Speed Read: Chris Thacker and the Race to Laguna Seca

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IDC TA specialist and State Liaison Chris Thacker has a need for speed. In fact, over the years Chris has attended dozens of GT road races across the country, but it’s his own sprint to California’s legendary Laguna Seca Raceway that will forever stand out as his race to the race.

For those of you who follow Chris, you know he’s Bluegrass State born and bred, so a trip to California is no small event. Plus, as a busy professional and family man, we can’t even really blame him for confusing Laguna Seca with Laguna Beach and booking his family’s flights in and out of Los Angeles. But, alas, Laguna Seca is not, in fact, in LA (or anywhere near it), and this is where the race really begins.

The legendary track at Laguna Seca is known for a plunging downhill corkscrew at Turns 8 and 8A, which is ironic, really, because this is what was about to happen to Chris. The night before he and his family were scheduled to leave, he excitedly sat down at his laptop to confirm his travel arrangements. Flight? Check. Hotel? Check. Tickets to the race? Double check.

Then, on a whim, Chris mapped out the route from his hotel to the track, and one small but crucial detail emerged.

Among the most well-loved tracks on the GT circuit, Laguna Seca Raceway has been around since 1957. Aside from that infamous Turn 8/8A corkscrew, it is known for its panoramic view of the California landscape from a vantage 10 miles inland of California’s picturesque Monterey Peninsula, a 5 ½-hour drive due north of Los Angeles.

Though the GT cars everyone was so excited to see were still tucked safely in their garages, for Chris and his family the race had already begun. Thinking fast, Chris used the 3-hour time difference to his advantage and spent the rest of the evening calling every rental car agency he could think of to secure a vehicle big enough and fast enough to take his family to Monterey in time for the race. Hours later, with his reservation in hand, it was time to start their engines and race west…and then north.

Time was crucial, and luckily, Chris and family had an easy flight to LA, but, just like when racing at the track, oftentimes a smooth straightaway comes just before a brutal hairpin turn. In this case, the next obstacle was the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) rental car office. With nine terminals serving some 88 million passengers per year, LAX sprawls over 5.6 miles and is the third busiest airport in the world. Its rental car pickup area, located in parking lot C, is another 4 miles away.

With suitcase wheels smoking and not a moment to lose, Chris and his family boarded the bus to parking lot C, grabbed the keys, started a real engine, and got ready to drive. That’s when the caution flag came out.

[Content warning: For anyone not familiar with Los Angeles-area traffic, let’s just say this is the part of our story where the journey takes some odd and harrowing twists and turns. So, rather than censor this part of the blog, we’ve decided to just spare you the details and jump to the end.]

Six (or maybe more) hours later, through bleary-eyes, Chris finally spied the checkered flag. He’d arrived at the famed Laguna Seca track, and it was as beautiful as the photographs promised. In the end, Chris and his family agreed that the experience of the Laguna Seca track was well worth the race, but nowadays they prefer to drive the pace car. In the years since, Chris’s family has started a new tradition of weeklong driving excursions ahead of each weekend race. Their caravan has journeyed to some of this country’s greatest GT races in cities as diverse as Des Moines, Iowa; Salt Lake City, Utah; Austin, Texas; and many more. As Chris himself told The Buzz, “The adventures continue…stay tuned!”