The first run of the day is a time to familiarize yourself with the track, the conditions, and your car. Every track is different so take your time to learn the layout. The earlier it is in the day, the more slippery the track surface will be. The last thing you want to do is lose it right away and spend the rest of the day on the sidelines. If you’ve recently made any changes to your car, be prepared to spend a little extra time learning them. Think of better suspension and tires as a factor that ups the speed in which you lose control, not as insurance against losing control.
There is an inherent risk that you must accept with taking your car to the track. Many will argue that the drive to the track is more dangerous than the time at the track, and statistically that’s true. That doesn’t lessen the real possibility that something can go wrong. Aside from driver error, be ready to tackle a mechanical issue. We managed to break down in the first session, but because of our meticulous planning, we were able to recover and get back on the track.
After the fifth lap of the first session we heard an engine miss and pitted immediately. There wasn’t an awful noise or anything to indicate something was broken, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The first thing we did was a visual inspection to make sure we hadn’t burnt a spark plug wire, or something obvious. With everything looking good we pulled the valve covers. That’s when we noticed one rocker had over a 1/2 inch of play. Sure enough, a pushrod was broken.
We immediately made the one-hour trip toward Chico, California, to Pettersen Motorsports, where owner Mark Pettersen was eager to help. We brought the wounded pushrod as well as one that was intact to source a correctly sized replacement. They had COMP Cams 0.105-inch wall 5/16 pushrods—perfect to replace our patient. We opted to replace them all since the ones we had were of an unknown brand and wall thickness. We knew they were hardened at least, but knowing we could break another one later was a risk we weren’t willing to take, so we took the whole set with us.
Bringing the valve lashing tool and feeler gauge paid off; we were able to swap out the pushrods and continue on with our track day. Knowing we had the toughest pushrods available that would still fit, we went back out with full confidence.
In the weeks preceding your track day, make lists of what to bring. No matter how sure you are you won’t forget, you will. If you’re looking to attend many of these events it’s a good idea to type and save the list for the future.
Pre-Tech Your Car
Generally there will be a tech inspection on-site the day of the track day. We advise you to obtain a copy of the tech form ahead of time and inspect the car yourself. This is NCRC’s tech form, the checklist is very basic and easy to complete. If you find something at home, it’ll give you ample time to repair it, rather than scrambling at the track.
We brought a compact Craftsman tool set that included plenty of 6- and 12-point sockets, combination wrenches, Allen keys, and screwdrivers. If there are specialty tools you know you might need like a torque wrench, bring them along as well. Having paper towels and gloves will make switching from work to play quicker too. It doesn’t cost anything to bring extra stuff, so pack it in!