Healey Sprite barreling down the front straightaway of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was an unforgettable experience, as was the collective rumble of a field full of NASCARs.

Wrapping Up

I’m looking forward to attending more vintage races. You never know what cars you might see. Looking for more on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Check out my blog post about the track and museum and my blog post about my first trip to the Indianapolis 500.

The SVRA did an excellent job packing the event full of amazing racing. You can visit their website here. The Ragtime Racers did a great job bringing history to life on the track. Their website can be viewed here. Finally, you can see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s website at this link. Did you attend the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational? Let me know in the comments!

4 responses to “The 2022 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational”

  1. Joe Rothpearl Avatar

    Very Cool!!! Feel like I was there with you. Thank you for bringing the show to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joe Avatar

      Thank you for checking it out! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Like

  2. John Cunningham Avatar

    Some great cars there at the Brickyard, Joe. What a great event to attend. Some of the older racers are reminiscent of the cars that raced on the old board tracks in the US. A racing genre I am fascinated with, ever since I found a book about this form of racing in my local public
    Library back in 1968. Intetesting to see the pic of a lime green Austin Healy Sprite. I had one of those back in the day. Not much power but because it was so low to the ground it gave a great illusion of speed. Although I now live in Ireland I grew up in Birmingham, England, where these little cars were made,at the Austin factory in the Longbridge area of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe Avatar

    It is always good to hear from you John. I had a great time at the races. I’ve always liked the Sprites. They look like they would be a lot of fun to drive.
    I actually went to Ireland for the first time a few months ago for a vacation. I loved every minute of it and cannot wait to go back.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

My Trip to the 2022 Indianapolis 500

            As a nearly lifelong Hoosier (someone from Indiana), it may come as a surprise that I’ve never actually attended the Indianapolis 500 race itself. This year, at the famous race’s 106th running, I set out to change that and headed out before sunrise southeast towards Indianapolis on the morning of Sunday, May 29th. Destination: Speedway, Indiana.

Speedway is a town and enclave of Indianapolis; situated just northwest of downtown Indy. After parking at the Indianapolis International Airport and taking a shuttle bus, I was at my first Indy 500. I later came across a picture online of the pre-dawn line for the track, stretching down the road.

The Event

For many people, the Indianapolis 500 is an annual destination. As a result, people have been known to rack up some seriously impressive attendance streaks reaching into decades, often watching from the same seat. This year, about 300,000 people attended the race.

Walking to your seat at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway helps you appreciate just how big the track really is. Inside it, among other things, is part of a golf course as well as a road course.

There are a number of prerace ceremonies and traditions to keep fans busy before the flag waves.

Advertisements

Some of the traditions include the fly-over, the singing of “Back Home in Indiana”, and the procession of the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy.

The green flag being delivered by helicopter

Before the race, the starting flag was delivered by helicopter and a parade of historic Indy cars took place. One of the cars in the parade was the 1912 Indy 500 winner (the second year for the race). One of the drivers in the parade was Mario Andretti. There’s even a red carpet for the celebrities that attend the race.

There’s a sort of subdued excitement when the racecars get pushed to their pit stalls, knowing what is coming up in a little bit.

Drivers

Two drivers that caught my attention in the field of 33 were Hélio Castroneves and Jimmie Johnson.

In 2021 Brazilian driver Hélio Castroneves became the fourth person ever to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. This race gave him the rare opportunity to compete for a record 5th win. Something that has never been done in the 106 years of the Indianapolis 500.

Jimmie Johnson, the retired multi-time NASCAR champion turned IndyCar racer, was fulfilling a childhood dream by competing in the 500.

The Race

Sitting in pole position was six-time IndyCar champion, Scott Dixon. Interestingly, the cars are lined up in rows of three instead of the usual two often seen in racing.

The cars went around the track a few times, picking up speed as they went.

Advertisements

The pace car, a Chevy Corvette C8 driven by retired IndyCar racer Sarah Fisher led the 33 cars around the track a few times before pulling into the pits as the race began.

Watching the race, one of the things that stuck to me was just how little time seemed to have passed each lap. It seemed like before I knew it the cars were flying past me, completing another lap on the 2.5-mile course.

The cars weren’t the only thing going fast; the race itself seemed to fly by, with the laps quickly adding up. Before long, 50 laps had already been completed.

