The popularity of motorsports locally is thriving with more than 15 motorsport venues and numerous events April through October all within 50 miles of downtown Cincy.   The Kentucky Speedway hosted its first Sprint Cup race and had so many people attending that they couldn't get through the gate and parked fast enough!  The opportunity to enjoy a seat in the stands to watch the racing presents itself at a variety of locations aside from the Kentucky Speedway including Florence Speedway, Lawrenceburg Speedway, Edgewater and Tri-State Dragways, and Moler Raceway.  During every one of those races there were people sitting in the stands saying "I could do that"¢I can drive better than that yahoo!"  The question I get asked the most is how do I get off the couch and get behind the wheel?  I want to drive on a track, race a motorcycle or car, how do I do that, where do I start?

Here in the Ohio Valley the choices for Motorized fun are prolific and accessible; whether your tastes run towards straight line acceleration, short oval bull rings  or the frenetic action of autocross the tristate has it all happening , but where and how to get started?  Motorsports can present a difficult terrain to navigate, there is no set path or routine such as the stick and ball sports-High School- College- Professional.   One must often decide what form of racing is most engaging, the raw power and acceleration of Drag Racing, the highly specific set up and preparation that mark oval competition, or the adjusting and compromising that is road racing, and go in that direction.  Equipment can play an important role in getting on track, many racing and on track ventures require highly specialized cars or motorcycles to be able to compete, however not ALL of them need that enthusiastic a commitment or investment.  Production cars and bikes straight from the showroom floor offer tremendous performance that can far exceed the talent level of most drivers when they first get the itch to see what the vehicle can do on a track.  Oval track racing will require a specialized vehicle, even with the motorcycles to run on an oval the equipment needs to be specialized and very specific.  Drag Racing and Road Racing provide the option of taking your street car or bike on the track and pushing your limits and talent to the edge so let's begin there.

                  The Drag Racing Associations realized long ago that giving absolutely stock cars a place to race would greatly increase the number of people that could enjoy the sport, and they were right!  Anything can be drag raced, I saw a 63 Chevy Wagon with a six cylinder and three on the tree running at Edgewater one day, Sport Family Trucksters, Sedans, Coupes, Trucks, Motorcycles, Pony Cars, Imports, if it runs one can race it.  On the "achievability meter" Drag Racing is tops for not needing specialized equipment or modifications to the everyday Grocery Getter.  The local availability of tracks helps too, with three facilities in the area that support regularly scheduled Test And Tune and race meets.  Check their schedules at www.tristatedragway.com for Tri-State Dragway, www.edgewaterrace.com for Edgewater Sports Park near Miamitown and www.thornhilldragstrip.com for The Thornhill Drag Strip in Northern Ky. 

Autocrossing is another timed activity similar to drag racing that enables one to compete in their everyday car without going "fender to fender" with the competition.  Autocrossing uses a course of left and right hand turns marked by traffic cones set up in a parking lot.  The sport is the play ground of sports cars for their agility and maneuverability, acceleration, braking and cornering, most competitions are conducted by clubs such as Porsche Club of America www.overpca.org, BMW Club www.buckeyebmwcca.org , and Cincinnati Sports Car Club www.autox.org.  Autocrossing has no professional version of the sport like drag racing so it is an activity destined to be enjoyed by those that want to improve their car control skills or just appreciate the brevity of the process and the achievability of participation, or in other words autocrossing can be fairly inexpensive and easy to try.   Many sports sedan and compact cars as well as muscle cars and sports cars make up the grid at area autocrosses, just about anything short of an SUV or Minivan can compete in stock configuration offering a fun and challenging experience with the same vehicle that takes you to work.  Autocrossing ranks second on our list for getting involved due to the fact that you can use a bone stock vehicle just like drag racing, drive it to the track, drive it in competition and drive it home, drive it to the office on Monday morning.

                  Track Days "” Driver Education- Driving Experiences all describe the same activity on a race track and provide the chance to get on the track to drive at extremely high speed without the rigors of wheel to wheel competition with its no holds barred atmosphere and required upgraded safety equipment.  Not nearly as prevalent on ovals as road courses, the track days feed your need for speed by allowing you to take your street car out on a track like Mid-Ohio and lap all day under supervision and with restrictive passing covenants enacted to further reduce the risk.  Track days feature a selection of cars that could fill out a manufacturer's product line up; some high performance sedans have capabilities on par with the fastest touring cars and muscle cars and they all show up to drive.  

Locally 1010ths Motorsports, www.1010thsmotorsports.com  offers a comprehensive schedule of events for a variety of tracks, accommodating every level of driving skill and experience and a wide variety of machinery; for 2012 10/10ths will be offering "Time Trial" competitions within their track events according to owner Bill Neal.  The Ohio Valley Region Porsche Club of America and the Buckeye BMW Car Club offer Track Day Driving Experiences as well as their other activities, the instructors are veteran club racers that know the fast way around the track and are willing to share that bit of fun with you.  With this type of event on track damage insurance is also available through specialty brokers, if you are not sure of your talents behind the wheel and want to add another level of protection check with the event organizer for a recommendation.

Track Day programs apply to the two wheeled aficionados also with events for Sport Bikes being extremely popular. Locally Kenny Baker from Cycle Options has been conducting Track Day events for several decades and has a very good program that accommodates beginners to seasoned veterans www.cycleoptions.com .

                  Karting is the preferred path to take if one is serious about growing their driving and competition talents, a wonderful venue for youngsters that are athletic and looking for a sport that allows them to excel and stand out. Locally karting is a very active sport with the Ohio Valley Karting Association www.ovka.com operating a full season of racing, schools and clinics that can get you racing with a strong local community of volunteers to support your endeavors.  Three local indoor karting facilities offer year round access to the sport and the ability to keep the driving skills in a tuned state over the winter.  The most comprehensive karting experience is with the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati, www.mccofcincinnati.com,  here the entire family can be involved in driving and enjoying motorsports.  The MCC staff can provide coaching from track pros like BJ Zacharias, advice on how to mechanically maintain and improve your kart, and how to approach racing with a recipe for winning.  If you are serious about going racing and winning the Motorsports Country Club is the place to go to develop the skill and plan to succeed.  Memberships are surprisingly affordable and will provide the proper environment for maximum enjoyment and benefit.

                   Drag Racing is absolutely the most accessible and achievable way to go racing with out any specialized vehicles or equipment outside a few rudimentary safety items that certainly are part and parcel of a happy motorsport experience.  Safety item  #1 is a proper fitting helmet-it is your head, protect it like it is the only one you get.  Get a helmet that will allow you to use it in the wide variety of motorsports available, a Snell Foundation "SA" Rated unit can be used in cars, karts or motorcycles.  Autocross and Track Days also allow you to enjoy the motorsports experience without investing in specialized equipment like trailers and tow vehicles etc..  Karting can open the door to the world of racing whether oval or road course is your destination karting is the best first step in developing your skills as a driver.

                  Beat the winter doldrums by getting your season together and ready to go when the cold and damp dissipate come spring.  Happy Motoring!