For many car enthusiasts, racing is one of the coolest experiences one can partake in. There can be difficulties to this dream, however, as the sport is both expensive and more heavily focused on overseas.
Luckily for American car aficionados, though, there are still a litany of places where you can unleash your ‘need for speed:’ Circuits. Not every track offers public access or track-days, but a good amount do. Of all the options in the contiguous United States, these ten tracks are both legendary and open to the public.
10 Lime Rock Park
Nestle comfortably in the woods of Lakeville, Connecticut sits not only vast forest and nature, but America’s longest running track in history. Of course, this is none other than Lime Rock Park.
Built in the mid-‘50s, Lime Rock has been open for business since. What makes Lime Rock particularly unique, though, is its ‘natural-terrain’ style. Instead of paving out specific paths, the track slinks along the various hills and dips surrounding the area. This makes for some difficult elevation changes and intense racing, especially at the notoriously difficult uphill turn five.
9 Homestead-Miami Speedway
In case the name wasn’t obvious enough, the Homestead-Miami Speedway is located just South of Miami, Florida. The circuit can host a variety of different series considering the speedway has an oval setup along with a standard road course.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be a NASCAR driver or own hypercar to visit the speedway, since they offer plenty of track days, drift events, drag racing, and so on. Even if you don’t want to drive, odds are you’ll see your fair share of photo-worthy vehicles throughout the day.
8 Watkins Glen
Whether you like NASCAR, IndyCar, or plain GT racing, you’ve probably heard of/seen Watkins Glen before. And how could you not? After all, “The Glen” (As it’s frequently referred to) is one of America’s oldest and most famous tracks.
Watkins Glen is located in, believe it or not, Watkins Glen, New York. Though the town and track may share the same name, the popularity and fame of the circuit far outweighs that of the city. With its masterful layout, elevation changes, and long straights, The Glen almost always provides a good show.
7 Virginia International Raceway
If affordable and fun racing is what you’re looking for, look no further than the Virginia International Raceway (VIR). VIR is popular amongst the big boys like GT and NASCAR along with enthusiasts and rookies in the S.C.C.A. (Sports Car Club of America).
The surroundings for Virginia International Raceway are a lush one, too. The long fields and tall trees share a similarity with portions of the U.K. Coincidentally, the track seems to mimic that too with its narrow pathways and tight corners. So, if you ever find yourself in Alton, Virginia with nothing to do, stop by.
6 Road Atlanta
For those who live in the Atlanta, Georgia area, get yourself to the very close Road Atlanta circuit. Sitting less than an hour outside the big city, the small town of Braselton can be a great place to spend the afternoon.
Road Atlanta, like several others on this list, has a history of famous racing series and outstanding drivers in its time. The track consists of very high speed corners intermixed with even higher speed straights to really test a car’s top end. Regardless as to what you drive, just use their convenient rental service to get your hands on a capable vehicle.
5 Sonoma Raceway
For a serious challenge, consider the classic Sonoma Raceway. This track consists of difficult uphill sections, close walls, high-speed corners, and tremendous skill to conquer.
If you’ve ever play racing games akin to Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, then you may be well aware of Sonoma’s difficulty. Although its road course may be hard, so too is its oval course, which is also available to the public. Either way, just be sure to practice a bit before taking on the beast of Sonoma, California.
4 Circuit Of The Americas
With millions of dollars, city backing, and intention for use in Formula One, it should be no surprise that the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) is one of America’s most well built tracks. Ultimately, it has to be great to receive its grade of “1” from the F.I.A.
Located outside the sprawling city of Austin, Texas, COTA often sees thousands of spectators each year for everything from Ferrari Challenge races to Formula One and MotoGP. Why not make use of their services and experience what the professionals drive on while you’re there?
3 Road America
Although tracks like Sebring, Lime Rock, and Watkins Glen are old, none are as old as Road America. By almost every account, Road America is America’s longest standing racetrack.
Pinpointed near Milwaukee, the town of Elkhart Lake, Road America has stood for over six decades and change multiple times. Throughout its many iterations, its always maintained a similar structure and noticeable features; the most notable of which being the long straights and slanted turns nine and ten.
2 Sebring International Raceway
Not every great track began as such. In fact, many had to slowly build their repertoire before becoming what they now are. Sebring, on the other hand, had a completely different up bringing, as its original purpose was that of a military training base.
The runway, actually, still plays a big part in the circuit to this day. The back straight is almost entirely the same materials as the old runway and makes for a bumpy ride. So bumpy, actually, those cars that can survive a 12-hour race there can easily survive the rest of the season.
Although central Florida can be boring and hot at times, at least a small town like Sebring has the opportunity to drive on a historic place (In terms of war memorial and motor sports).
1 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
The west coast really does have everything: Beautiful beaches, wealth, great weather, entertainment, and even famous racetracks. One of the most famous of all, in fact, is California’s Laguna Seca.
As mentioned previously, Laguna Seca is located in California in the city of Salinas; south of San Jose. Like Lime Rock, it follows a natural path along the hills and pathways of its environment. This leads to some interesting track design, the most prominent of which being the Corkscrew corner that catches many drivers off.