Sitting near the pits, I got a close-up view of the precisely choreographed pit stops. I could smell the burnt rubber from the cars as they peeled out of their pitlanes.

Watching the race on the lower part of the bleachers adjacent to the front straight, you can really appreciate the speed of the cars as they go past you, doing well over 200 miles an hour.

Another thing that stuck out to me was how tight the racing was. The pack of cars seemed to stick together as the race went on.

Looking down the front stretch

The race produced visceral reactions from the crowd, who were brought to their feet throughout the race.

A major benefit to where I was sitting was the giant tv screen just across the track. It enabled me to follow the race even when the cars were out of sight.

Advertisements

In the end, the winner was F-1 turned IndyCar racer Marcus Ericsson, a first-time winner of the 500. This ended up being one of the fastest races in Indianapolis 500 history in regard to elapsed time.

The number of spectators in the stands at the end of the race seemed to be almost as many as when the race began hours ago.

There are traditions even after the race is over. Two of which are the winner getting milk to drink and kissing the strip of bricks at the start-finish line. Kissing the bricks is a relatively new tradition, starting in the 90s, while the milk-drinking dates back to the 1930s.

I had a great time at my first Indianapolis 500, and it was long overdue.

Wrapping Up

The Indianapolis 500 has transcended racing and has become a cultural phenomenon for Indiana and the rest of the world. It can draw the interest of someone who normally has little interest in auto racing.

If you want to know more about the track and the museum, please check out my blog post. You can also check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s official website or visit the official website of IndyCar. Have you ever attended the Indy 500? Let me know in the comments!

The 2021 PRI Show

The Performance Racing Industry Trade Show or PRI Show is a three-day annual trade show held in Indianapolis, Indiana, for all things motorsposts. It’s only fitting that the event is in a city synonymous with racing. This year the closed-to-the-general-public event was held on December 19 through the 21st.

The 2021 show drew around 1,000 businesses and thousands of attendees from all over the world. The businesses range in size from mom-and-pop-type businesses with a handful of employees all the way up to Chevrolet and Ford.

A wide array of racing displines are represented, from stock car racing to IndyCar.

This custom Chevy Camaro was one of the amazing cars on display.

This was my third time attending the PRI Show, and every time I’ve went, I’ve been impressed by it.

The Show

Located at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, the PRI Show has booths with just about everything associated with racing. The event takes up 750,000 gross square feet, so there is a lot to see.

Conferences held throughout the event covered everything from business advice to engine bearings.

The Cars of the PRI Show

Few things are better at attracting a crowd at an automotive-themed trade show than a car on display, and the vendors did not disappoint. A record-setting drag car, rugged offroad trucks, and show cars ensured that people would swing by your booth.

Online race part marketplace RacingJunk.com brought this beautiful Chevy Corvette.
A 1949 Ford F1 pickup known as “Old Smokey”. It broke the diesel record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
TracTive Suspension’s display featured this classic Porsche 911 racecar.
6-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-Benz.

Goodyear Tire brought a collection of race cars. Naturally they were all sporting Goodyear Tires.

Chevrolet Performance

Chevrolet Performance brought an array of crate motors plus a manual and automatic transmission. In addition, they brought several cars including Popular Hot Rodding magazine’s iconic testbed 1957 Chevy Bel Air known affectionately as “Project X”, now equipped with an electric motor.

Ford Performance

Ford’s display had their new electric crate motor, the Eluminator, as well as their 5.2L Mustang GT500 motor. They also had performance parts and emblems on display.

Ford’s Eluminator electric crate motor.
Ford had plenty of emblems to deckout your ride with.

EV Performance Zone

This year the PRI Show dedicated an entire area to the growing electric performance industry. Ford even brought out three EVs. Outside of the EV section were several electric race cars.

Featured Products

The Featured products section serves as a microcosm of the varied products on display. The products highlighted by the PRI Show ranged from a racing suit to a children’s book.

Products

The products on display are incredibly varied. Need a crate motor? They’ve got them. Looking for a CNC machine? There’s a section for that as well.

