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Murto: Explore the world of racing


There are too many people in the world who know only one thing about motorsports, and that's NASCAR.

There's nothing wrong with that; NASCAR provides some great, competitive racing, and the sanctioning body has done the best job of any in motorsports when it comes to marketing. It's no wonder that most people know nothing of racing but NASCAR.

But there is so much more in racing to enjoy that it's a shame people don't expose themselves to other forms of motorized competition. And those other forms of racing often cost less to attend as a spectator, and can be enjoyed without the stress of the NASCAR-sized crowd, traffic, etc. So instead of giving up on motorsports altogether because NASCAR may be losing its appeal or you feel you can't afford to attend, plan to attend some other forms of racing in 2013 and see if it doesn't spark a new interest in the sport.

For example, if you survived Hurricane Sandy and desire to get away this weekend, you could drive to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday night's World of Outlaws World Finals on the dirt track. Sprint Cars, Late Models and Modifieds all will end their season. Or you can go to Hagerstown Speedway on Nov. 11 for the storm-delayed Brawl in the Fall, which begins at noon and also features those three divisions.

In the dirt Late Model world, try planning a trip to Eldora to see The Dream. You'll find the racing topnotch, and the fans just as knowledgeable about their favorite racing as the most loyal NASCAR fan. And with 80 to more than 100 cars trying to make the show each year, there's always action.

For dirt Modifieds, there is no better trip than the 200-mile feature that tops off the week of racing at the Syracuse mile at the fairgrounds. There are no more loyal fans than those of dirt Modifieds; the Jimmie Johnson refrigerator magnets don't sell in the souvenir trailers at Syracuse. One of my favorite racing trips was going to Rolling Wheels Speedway on a Friday night, watching the small block Modifieds at Syracuse on Saturday afternoon, heading to Oswego Speedway that Saturday night for the pavement Modified race of Champions, then seeing the 200 on the dirt at Syracuse that Sunday.

Nothing tops the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa as far as Sprint Car racing goes. And if you really want to see a spectacle, head to Tulsa, Okla., for the Chili Bowl Nationals Midget race. For a taste of NHRA competition, Maple Grove, Pa., isn't too far to drive. And next season IndyCar will be at Pocono; it should be a great race, despite the Holman family's constant attempts to destroy the series from within, most recently by firing CEO Randy Bernard.

The Late Model Stock Car event at Martinsville Speedway each year is a classic. Other pavement Late Model races such as the Winchester (Ind.) 400, the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road in Vermont, and the All-American 400 in Nashville are well worth the trips.

Two-wheeled racing is found quite close to home. Flat Track racing is held at Hagerstown annually, as well as at the Frederick (Md.) County Fairgrounds with the Barbara Fritchie Memorial Classic. Hopefully Winchester Speedway will bring the motorcycles back in 2013.

Motocross events are held regularly at Shenandoah Speedway, and motorcycle road racing clubs compete at Summit Point, W.Va. Then, if you found these forms of racing appealing, you could see the top AMA riders when they head to Budds Creek, Md., or go to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) for more motorcycle road racing.

VIR annually brings in professional sports car racing. But you can easily get a taste of the sport by attending an SCCA event at Summit Point.

In fact, you don't have to travel too far to find a good variety. Maryland International raceway in Budds Creek, Md., often has special drag racing shows, which can be enjoyed without the travel or expense of an NHRA event. And for true Sprint car racing, it's not too far up U.S. 15 to get to Williams Grove in Pennsylvania.

NASCAR is great, but it's not the end-all and be-all of racing. There's a wide world of motorsports out there, much of which can be sampled rather close to home. Take the time and discover it for yourself.

-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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