Racing

Breaking Down the Top Tracks With the Drivers Who Race Them

Apr 17, 2020

Your favorite members of Team Valvoline talk tracks, memorable moments, and more.

 

We’ve all got our favorite racers that provide endless entertainment, and of course, there are our favorite cars that we dream about experiencing from behind the wheel. But when it comes to our favorite racing stories and moments, sometimes it’s all about the racetrack.

We sat down with some of our favorite Team Valvoline racing personalities to reflect on the racetracks that helped them fall in love with the sport.

What makes a great track?

RAY EVERNHAM

Any racetrack that brings out the ability of the crew is a great place to go racing. A great track has a difficulty factor, whether that's different radiuses, bumpy or worn out surface, or something that makes it less cookie-cutter. Darlington is a difficult track, a track that wears your tires out. You've got to make decisions that involve your pit crew and your driver’s ability.

DAVE & PETER - Speed Academy

We like a track that challenges us with a lot of different sightlines, plus a good mix of braking zone lengths and intensities helps add to the experience, too. The best racetracks we’ve been to all have a great variety of corner lengths, shapes, apex locations and some type of elevation or camber change. These are the elements that make a track challenging time and time again since finding the fastest line and carrying the most speed through technically challenging corner complexes will take multiple visits to truly master.

What’s your top racetrack(s) and why?

AARON LEICHTY - The Winning Formula

Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI is my stand-out favorite racetrack. The combined speed and length of the track requires the upmost competence and concentration - I like to say Road America separates the Pros from the Amateurs. The track itself is FAST - very high-speed. The walls and barriers are close to the track which creates an incredible sensation of speed.  It's one thing to go 150mph in an open area; it's quite another to do it between two concrete barriers screaming toward a 90-degree hairpin with a dozen other racers on your tail! It is also a long track at 4 miles to complete a single lap.

DAVE & PETER - Speed Academy

It’s hard not to put the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany at the top of our list. The Ring isn’t just one of the longest and most challenging racetracks in the world, it’s also got an incredibly long and rich racing history and the four towns surrounding the track are completely dedicated to supporting the driving enthusiasts who visit the track. Much closer to home, we’d also add Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. A historic Formula 1 circuit with dramatic elevation changes and big, sweeping corners. It’s the fastest road course circuit in North America, so it’s an incredible adrenaline rush to take your car around it. And there’s no doubt Virginia International Raceway is one of the most important and challenging road courses in the world. It’s another sprawling racetrack with big elevation changes and blind crests that really test your car’s setup and your courage as a driver. The facility itself is also world-class with beautifully maintained buildings and roadways throughout.

What’s the first racetrack you ever drove on?

THE WINNING FORMULA - Aaron Leichty

I was 10 years old, and it was a little dirt oval in Somerset, KY. The first "road course" I ever competed at was Road Atlanta. I was old enough to really process the gravity of what it meant to compete in racing, and for the first time, began to think of it as a career possibility. I can remember what it was like to come up over the hill at Turn 11 and feel like I was about to drive off of a cliff! Now that hill feels like nothing. Amazing how time and experience can kind of ruin the intensity of an element like that. But the memory of that first time is still strong! 

RAY EVERNHAM

I drove my first race straight out of high school in a six-cylinder, kind of a street stock at Wall Stadium in Belmont, NJ. I can remember spinning out a bunch of times because I was just trying to hold the gas pedal down as much as I could. In those early years, my dream was to become a driver, but then I got an opportunity to work at the International Race of Champions. I still love driving, and I do some vintage racing with The Ghost that Valvoline is a huge part of.

Tell us about your first win.

BRANDON SHEPPARD - Rocket1 Racing

My first win was at Lincoln Speedway in Lincoln, IL. My father was the man to beat around our area at that time and he was leading the race. I had just passed Matt Taylor for second. My dad broke an axel and had to retire early from the race. That put me in the perfect position to win. I was overwhelmed with all the support of my friends and family. I remember just bursting with excitement that all my hard work had finally paid off.

RAY EVERNHAM

We won a million dollars in the Southern 500 one day with a fifth-place car, and it was because the track allowed Jeff Gordon's ability to shine through, my pit crew's ability to shine through. Because the track was so difficult, that day in 1997 was a true team effort.

What’s your most memorable moment on the track?  

DAVE & PETER - Speed Academy

The 25 Hours of Thunderhill race. Dave was piloting a factory-backed Scion tC race car that was suffering from an unpredictable rear-brake lockup problem, causing him to spin the car just over the crest of a blind, uphill corner. Parked sideways in the middle of the track, he barely got the car restarted and off the track before American road racer Boris Said came barreling through over 100mph in his World Challenge Mustang.

BRANDON SHEPPARD - Rocket1 Racing

My most memorable moment on the track would be winning my first Dirt Track World Championship with Mark Richards Racing.

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Tags: Racing

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