A 16 cylinder XVI Power engine.
BDS Superchargers had one of the most creative displays at the show.
A display of Keizer Forged Wheels.
Noonan Race Engineering crate motors.
Advertisements

RVs and Trailers

You have to get to the racetrack somehow. Stretched out across the field of Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) were the RV and trailer display. Everything from open trailers to double-deckers was on display.

A Showhauler Motorhome.
One way to get people looking at your trailer is to have a custom Ford Mustang on it. This autocross car was one of the most unique cars I saw at the show.

Content Creator Zone

Us content creators weren’t left out. The Content Creator Zone featured several cameras on display and presentations throughout the show.

2022 Indy 500 Ticket Reveal

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves was on hand to reveal the look of the 2022 Indianapolis 500 ticket. Fittingly, he was on it.

Wrapping Up

Looking for more PRI info? Head over to their official website. Also, check out my blog posts on the 2017 and 2018 shows. Did you go to the PRI show this year or in the past? Let me know in the comments!

The 2021 Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals

November in the Midwest means that, for the most part, car show season is over. Classic cars are put into storage as snow and salt get ready to take to the roads (if they aren’t there already).

An exception to that rule is the Muscle Car & Corvette Nations aka the MCACN. The show is held annually in November at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

Hundreds of some of the nicest Corvettes and muscle cars in the country converge in the convention center. I’ve been to several, and the 2021 show did not disappoint. This year it was held on November 20th and 21st.

The Show

The Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals is full of vendors, automotive celebrities, seminars, and lots and lots of cars.

Outside of the show, there’s a range of unique cars on display. Before even stepping foot inside, I was greeted by a 1966 Ford GT40.

You’ll find almost 400,000 square feet of some of the coolest cars to ever roll out of Detroit packed tight together. The organizers really do a great job of making sure each show is different.

The classes are divided by make, model, as well as modifications. The quality of the cars is evident when you see ones surrounded by mirrors on the ground.

The Cars

It’s hard to overstate just how many cars are on display at MCACN. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a sign with an arrow telling you there are more cars this way.

It’s one of the few places I’ve found where you can become sort of numb to all the cars; wherever you look, there’s another showstopper.

 This year, GM cars, 1970, and 1971 cars were some of the vehicles highlighted.

It’s not every day you see a 1969 Pontiac Trans Am, let alone the first production one.

Mecum Auction Cars

Once again, the Mecum Auction company brought some rare and iconic cars to the show. Their display included a prototype Ford GT40, several road racing Corvettes, a Shelby Cobra drag car, and a rare “tanker” Corvette, to name a few.

A Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake.
A Ford GT40 Roadster prototype.
A Chevy Corvette racecar.

The Barn Finds

Barn finds have a special place in automotive lore. Countless car fans have dreamt about opening a creaky barn door or a desolate shed only to find some ultra-rare piece of automotive history. MCACN has an entire section dedicated to them.

The barn find display has a variety of cars in various conditions (some still covered in dust). The barn finds definitely attracted a crowd.

And More

Besides the cars, there’s also vintage snowmobiles (it is the Midwest after all!), vintage bicycles, some awesome old school minibikes, and classic dirt bikes to top it all off.

More Info

If you’re looking for more info on the MCACN, you can check out their official website. If the Corvette part of the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals is the reason you’re here, take a look at my blog post about the National Corvette Museum (they fixed the cave-in).

Did you go to the MCACN or know of a car event I should attend next? Please let me know in the comments!

The 2021 Trans Am Nationals

The year 2021 marks the 36th Trans Am Nationals. It’s a three-day celebration for all Pontiac Firebirds hosted by the Dayton Chapter of the Trans Am Club of America. This year it was held from August 27th through the 29th.

It takes place at the Dayton Holiday Inn in Fairborn, Ohio, which is on the eastern side of the city of Dayton. I’ve been coming to the Nationals for years now, and I always have a great time. It’s fun to see what new cars show up.

On Thursday and Friday, a movie theater on the southeast side of Dayton had screenings of Smokey and the Bandit (naturally).

The Car Show

Firebirds, Formulas, and Trans Ams fill the parking lot around the Holiday Inn. The 35 years of the Pontiac Firebird are well represented. The rumble of cars and music from the DJ fills the air. You’ll find everything from showroom stock to custom Firebirds.

The classes are divided up by years, as well as the level of modification. A car is considered “modified,” “heavily modified,” or “custom,” based on the number of modifications it has. There are several Concours classes and a driver/work-in-progress class as well.

