Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – IMSA Weekend
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 7721 Steam Corners Rd Lexington, OH 44904
Year Opened: 1962
Declining Quality in Mid-Ohio
Mid-Ohio was known for being a top-level destination for car racing, but the quality at the facility has fallen off in recent years. The facility provides exciting racing and has loyal fans, but unfortunately that is where the positives end. The traffic issues getting in and out aren’t much help either. While IndyCar and NASCAR may be the top events for fans to visit this track, IMSA weekend provides a different vibe all together.
Food & Beverage 3
The food here ranges from the standard burgers ($10.75-$13.25 combos) and hot dogs ($9) to chicken tenders ($12 combo). Sides range from $2.50 to $7.75 for chips, candy, cookies, candy, or fries. Drinks (soda and water) are standard as well, costing from $3 to $7. The main concessions stands in the infield and the paddock are the main attractions, while some food trucks also fill up the infield fan area.
The atmosphere at Mid-Ohio has declined greatly from a facility standpoint in the last few years. Where once were great sightlines for fans, you now have catch fences and high barriers in a lot of places. The former Honda bridge in the back section of the track was removed and not replaced in the winter of 2021, leaving fans with less mobility around the track for different viewpoints. The bathrooms are far from clean, and their age shows as well.
Unfortunately, most of the facilities on site are also made of wood and haven’t been upgraded in decades, meaning the carpenter bees have exploded in population in the past few years. Where paved pathways once existed in the parking areas, they are now cracked and falling apart, making for a bumpy drive around the track. The entire infield grass area was left un-mowed for the 2022 IMSA weekend. Even the dirt paths are never watered down, meaning dust covers everything at the track. So far has the decline been that rumors swirled of IMSA, NASCAR, and IndyCar refusing to keep the track on the calendar unless major upgrades are made to the facility.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course isn’t in a major city, nor is it near a thriving metropolis. Instead, it is quite literally in the middle of farm country outside of Mansfield. The biggest town near the track, Mansfield, is also not that big of a place, but has its own mall and several places to eat and stay.
While nice, the track is separated from civilization, giving a bit of an isolationist feel to the facility. One of the track’s entrances actually features a driveway that goes through a farm field, while another road leading to the front entrance goes through Lexington, a small town with a 35 mile per hour speed limit – this small town does embrace race weekend however, with local shops and restaurants putting on their best for race fans who pass through.
For food, driving into Mansfield will bring you to Texas Roadhouse and Olive Garden, two popular stops for drivers and teams. For hotels, Hampton Inn & Suites Mansfield South and The Inn on Smith’s Hill are also popular stays. For sights the Ohio State Reformatory, located outside of Mansfield, was the filming location of the popular “Shawshank Redemption,” and even offers tours. Another popular stop is Cedar Point theme park, an hour north in Sandusky.
The fans at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course are known for packing the hillsides on race day. Even if they don’t know the drivers on the track, they’ll pick their own favorite car and cheer for that team, whether they’re first or last on the track. In addition, if you get lost, most are more than willing to help you find your way. While the crowds may not be as big as during IndyCar or NASCAR, IMSA still brings out a ton of locals and series-loyal fans to the facility.
Getting to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course isn’t exactly easy; it’s in the middle of nowhere. It is also a fair driving distance from the highway, all down one-lane roads with speed limits that average about 40 miles per hour. And once you get to the track, all the parking is in grass or dirt fields, with some spots on the hills. Your rarely-used parking brake will come in handy at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, as many parking areas are on hillsides with noticeable slants, that will become slippery if it rains.
Needless to say, getting out after the races takes a lot of work and patience, as traffic is quite an ordeal. The one lane road coming in and out, as well as the single bridge leading from the infield to the outer portions of the facility, mean you may spend hours walking or driving out before you even reach the main gates.
Return on Investment 3
While it may take some travel to get to the track, going to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a track steeped in history and sporting tradition, is worth the trip. There are plenty of places to see big sections of the track, and the beautiful hillside scenery makes for a great backdrop for a race. However, the decline in facility upkeep is noticeable.
Something that gets the fans engaged is the large fan zone in the interior of the track. With displays, shopping for souvenirs, and driver interaction events, fans can get up close and personal to their favorite drivers and teams. In addition, autograph sessions throughout the weekend give you the opportunity to meet your favorite drivers up in the paddock areas. Fans can also wander throughout some of the garage areas to see their favorite teams at work, preparing their cars for the on-track action.
Perhaps the most unique thing about Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is that the garages feature a fan walkway above that looks down on the old-fashioned wooden and open-air rooms; this gives you a unique bird’s eye view of the teams working on their machines, a view that few other tracks offer.
If you want a quick, action-packed racetrack that features great camping, a beautiful backdrop, some of the loudest and most passionate fans in racing, and is far from the hustle and bustle of city life, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is the place for you. Just be ready as you may leave in a long line of traffic (fair warning).