ROAD RACING Recent renovations revitalize Nelson Ledges
FunDayz are held for any licensed driver to practice several times a month.
By KATIE LIBECCO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
GARRETTSVILLE -- Nelson Ledges Road Course has quietly undergone major changes, attracting drivers and spectators from across the nation.
"We tried to make everything more pleasant," co-manager Scott Lane said. "People don't have much time anymore. We want to make their time here enjoyable."
When he and sister Carrie Lane took over management mid-season in 2003, they split work into equal roles and got to work.
They assumed management from their father, John McGill, who had been the general manager from the beginning, Scott said. Cleveland resident Marvin Drucker has owned the track since its inception.
"We concentrated on everything people can see," said Scott. "We wanted to get the car and driver counts up, so we could give spectators more to watch."
Most of the events are through the Sports Car Club of America and the Western-Eastern Roadracers Association for motorcycles, in addition to other specialized racing groups.
"You can see a guy working on his competitor's car to get him out on track, to have someone to race against," Scott said. "There are few prima donnas or attitudes out here, which I think it is very appealing."
Drucker opened Nelson Ledges as a dirt track in the 1950s. In 1964, Nelson Ledges became an asphalt track.
In 1970, with a Gulf Oil sponsorship, the track's size was doubled to a full 2-mile road course, with eight large turns and 13 corner stations.
Showroom stock car endurance races and 24-hour motorcycle races began at Nelson Ledges.
Jeff Blumenthal experienced the renovations first-hand. As a member of the SCCA, he's raced at Nelson Ledges Road Course for four years.
"People used to tell me 'You can't go to Nelson, you'll destroy your car!'" said SCCA member Jeff Blumenthal. "But now it's a really, really nice track."
When Scott and Carrie took over operations of the track mid-season 2003, they started major changes right away.
"The renovations have been amazing," said Bill Pintariac, a trustee for the Mahoning Valley Region SCCA. "Before, some cars would actually shake parts loose from vibrations. Now it's tremendously smoother."
The Lanes focused on the top driver complaint: too much water. Run-off areas were excavated and re-designed, including the addition of four miles of drainage from the track.
Half of the track was re-paved, as was pit lane, access roads and the paddock. Every track record has been broken since, making Nelson Ledges Road Course one of the fastest in the country. Formula Atlantic records are under one minute for the two-mile course with average lap speeds approximately 120 mph.
A new access road was created to turn three and a new fuel pump was installed near the pits.
New maintenance equipment and emergency vehicles were purchased. A new registration facility, start tower and observation mound were added to the course.
A full mile of new field fence was installed and everything in sight was repainted, Scott said.
Trees were removed from a large section of the course to increase driver and spectator visibility.
A long-term contract was signed with a vendor who provides food daily and also caters for private events.
Bathrooms were rebuilt to include new plumbing with hot and cold water.
More spectator stands were built and the loud speaker system was revamped. The course now has FM broadcasting capabilities.
The Lanes installed computerized timing and scoring system, which is compatible with the I-card system. The I-card system allows spectators and crews to get live lap times through a continuously updated timing system.
"The lap times are so much faster," Pintariac said. "It's amazing. Some of us joke that we have to re-learn it. And it's just so much safer."
Even after all of the changes, Scott and Carrie still aren't done.
They wish to take FunDayz to the next level.
"We'd like to create a permanent driving school, for everyone from teen drivers to professional racers," Scott said.
Within the next month, a new Web site will be created by Impact Communications for the track: www.NelsonLedges.com. It will feature a calendar, maps, photos, history, track weather, message boards, e-mail lists and more. Currently, information for Nelson Ledges is at www.FastOne.Com.
"The current ownership has just made it a pleasure to go out there," Blumenthal said. "The changes have just been outstanding."
"Everyone is out here for the love of the sport," Scott said. "Races very often include the whole family."
Nelson Ledges Road Course offers many FunDayz events throughout the racing season. For $120, anyone with a driver's license and a performance-based car can practice on-course in a relaxed atmosphere.
For novices, an experienced driver will be available for in-car help. Drivers are able to use the course for six hours.
Nelson Ledges will host the Northeastern Ohio 12-Hour Endurance Race July 22-23, followed by a SCCA performance driving experience on July 24.
The performance driving experience will put students in their own cars on the track with experienced instructors. Classroom sessions and corner observations are included. The performance driving experience is presented by the Misery Bay Region of the SCCA and will cost $150.
For more information on the performance driving experience, contact Bill Stewart at (888) 927-9806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nelson Ledges is also available for rental to private car and motorcycle groups, as well as large corporations.
For more information on volunteering, racing or spectating, call the track office at (440) 548-8551.
XNelson Ledges Road Course is located on state Route 305, about one mile south of Nelson Ledges Quarry Park. Located less than three miles off of state Route 422, it's about 30 minutes north of Warren.