The categories the cars are judged on include the interior, exterior, engine compartment, as well as the overall appearance. On Sunday, the winners of the show are announced and presented with their trophies.

This year the show had 494 Firebirds registered, up from the 485 at the last show in 2019. This year, the Nationals also raised over $10,000 for the A Special Wish Foundation. This charity helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. The Nationals have supported the A Special Wish Foundation for years now. You can learn more about the charity on their website.

The Seminars

On Saturday, there were several seminars. There was a presentation by people involved with the engineering and design of the Firebird, Trans Am, and Camaro. They told some great stories about working at GM in the 60s and 70s under icons like John DeLorean.

They discussed the evolution of the iconic “Screaming Chicken” design evolved from the logo used on 50’s GM experimental cars to possibly the world’s most famous hood decal. A radical design element at the time, the hood decal faced pushback from factory higher-ups. There were concerns over the perceived difficulty of installing them in large quantities.

The “Screaming Chicken” design printed on film.

The aluminum Snowflake Wheel’s creation was also covered, including the design process, and the pitch meeting that set it into production.

The Mini Nats

Like the full-size show, there’s always something new at the Mini Nats too. The Mini Nats is a room in the hotel filled with model Firebirds and Trans Ams in a variety of scales.

There’s everything from plastic model kits to die cast replicas. Tables are covered with Firebird, Formula, and Tran Am models, some decades old and others still in the box. In addition, an incredible scale model of the host Holiday Inn was on display, complete with model Firebirds surrounding it.

Tipp City Cruise In

Located just outside of Dayton, the Tipp City Cruise In draws hundreds of Firebirds. It’s been a part of the Trans Am Nationals for years. Saturday afternoon, hundreds of Firebirds make the drive from the Holiday Inn to Tipp City, a city with just under 10,000 residents. The entire downtown area is shut down for the cars.

A late 70’s Trans Am with stunning custom paint and wheels in Tipp City.

Firebirds fill the main street and parts of side streets. Restaurants around town are filled to the brim, and a band performed on one end of town. The downtown is made up old brick buildings that are great for photo-ops, especially when surrounded by cars.

Lambo doors and a custom air intake make a statement on this wild third-gen Trans Am.

More Info

For more information on the Trans Am Nationals, you can check out the official website at tanationals.org. You can visit the website for the Trans Am Club of America, Dayton Chapter, the club responsible for putting on the Nationals at tacadcinc.com.

Also, check out my blog posts about the 2019 Trans Am Nationals and the 2018 Trans Am Nationals. Been to the Trans Am Nationals, or know of a car event I should attend next? Let me know in the comments!

The 2021 Madison Regatta

The Madison Regatta, an annual boat race held on the Ohio River in the small river city of Madison, Indiana, had its 67th running in July 2021. It has been run almost every year since 1951, with boat racing in Madison going back decades before that.

The city of Madison has a unique connection with boat racing outside of hosting races; since 1961, the city has owned a race boat. Miss Madison, as the boats are known, has won the Regatta several times over the years. Madison currently has two race boats.

An H1 boat gets work on onshore.


The Event

The Regatta is a three-day boat race complete with a music festival. I had a chance to attend both this year. The Roostertail Music Festival is held at a park just outside of downtown Madison at an outdoor concert venue. For the Regatta, the road along the river becomes a spectator area complete with vendors and a concert stage.

People wear shirts that say, “You Gotta Regatta,” and a couple was even married there (it was broadcast over the PA System).

The Boats

The 2021 Madison Regatta featured two boat racing organizations: Grand Prix America and H1 Unlimited (which Miss Madison competes in). Grand Prix America boats run blown 468-cubic inch Big Block Chevys with around 1,600 horsepower. Most H1 Unlimited boats are powered by Viet Nam War-era turbine helicopter motors with around an astonishing 2,600 horsepower. That’s the kind of horsepower you’d expect to find at a dragstrip.

An H1 boat heads to the first turn.

Both classes of boats have enclosed cockpits. When the Grand Prix America boats are on the water, it sounds like a dragstrip. When the H1 Unlimited Boats are on the water, it sounds like an airport.

A GPA boat. Note the exhaust tips on the side.


