Grand-Am cars aren't the sexiest on the planet nor are they the fastest. But the racing is close and exciting and a lot of fun to watch, in the same way that NASCAR is. In the Continental GS race, for instance, Scott Maxwell in a Mustang Boss 302 passed Auberlen's BMW M3 for the lead with four laps to go, and Billy Johnson took third on the last lap. With the exception of the DP class, fans can relate to the cars. Ultimately, it's very satisfying to watch a race where the winner is decided by driving skill and a team's ability to make the right calls on pit road, rather than by a driver who's in a dominant car where the most vital factor is the size of the team's budget. Perhaps Grand-Am is on to something, after all. AM
The Rolls-Royce of Racing Circuits
Kevin Hindson, Grand-Am's vice president of marketing, sums up Barber Motorsports Park best: "It's like racing on a golf course here."
Set in 740 acres of rolling parkland near Birmingham, Alabama, the 2.4-mile road course was opened in 2003 and is as pretty as it gets. Barber is very spectator friendly, with large terraced grass viewing areas and shuttles that take you from one viewpoint to another. The track itself has lots of elevation changes, but it's not the easiest place for drivers to overtake.
As well as hosting races and track days, the park is home to the Porsche Sport Driving School and to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Dairy and real-estate mogul George Barber raced Porsches in the 1960s but has since turned his focus to motorcycles. The museum houses more than 1200 road and race bikes from 1904 to the current era, as well as a fine collection of sports and race cars that include a number of historically significant Lotuses -- there are a four-wheel-drive Type 63 F1 car and a Type 64 Indy car on display, for instance -- and the Ferrari 158 F1 car that one of Barber's heroes, John Surtees, used to win the 1964 driver's title.
Two complaints from this otherwise happy camper: it's a long walk from the campsite to the paddock to take a shower; and the rules on riding bicycles in the paddock and on the grounds are confused and confusing. -- MG