It’s not just about the race — it’s the driveWritten by Nick Shultz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Living in the flatlands of the Black Swamp, it’s hard to imagine that just one hour north is the plush green Irish Hills of southern Michigan.
Nestled within the hills, between several large lakes, is one of the nation’s premier racetracks.
I can speak with some authority about the racetrack and surrounding cities because this is where I make my home.
Michigan International Speedway (MIS) is a “super track” that attracts hundreds of thousands of race fans each year from all over the United States, and even the world.
If you drive 17 miles north of the Ohio border, take U.S. 23 to the M-50 exit and drive another 30 miles west to the intersections of M-50 and U.S. 12, you will arrive at MIS.
Along that route you will climb up and out of the northern range of the Black Swamp and pass the rich drain basin and flood plains of the River Raisin. Though not always in immediate sight, the River Raisin has nearly 430 lakes and ponds that make up its watershed. These lakes are a chief reason this region is referred to as “southern Michigan’s playground.”
As you begin the climb into the rolling southern hills of Michigan, you will cross the River Raisin at the city of Tecumseh. Be sure and look to your right as you enter the city because you’ll notice an old mill wheel still in operation. Tecumseh is one of the first three original settlements in Michigan. It has a rich and interesting history and may well be one of the most beautiful cities in the area.
Once out of Tecumseh, you are just 15 minutes from the racetrack. Although you could leave your home in the morning, watch the race and be back at home by the early evening, you might be missing the essence of the Irish Hills. I suggest spending time exploring the region.
A little background
MIS hosted its first race in October 1968. And although the original seating was designed to accommodate 25,983, nearly three times that number showed up on race day. According to the local newspaper, The Brooklyn Exponent, traffic was backed up along U.S. 12 for nearly 20 miles in either direction to watch the inaugural race.
That race offered an amazing $75,000 in purse money, which was bettered only by the purse offered at the Indianapolis 500 that year. MIS and the sleepy community of Brooklyn, Mich., were on the map to stay.
The original racetrack was actually three racetracks in one. The track itself sits on approximately 1,400 acres of land. During its construction, 2.5 million yards of earth were moved in order to build the banked oval and road courses. I watched this happen.
Currently, the track can seat nearly 138,000 spectators and an additional 100,000 visit the Brooklyn, Mich., area and the Irish Hills during each NASCAR race week.
Most of those visitors will camp at one of the many racetrack-owned campgrounds or the many private and public campgrounds in the area.
The community of Brooklyn sits squarely in the heart of the Irish Hills. The many lakes and streams in the area help make Brooklyn the summer residence of many Michiganders and Ohioans. Summer cabins and homes line the shorelines of the many lakes.
Downtown Brooklyn offers many unique shops to delight the ladies, and the lakes are teeming with fish, which is sure to attract the men. The sandy beaches are a great place to take the kids swimming.
Every Wednesday evening during the summer months, Brooklyn hosts one of the finest classic car gatherings in the tri-state area. Muscle cars and Model T’s can all be seen at this weekly ritual.
If you get to the Hills, make sure you take time to cruise the many back roads and observe the wildlife, but be careful because the area is home to Michigan’s largest whitetail deer herd. Local residents are well aware of the deer herd and, therefore, they drive slowly in the early morning and just before dark. Sand Hill cranes are abundant as well.
You will be sure to see turkey and geese roaming the open fields as well, and the area is home to many species of ducks.
If you like the outdoors or you like car racing, a trip to the Irish Hills and Michigan International Speedway should be on your agenda. Just an hour north of Toledo, you can find something for everyone in your family.
Fishing, swimming, camping and hiking are all available, and you can take in a great race.
My door is always open, too.
Nick Shultz is an instructor of Automotive Technologies at Owens Community College. He is an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau who specializes in cases involving the Ohio and Michigan Lemon laws. He is a certified master automotive technician by ASE, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Shultz, a Toledo native, will take questions at email@example.com.