The Course

Both H1 Unlimited and Grand Prix America boats race in a counter-clockwise oval course on the river. The Grand Prix America Boats run a shorter course, while the course for the H1 Unlimited Boats extends under a nearby bridge that connects Indiana to Kentucky. The course is marked by different color buoys that signify the boundaries of corners and straights.

Two H1 boats battle it out.

The Race

The event takes place over three days, with qualifying and several races. This year, the drivers and officials had to contend with higher-than-normal water levels. Heavy rain northeast of Madison (where the Ohio River flows from) caused the river to rise.

Before each race, the boats are lowered into the water by crane and placed at the wet pit (set up just for the event.) Then, they’re held to the dock by crew members until it is time to talk off.

When you’re on the water, a standing start isn’t easy. The H1 Unlimited and Grand Prix America boats utilize a unique “rolling” start.

Before the race gets underway, a timer counts down from 5 minutes. Then, the boats do laps around the course until the timer hits zero. After that, the person who crosses the start/finish line first starts the race. Watching the boats go into the first turn together was a rush.

With the “rolling” start, the competitor closest to the start/finish line with the most speed built up has the best start. Timing is everything. In one instance, a competitor misjudged the timer and got too close to the starting line only to have to slow down (and got overtaken.) This kind of start means the competitors can get spread out before the race begins.

Each heat consists of several laps and lasts for a few minutes. In between rounds, a safety boat made passes on the water, looking for logs and other stuff floating down the river that could get in the way of boats.

Between the other competitors, limited visibility from rooster tails, and the wake of other machines, racers have their hands full. Debris proved to be a real threat as one boat had its hull pieced by something floating down the river.

The Final Heat

In the H1 class’s 5-lap final heat, the field of 5 boats saw 3, including Miss HomeStreet “Miss Madison,” neck and neck at the start. At the end of the first turn Miss HomeStreet on the inside and in the lead. The second time into the first turn, only one boat was keeping up with her.

Jimmy Shane held his own, despite a persistent competitor behind him. Lap after lap, he held onto the lead. In the end, it was Jimmy Shane and Miss HomeStreet, a.k.a. Miss Madison, the hometown favorite.

The final H1 Heat

More information and Wrapping Up

The Madison Regatta was a motorsports event unlike any I’ve ever attended. For more information on the Regatta you can visit their official website. You can visit Grand Prix America’s office Facebook page. For more information on the H1 Hydro Series head over to their website.  Have you been to the Regatta or know of an event I should go to next? Let me know in the comments!

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum

        I recently made the trek across Illinois into Iowa to visit the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Located next to the World’s Largest Truck Stop in Walcott, Iowa, and just northwest of the city of Moline, the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum features over 70 pickup trucks, semi-trucks, and even a few trailers. When I was there, I made sure to stop into the iconic slice of Americana known as the “World’s Largest Truck Stop” to grab something to eat.

The World’s Largest Truck Stop

Not every museum has the convenience of having the World’s Largest Truck Stop next to it. Established in 1964, The World’s Largest Truck Stop, also known as the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, tends to evoke the feeling of being at an airport or a mall more than it does a truck stop. The inside of the truck stop seemed larger to me than the exterior. There is a row of fast-food restaurants and plenty of space to eat. They have a semi-truck chrome shop and truck wash. It also hosts an annual truck show known as the Walcott Truckers Jamboree.

The Museum

Inside the warehouse-sized building is a collection of trucks, many from the first half of the 20th century. Looking down the long hall of the museum, the sheer number of trucks is hard to fathom. They have a replica of a 20s and 30s era Texaco gas station. Many of the early trucks had solid rubber tires, and fittingly, there is even a vintage solid rubble tire press on display.

The Trucks

The trucks on display are primarily American trucks from the early 20th century to the 1960s, although there are exceptions. Most of the trucks have been painstakingly restored to look as they did when they were new. The trucks range from everyday models to unique prototypes, a show truck, and even a movie-used truck: a police truck made for the 1978 Sylvester Stallone movie F.I.S.T. There are even a few early electric trucks and a Mercedes-Benz Unimog. With so many early semi-trucks on display, is possible to trace their evolution from the earliest days of open cabs to the introduction of the diesel motor use in trucks decades later.

