Winter ways to enjoy auto racing

The wind chill is like 15 degrees below zero outside and it’s not a good day to be outside, period. Racers that plan to make the trip to Florida are busy preparing their cars for Speedweeks 2018. Short track racers from all over the country make the trek each year to see how they stack up against some of the best racers in the country on both paved and dirt tracks.

The racing begins in Georgia in late January and finishes up with the Daytona 500 Feb. 18. Tracks like East Bay Raceway in Tampa, Florida, New Smyrna Speedway and Volushia County Raceway will host racing almost every night, and with just a little traveling you can see racing almost non-stop for a month. It’s a race fan’s dream come true. Everything from street stocks, late models, modifieds, exotic sports cars and NASCAR racing in all three series can be seen. I plan to keep you updated as these events unfold and let you know how our regional drivers do who make the trip south.

I thought in this column I’d talk about the many different ways to pass the down times in the offseason for the fans of motorsports. There are many racing groups available on Facebook. You can discuss everything from dirt track racing to Formula 1 and meet some very interesting people who share your interest in racing, street rods, muscle cars or just love to relive some of the old days of our sport. Most Pro drivers have Twitter accounts so you can actually talk to them and follow along as they vacation and do their offseason activities.

Then there’s the hobby of collecting miniature die-cast cars. These detailed replicas of your favorite drivers’ cars are more available than ever in several different scale sizes. There is a size for every budget, beginning with 1/64th size. This is the size of Hotwheels and Matchbox cars. Then there are some 1/43rd scale models out there. This is the most popular size in Europe but is gaining popularity here, especially with sports car fans.

I personally collect 1/24th and 1/25th size cars. These are the size of model cars which were extremely popular in the ’60s and ’70s. I have a few die-casts, but I enjoy actually building and displaying the plastic model versions. There is a great aftermarket producing decals for just about any of the thousands of different race cars and color schemes that have been raced throughout history.

I love the challenge of taking a stock model car and converting it to a race car just like the real cars were done back in the day. The large model companies have begun to make nice detailed replicas of the newer NASCAR cars again. These cars are available as Snap Tite kits for the beginner modeler. These kits are pre painted and snap together; glue is optional. With just a little detail painting these Fords and Chevrolets look just like their full-size counterparts. They have just released the full detail glue-together kits of these same cars. These are molded in white plastic and must be painted and decaled to replicate the full size cars.

The Toyota cars are not available in kit form but once again the aftermarket is filling that void by offering a Camry body that you can adapt to the current kits along with decals too. This is a very gratifying hobby and teaches patience and creativity. You can come up with your own colors and number and build you a fantasy car and pretend you are right there beating Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch.

The plastic model car hobby is the biggest it has ever been and we need more young people to get involved. The sky is literally the limit because if you are not into cars there are airplanes, ships and even space craft. There is a national magazine that is available in both print and cyber media called Scale Auto Enthusiast that is totally devoted to the car model hobby. This is a great way for parents to connect with children and create something together. Who knows, maybe we can get a local modelers club started here in Elkins and showcase our talents in model car shows.

The final area of collecting is one that ties into the model hobby. Collecting racing pictures, post cards and Hero Cards are another way to enjoy the motorsports hobby. Vintage baseball-type racing cards are out there also. It is fun to swap, trade and hunt for that special hard to find card. Some of these older cards are worth large sums of money.

All of these hobbies are a great way to pass the time and make new friends and increase your knowledge of the sport we enjoy. So, grab some paint and glue and build a model, or get busy searching for that special car or driver’s picture ’til we can say, at the end of the straightaway there’s another left turn