5 Under-the-Radar Motorsports Events You Should Attend

Courtesy Austin Bradshaw/SCCA/Jeff Loewe

As fool’s spring winds down and second winter descends on some of us, we keenly anticipate driving season, which, we just have to trust, is right around the corner. When the roads finally do clear up and the weather is right, do you know where you are headed this year? Nothing wrong with a humble road trip but this is the time to think ahead and make plans to do or see something cool in 2024.

It’s also the time of year when many motorsports venues announce their schedules, so now is the perfect time to pick something and start making a plan for how to make it happen. That’s why we rounded up five under-the-radar motorsports events that are worth your consideration. As a bonus, most of these events do not require the top-tier budget of more popular events, like F1 Grands Prix or Goodwood or Le Mans.

SCCA Runoffs

College Budget SCCA Runoffs-JLO14292
Courtesy Austin Bradshaw/SCCA/Jeff Loewe

SCCA Runoffs comprise a full week of racing that includes competitors of all various skills and budgets. Want to cheer for an underdog? Easy to find one. Want to see the bleeding edge of engineering a car to fit within the rulebook? You’ll find that too, along with just about any other racing trope or technique you can think of. SCCA Runoffs is the peak for many hobby racers and a jumping-off point for aspiring pros. It makes for great racing with a great atmosphere, and this year’s event will be held at Road America in Wisconsin. What more could you want?

Vintage weekend at Road America

There are multiple big vintage events in America throughout the year, but there is something about the charm of Road America in July that just can’t be beat. The track has remained relatively unchanged since 1955 so sitting on the hill above turn five and watching the drivers brake deep into downhill braking zone into the tight left could be the closest thing to time-travel you can easily experience. Add in the ability to walk the paddock and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of vintage iron as it warms up and cools down between track sessions, and you have a great weekend. Plus, there are great cheese curds.

25 at Thunderhill

Endurance races have a certain mystique to them. The heavy hitters of Le Mans or Daytona are obvious bucket-list events, but if you want to get closer to the action and are also on the wrong coast for the Florida races, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill at Thunderhill Raceway Park just outside Willows, California, might be the perfect adventure. You have a little bit of extra time to plan as the organizers have elected to suspend the 2024 event and instead put more effort into the 2025 race. Mark your calendars for November 2025 and dress for any weather. It can get cold, and that makes the racing that much more interesting.

Barber Vintage Festival

If you like motorcycles, block off the first weekend in October. Held at the manicured facility of Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama, the Barber Vintage Festival has multiple racing disciplines running at once, along with a large swap meet and plenty of other wonderful attractions. The vintage motorcycle racing is run by the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association and from a spot in the shade overlooking turn two you can watch everything from hand-shift Harley Davidsons of the 1940s all the way to brand-new Euro supermotos dice it up. A pavement oval race takes place up on the test track portion of the grounds, and off-road trials and cross-country races take place in the woods just off of one of the camping lots. A little bit of everything—and that’s before you go through the facility’s world-class museum or join one of the seminars.

24 Hours of Lemons

When racers and teams are encouraged to lean into the absurdity of racing, a weekend at the track gets wild. Sure, there are teams working to go as fast as possible for as long as possible, but the vocal majority of Lemons racers are there to conquer the challenge of making some less-than-ideal race car finish the race.

The attitude of a Lemons race is unlike that of so many other motorsports events. People are working to solve automotive problems that should basically never exist. There was no reason to put a diesel turbocharger on a Mopar slant-six, for example, but there is no shortage of people excited to not only see such a thing exist but to make it work and work well. Lemons racing is a different kind of fun. Before you pass judgement, check it out for yourself.




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    Don’t just attend a LeMons race – participate. Volunteer for a crew or better yet, find a drive. The barrier to entry is very low.

    Right, Willow Springs International Raceway is in Rosamond. Vintage Auto Racing Association (vararacing.com) will be there March 16 and 17 for the High Desert Challenge. This is the oldest road racing track (1953) in the USA !!

    And don’t forget to check out the American Rally Association rally racing events around the country. There’s both a national series and regional events, and participating is as easy as watching: most events are always in need of volunteers to marshal the course getting to viewing locations not accessible to the public most times. I’d suggest the Oregon Trail Rally in May.

    The annual Pig-N-Ford race. They are a part of the Tillamook County Fair. What could go wrong with a pig and Model T?

    On the IndyCar circuit, I consider the Portland 200 as the under-the-radar race. But PIR is a fun track, the crowds are certainly manageable, and the cost to attend is close to what just your beer bill would be at one of the big premier tracks.

    Oh yes, the Runoffs. I recommended that some Australian friends see the Runoffs in 1980, and they called it the best racing in the world. I’ve covered the Runoffs for a couple magazines, especially Sports Car, since 1983, and I’d go again. The Ausies were right – best racing in the world.

    The lead photo is the E Production race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the last time SCCA visited. Great class, with great competitors. Now Spec Miata, and Spec Racer Ford are the crazy ones to watch.

    Don’t forget your local tracks! There are many short (and not so short) tracks scattered around the country that have darn good drivers and fascinating cars. We hace a 1/4 mile asphalt oval in the middle of town, and a drag strip not that far away that have plenty of exciting competition.

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