1903 Eldridge

One of the first trucks you see when you walk into the Museum is the 1903 Elridge. As of writing, it is 118 years old. As a reference, the Elridge truck predates the first Ford Model T by five years. Like many vehicles of the era, it features heavy use of wood in its construction, a steering wheel that is parallel to the ground, wagon-style wheels, an opposing twin-cylinder motor located under the vehicle, and chain drive. Interestingly, the driver sits on the right side of the truck.

1910 Avery

The second oldest truck in the museum, the 1910 Avery stands out even among all the classics. The wooden wheels feature a unique “tread” design, with replaceable wooden plugs making up the tread pattern. With paved roads often scarce in the early 20th century, especially in rural areas, these unique wheels undoubtedly proved useful. Like the 1903 Eldrige a few years before, the Avery features right hand drive, chain drive, and a parallel-with-the-ground steering wheel. The Museum notes it has a 40-horsepower engine, which might not seem like a lot until you consider a 1910 Ford Model T only had 22 horsepower.

Hank’s Highway Hilton

If a semi-truck can be a celebrity, “Highway” Hank Good’s 1981 Kenworth K100 aka Highway Hilton No. 1 would fit the bill. A heavily modified 1981 Kenworth K100 cabover, the Kenworth has been a work truck, an award-winning show truck, and the means by which Hank Good toured Europe. The Highway Hilton features hand-lettering as well as an eye-catching paint job, and many horns and lights. Not to mention the massive sleeper.

Wrapping Up

After checking out the museum and truck stop, I was off to my next destination: The National Motorcycle Museum, just over all hour away in Anamosa, Iowa. You can check out The I 80 Trucking Museum’s website here: iowa80truckingmuseum.com and The World’s Largest Truck Stop’s website here: iowa80truckstop.com. If you have been to either one, or know a place I should go to next, let me know in the comments!

Biplane Ride Over the Ohio River Valley

Madison, Indiana, is a small town. Resting on the edge of the Ohio River, where Indiana meets Kentucky with just over 11,000 inhabitants, it fits in with many other small towns across the nation. Located in the Ohio River Valley, it is both every small town in America and like no other place. A paradox town. It has a sizable downtown area, with shops and restaurants all within walking distance. It stands between Louisville and Cincinnati. Madison is surrounded by rolling, forest-covered hills and farm fields.

Madison Municipal Airport

Just northwest of the city is the Madison Municipal Airport. Madison Municipal Airport has a single runway and a nice building to wait for your flight. It is home to several businesses, including flight schools, airplane restoration services, and aircraft repair services, among other businesses. At Madison Municipal Airport, Cliff Robinson runs Robinson Aerobatics, where he teaches aerobatics and gives rides in his 1941 Boeing Stearman biplane.

Cliff’s 1941 Boeing Stearman biplane.

When Boeing Made Biplanes

Cliff’s Boeing Stearman, a military training aircraft that was the steppingstone before pilots moved on to fighters, has been restored and modified. The engine puts out 500 horsepower, roughly double what it originally had. After stepping up the wing, I grabbed the handles on the top wing and lowered myself into the cockpit. Amazingly, all 6’2 of me fit perfectly into the front passenger cockpit. I had wondered about how much space the cockpit would have. People tended to be shorter in 1941, and this plane’s purpose was to train pilots, not fly them across the country in luxury. After getting strapped in and putting on a headset, we were almost ready to go. On the ground, the Boeing Stearman points upward due to its “taildragger” style landing gear layout, meaning that, unlike many contemporary aircraft, it has two wheels in the front and one in the back.

The Ohio River Valley from 2,100 Feet

After taxiing and a pre-flight check, we took flight. The Boeing Stearman did not need a lot of runway to take off, and it climbed effortlessly. Soon, we were 2,100 feet up, and farm fields and woods appeared as a colorful patchwork quilt on the ground. Despite the 500 horsepower, the noise from the front seat was not excessively loud. Cliff remarked that we could see for 50 miles. I could feel the grin on my face. We crossed the Ohio River that separates Indiana and Kentucky. I saw it extend into the horizon as it weaved its way out of sight. We passed by downtown Madison, nestled between the Ohio River and the hill that leads down to it. It appeared as rows and rows of neat brick buildings. After turning back into Indiana, it was my time to take the controls.

