While some retirees take up stamp collecting, fishing or canoeing as a hobby, Randy Lewis has opted for something a little different.
He visits racetracks all around the world as frequently as he is able to.
The California resident has counted almost 2,600 tracks seen, and this Friday (Aug. 23), he looks to add Quesnel’s Gold Pan Speedway to that list.
“I do a lot of travelling to make [my hobby] happen,” Lewis notes. “Each and every year, I travel more than 200,000 miles, rent more than 50 cars and fly on more than 200 airplanes.”
So far, the globe-trotting endeavour has seen him visit tracks in 85 countries.
Just this year, he has added Tunisia, Montenegro, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as Japan and Italy, to the list.
Track chasing took off for him 20 years ago when he retired, but before then, he would often take advantage of business trips by sticking around an extra day or two to catch a race at a nearby track.
Growing up in Illinois, Lewis says three of the 10 houses on his block had stock cars.
“As a five- to 10- year-old, I would hang around their garages and watch what they were doing to make the cars get ready for the race and then go to the races.
“Since then, it’s turned into more of a travel hobby in the sense that when we go to these places, we try to see as many local attractions as we can.”
Lewis’s wife Carol is the No. 3 track chaser, having seen races in 49 countries. He says a man in Belgium is No. 2, with 52 countries visited.
“I’ve seen almost 2,600 race tracks, and I think there are about 10 people that have seen more than 1,000 race tracks and probably another 150 that have seen more than 2,000 tracks.
“I’ve seen more tracks than anybody else by a little bit more than 700 tracks. The second-place person is in the 1,800s someplace.”
Just last year, Lewis travelled to each of the 10 Canadian provinces, including a first-time stop to see races in Newfoundland and Labrador.
He even checks out racing in the middle of winter.
“In the wintertime, I follow the track chasing hobby with ice racing,” he says. “I’ve probably seen 25 ice races in Canada. Last year, I went up to Alberta and Manitoba to see ice racing, and whenever I do that, I try to catch a hockey game or something local that’s happening.”
During his travels, he has noticed some distinct similarities in racing culture.
“Even when I go to faraway places like Europe or Africa, the idea of racing is very similar.
“It’s a blue-collar sport for sure. Often, it involves people with some mechanical skill who want to be competitive.
“They want to do something that’s kind of a family sport, and that’s what short track local auto racing is. The guy goes out and builds his car, and his family sits in the grandstand and roots for him.
“Although it’s somewhat expensive, it’s still affordable to a degree. That being said, I am seeing car counts decrease at the tracks I’m going to over time because the prize money is almost non-existent but the costs are still there.”
Lewis was in Prince George on Wednesday night and will be in Quesnel on Friday for the Doug Larson Memorial Race before heading to Williams Lake on Saturday.