MENDOTA – Randy Lewis has seen his fair share of auto racing. He can add the stock car racing held at the Tri-County Fair in Mendota on Sept. 1 to that list.
Lewis is a “trackchaser.” He travels all over the world trying to see auto racing at as many different tracks as he can. Lewis described trackchasing as sort of a three-pronged hobby – auto racing, travel and logistics.
“Trackchasing is a ‘collecting’ hobby,” Lewis said. “I collect experiences.”
Lewis said there are “rules” that come with trackchasing. In order for a track to count, he has to see wheel-to-wheel racing on ovals, road courses or figure eight tracks. Demolition derbies, drag racing and motorcycle racing do not count.
Lewis is originally from East Peoria, and now calls San Clemente, Calif., home. He graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1971 and always drove through Mendota coming and going to school. With his attendance at the race at the Tri-County Fair, Lewis has now been to 2,586 tracks in 85 countries. It was the 107th different track he’s attended racing in Illinois.
Each year, Lewis travels more than 200,000 miles with his trackchasing hobby. In 2019 alone, he has made new racing visits to Tunisia, Montenegro, Antigua, Japan and Italy, in addition to more than 20 states in the U.S.
“The logistics part of my hobby is trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B to point C and beyond without spending all of our retirement savings,” Lewis noted.
After the Mendota race, Lewis and his wife headed back to Southern California for one day, then they will set out for Idaho to a county fair on Wednesday. He will go solo to Pennsylvania for a dirt race, to Montreal, Canada, on Saturday and to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday before returning to Los Angeles on Monday.
“I do this kind of thing about 40 weekends/weeks each year,” he said.
After he graduated from NIU, Lewis entered the Marine Corps and then had a 30-year sales career with Procter & Gamble. Working with P&G, he and his family moved all over the country and this allowed him to see racing in lots of different places. He retired 18 years ago having seen about 580 racetracks. Since then, he has averaged well over 100 new tracks every year.
“I’ve also been to more than 500 county fairs,” added Lewis. “It was nice being in Mendota at the fair because I could do it with family, see another race in my native state of Illinois and meet promoter Matt Ramer. He’s doing a great job for the community by offering up another entertainment choice for folks living in a small town. He’s enthusiastic and I hope he does well.
“Trackchasing is about auto racing, but it’s more about meeting people from all over the country and the world, and seeing what their lifestyles are all about. It’s about travel and being on the open road and seeing what there is to see.”
Lewis has documented many of his escapades on www.randylewis.org. He includes a travel log, YouTube video and photo album covering the highlights of the trip.