7) ALMS's other star turn is Petit Le Mans, held at Road Atlanta in October. Watching the speed the prototypes carry through that final turn is an exhilarating and unnerving experience. The surrounding area of Braselton, Ga., is photogenic – providing it isn't teeming with rain. If it is, watch from the braking zone at the final chicane. www.roadatlanta.com
8) Say what you want about the current breed of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars, but stick 'em on a banked half-miler on a hot night in Bristol, Tenn., and we defy anyone not to be captivated. Whether you're down in the front row, or way up in the nosebleeds, a capacity crowd at Bristol Motor Speedway's Night Race won't let you forget you're in an amphitheater without equal in the motorsports world. At the end of it, you'll stagger to your road car, stinking of Sunoco fumes and giant turkey legs, but with a head full of memories. www.bristolmotorspeedway.com/events/irwin_tools_night_race
9) Here's one where you really do have to be on the inside of the circuit to get the full drama: the Rolex 24 at Daytona has become a magnet for drivers from various motorsport disciplines to join forces with the regulars of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Together they pound around two-thirds of the Daytona banking before looping around into the road course section. It's fun to watch the racing – and it's abnormally close for a day-and-night event – but the biggest dramas are in the pit work, be it routine or otherwise. www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com
10) You can't go wrong when it comes to watching the 8000hp fury of NHRA's nitro-fueled cars at Pomona. Whether you choose Round 1, the Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals in February or the season-closing Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, you can't fail to be moved by the sight and sound of John Force, Larry Dixon and Co. covering 1000ft in four seconds. The difference is that you're also in the heartland of the hot rod culture and, in 2011, it's the NHRA's 60th anniversary so expect some special sideshows. http://www.nhra.com/tickets
And for something a little different in the Lower 48, we suggest you tick off the following:
11) Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Starting at a lung-busting 9,390ft of altitude and finishing some 12.4 miles and 150-plus turns later at a head-pounding 14,115ft, the Fourth of July weekend “Race to the Clouds” up one of Colorado's most breathtaking roads has been a must-see since 1916 and retains its man vs. mountain mystique. See why. www.ppihc.com
12) Eldora Speedway for the World 100. The granddaddy of dirt late model races. “The Big E” is a half-mile of ornery clay that defines the short track experience. To be there on a warm Ohio night, with 20,000 fans packing the stands and cheering on their heroes, is to rediscover what racing, pure and simple, is all about. www.eldoraspeedway.com
13) Bonneville SpeedWeek isn't just about going fast; it's a true slice of Americana on Utah's vast, August-baked Bonneville Salt Flats. While no longer the venue for supersonic rocket cars chasing the outright Land Speed Record, the Salt Flats still attract a remarkable collection of mavericks and weekend warriors for whom speed is a consuming obsession. www.scta-bni.org
14) The Milwaukee Mile. Older than the Brickyard and proudly plain and simple, the Milwaukee Mile is a flat, blue-collar throwback to a bygone age, and one of the most challenging ovals in racing. Praise be, the IndyCars return to one of their spiritual homes in 2011. www.milwaukeemile.com
F1's Jewels in the Crown
Grand masters and the glorious five
Here's a bucket list within the bucket list – five more Formula 1 grands prix you need to visit, along with Monaco, of course.
15) The Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps. The physics-defying flick through Eau Rouge, the downhill sweep of Pouhon, raw velocity and courage, changeable weather, plus amazing frites and mayo, all set in the beautiful Ardennes.
16) The Italian GP at Monza. A cathedral of speed and home of the tifosi, the most passionate fans on the planet – especially when their beloved Ferraris are on cam. Historic, atmospheric – spooky, even. Despite the chicanes, Monza is still the essence of Formula 1.
17) The British GP at Silverstone. Why? Just go watch an F1 car's lightning-fast direction changes through the Becketts complex. No more explanation required.
18) The Brazilian GP at Interlagos. The track facilities are hardly cutting edge and everybody has a story about the darker side of life in Sao Paulo, but the racing is great, the crowd's passion and love of life is contagious and there's usually a World Championship going down to the wire when the F1 circus hits town. What's not to like?
19) The Japanese GP at Suzuka. An old school track, including what is arguably the finest sequence of corners in F1 – “S” into Dunlop into Degner. OK, 130R isn't what it was, but this is still an F1 race circuit as it should be. www.formula1.com/tickets_and_travel/ www.gptours.com