AVONDALE, N.L. - Californian Randy Lewis has watched car races at 2,469 tracks in 80 countries.
On Saturday, the Eastbound Speedway in Avondale brought his total up to 2,470.
Lewis is the world’s number one trackchaser — the closest person to him is about 700 tracks behind.
Trackchasers are racing enthusiasts who try to see as many different racetracks as they can.
“It’s a very competitive thing,” he said, noting there are specific rules– only ovals, road courses, and figure eights where adults are racing cars on tracks can count.
It’s so competitive that people have even been accused of cheating.
Visiting Eastbound Speedway means he’s now seen racing in every Canadian province, but that’s not enough for Lewis — he’s also only two provinces short of seeing races in every Canadian province in just one year, so he’s revisiting Alberta and Quebec this year so he can check that feat off his list.
“That’ll be pretty good,” he said nonchalantly, as if it’s an everyday occurrence.
The 69-year-old spends about 180 nights a year on the road.
Each year he rents more than 50 cars and flies on more than 200 airplanes in pursuit of his hobby.
Just this year he’s visited racetracks in Belarus, Bolivia, Maldives, Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
Friday night, he and his wife Carol — who’s also seen racing in 43 countries — planned where they’ll head next and booked their flights for Spain in October.
He’s already watched races in Spain, but Carol hasn’t, so she’ll tick that one off her list. Then they’ll head to Portugal so she can tick that one off as well.
“My trips are fairly robust — I could be in Toronto today and I could be here tomorrow, and so how do you do that without spending every last dime that you have?”
After that, they’re heading to Moldova.
The couple said they’ve tried to visit Newfoundland before but they were rained out, and the visit doesn’t count if the race is cancelled due to weather.
They were actually in line for the ferry, but the forecast looked dismal, so they figured they’d be better off coming back another time when they’d be more likely to take in a race.
The couple has been married 46 years and they’ve been trackchasing together since they met in college.
“It keeps your brain sharp,” said Carol.
Randy is a retired Proctor and Gamble sales manager, and he said he made some good investments that help them to afford such a hobby, but mostly they’re able to do it because they spend a lot of time planning how to do it cost-effectively.
“I get a big charge out of the logistical planning,” he said.
“My trips are fairly robust — I could be in Toronto today and I could be here tomorrow, and so how do you do that without spending every last dime that you have?
“Sometimes the answer is you drive all night, or you sleep in the Toronto airport — which is one of the best airports in the world to sleep in, by the way.”
Lewis said he probably sleeps in airports 10 nights a year and in cars another 10 nights of the year. He’ll spend about 75 nights sleeping in a hotel, and the rest falls somewhere in between on the scale of comfort.
Newfoundland ‘most unusual part of Canada’
On their Newfoundland trip, the couple stayed at a bed and breakfast in Bonavista, where they marveled at the local accent and dialect.
“I think the ladies in our restaurant in our B&B maybe were originally from Ireland — they had an extreme Irish accent,” he said, adding Newfoundland is the “furthest ‘out there’ in terms of language and being able to understand people” that he’s visited.
“At least where you don’t expect it to be that way,” added Carol.
The couple also said they love the architecture and brightly-painted homes.
“I like New England, and this is like New England bigger and better,” said Randy.
Their favourite part of the trip so far was seeing whales while hiking the Skerwink Trail.
The couple said they love trackchasing not only because they enjoy watching the races, but because they love to travel and meet people.
In all, Randy said Newfoundland is “the most unusual part of Canada we’ve ever been” and that they’re having “a lot of fun.”
As for the racing at Eastbound Speedway, Randy said “it’s one of the best short tracks” he’s visited.
“I love this track,” said Carol. “The castle motif is so cool. I’ve never seen one like that. We’ve been a lot of places, have you ever seen a castle?” she asked her husband.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
With that, the pair picked up their seat cushions — a sure sign of seasoned spectators — and stepped up onto the bleachers to take in the rest of the race, finally able to check off every province.