I had never flown a plane before, but if I was going to do it for the first time, it might as well be in an 80-year-old, 500 horsepower aerobatic biplane. I took the control stick in my right hand and did my best to keep the plane smooth as I looked towards the horizon and the Stearman made its way through the air. After heading straight for a while, Cliff told me over the radio to make a left. I let the wings drop to the left and looked into the turn. After bringing the plane back to level flight and continuing to fly a bit, it was time to hand the controls back to Cliff. We then made our way back to the airport. After landing and taxiing to a stop, I headed back through the building. The Boeing Stearman undoubtedly made an impression upon landing. A man sitting in the building with a smile on his face who seemed as excited as I was asked how it was. “It was great!”

For More Information

You can check out Cliff Robin’s website here: www.cliffrobinsonaerobatics.com. You can also visit Madison Municipal Airport’s website at www.madisonmunicipalairport.com. For more information on Madison, Indiana you can go to their website at visitmadison.org Know of a place I should go to for my next blog, or if you have ever flown or ridden in a Stearman let me know in the comments!

The Hummer Returns (with an Electric Twist)

One of the biggest surprises of 2020 in the automotive world was the announcement of the fully electric GMC Hummer EV. The brand, whose original production ended in 2010, was famous for its massive size and off-road ability. Its discontinuation was a product of rising gas prices. It was one of several GM brands, alongside icons like Pontiac and Oldsmobile to be discontinued in that time, when GM was in significant financial trouble.

The Hummer H1

The Original Hummer

Few vehicles say “heavy-duty off-road performance” like the legendary military-derived Hummer H1. One of several iconic civilian vehicles with military origins, the Hummer H1 was first produced in 1992. The popularity of the H1 helped launch the Hummer brand, with the H2 and H3 models following. With each model, the Hummer got smaller and more economical, with the H2 and H3 ditching the flat, angular military design and exterior hinged doors with smoother lines, giving them a more “civilian look”. The last H2 and H3 rolled off the line in 2009 and 2010, respectively, leaving the brand dormant for a decade.

The Hummer EV

The fully electric Hummer EV differs significantly from its predecessors, although it shares traits with the previous Hummers. This time, the Hummer EV will be sold under the GMC brand. The dimensions of the Hummer EV are comparable to the H1, coming in at 216.8 inches long, 81.1 inches high, and 86.7 inches wide (without mirrors) to the H1’s 187 inches long, 77-79 inches high and 87 inches wide. As a reference, a 2021 four door Jeep Wrangler is 188.4 inches long, 73.6 inches high, and 73.8 inches wide.

A Hummer EV with the hardtop roof removed.

The style for the EV is similar to the more modern, civilian style of the H2 and H3. One of the biggest surprises of the Hummer EV, aside from its electric power, is the multitude of radical features it has, many of which are geared to help it perform off-road. One of the most talked about features is undoubtedly the optional “crab walk.” Essentially, what it does is move the vehicle diagonally; all four wheels turn in a single direction, while the Hummer EV faces forward. It also has an under-body camera, giving the driver a unique view of the road or trail. Given the electric power of the Hummer, it has a decent-sized storage area under the hood.  On the inside, it features a wide-screen infotainment center, with a fully digital gauge cluster, as well as a pitch and roll gauge.

The tailgate features a built-in step.

 Like the new Ford Bronco, the Hummer EV has a first edition version, known as “Edition 1”, which has already filled up its reservations. It has a release date of Fall 2021. GM estimates that it will do zero to 60 in 3.0 seconds, putting it well into supercar territory. As a comparison, the Tesla Model X SUV does zero to 60 in 2.6 seconds. The three other models are slated to be released from highest to lowest spec-level, with the top-of-the-line Hummer slated to arrive in Fall 2022. The different models will come with either two or three electric motors.

The new Hummer looks to be a unique blend of brute strength and modern technology. By using the Hummer name, GM is likely targeting off-road enthusiasts who have not considered an electric vehicle.  The use of an iconic name for a new electric vehicle was also utilized by Ford with their Mustang SUV. With GM’s recent commitment to only selling electric vehicles by 2035, it will be interesting to see if other iconic models are revived as electric vehicles as Hummer was. You can check out the Hummer EV on GMC’s website here: https://www.gmc.com/electric-truck/hummer-ev.