I had been doing a few Solo events when several years ago the St. Louis region on SCCA combined its inaugural PDX with a Club Racing event. I thought it would be fun to blast around the track at speed. Some of the club racing drivers acted as instructors, and they gave us two 20-minute slots during their race day; it was a great day. We first had a classroom session explaining flags, safety, corner workers, a beginner’s line around the track, and more. Then we each hit the track with an instructor with us. My instructor helped me gradually increase my speed and delay my braking on each lap all the while teaching track etiquette. The first 20 minutes passed in an instant and we were taking our cooldown lap before I knew it. We then sat in the car and did a post-run review, and my instructor signed off for me to go solo. I was pumped, grinning ear to ear.
During the break, I visualized what I was going to do to improve my driving and lap speeds. I went out the next session trying to remember all that was presented. I took the parade lap, waving to the corner workers, checked my gauges on the back straight, rounded Turn 4 of the banked oval, and there was the green flag; time to let it hammer and see if I could improve. Turn 1 was easier since I did not have full speed off of the last corner. I braked and turned for it then hit the gas a little on the short straight between 1 and 2. I braked a little for Turn 2, let up and started cranking in some steering. Suddenly my car was spinning in circles. I two-footed it and came to a stop in the grass, missing Gateway’s infamous concrete walls. I remembered to look for the corner worker and signaled that I was OK. He waited for traffic to clear and sent me out. The rest of the session was uneventful, but I learned a lesson: Don’t push it on cold tires! Needless to say, I was hooked.
Since then St. Louis SCCA has hosted several dedicated PDX days that I have attended, the second year, I invited my wife to attend an event (OK I almost begged). She never cared much for Solo, but by lunch time that day she was asking the instructors if there were other tracks that held track day events; she was hooked. We soon decided that she should not beat up her daily driver, so over the winter we bought a base model Solstice, installed a rollbar, and hit the tracks the next year. Only one problem, it did not go fast enough! In typical hot rodder fashion we bought a supercharger off of a wrecked Cobalt SS, chopped off the neck that would have protruded through the firewall, installed some silicone elbows and aluminum tubing, and did a little tuning. Now with a sticky set of tires, she can keep up with most of the C4 and C5 Vettes!
Unfortunately Gateway has closed, and we have to drive to the Autobahn or Putnam Park; both are nice tracks, just a longer haul. Keep up the good work.
Kenneth C. McDonough
Thanks for sharing, Kenneth. Track days are a blast, and it’s nice to see how mainstream it’s becoming. Your story just made it clear how addicting it can be. Now for the question we’re all wondering: Who’s the better corner carver, you or your better half? Just kidding, we’re sure you’ll agree, it’s her.
How I Got Hooked
Reading your “Shop Talk” section this month brought back my memory big time. It was 1972 at Road America. My dad had worked for STP, and we went to the Indianapolis 500 every year. I don’t have many memories of that. The round and round stuff was just OK, I guess. But at that 1972 Can-Am race at RA he got me into the passenger seat of an experimental Porsche. With a helmet too big and funky checkered shorts, I jumped at the chance. We hit Turn 1, and I think the edges of my lips touched my ears. When we got into Turn 5 I thought my door would fly off. I even remember passing a TR250 Triumph between Turn 7 and 8. Now I work at a company that goes autocrossing for marketing purposes, and at every Goodguys show I look for a little kid to put in the passenger seat for at least one lap. Hopefully they too will remember what kind of shorts they were wearing!
That’s a great story, Mike. While my experience wasn’t on such a prestigious track with a full-on race car, I’ll never forget the lateral forces being produced in a little four-cylinder econobox with sticky tires all around. I’ll look for you at the next Goodguys event; I want a ride!
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Matco Tools NHRA Contest: Follow and Win!
NHRA dragsters won’t be the only ones winning big on the Western Swing this year. Automotive technicians, repair shop owners, and managers can win instantly with Matco Tools’ “Tool Up! And Win” contest, kicking off in May. Matco Tools’ distributors will provide qualifying customers a scratch-off card. Every card is a winner, and a few lucky cardholders will also have the chance to win these top prizes should Antron Brown place in the top three during the Western Swing:
• Third Place: Matco will award 1,200 Matco Tools Varsity Jackets
• Runner-Up: Matco will award Nine Matco Tools 5225 Toolboxes
• Grand Prize: Matco will award three all-expense paid trips for two to the NHRA Finals in Pomona, California, dinner with Antron Brown, and more
Cardholders can follow the results of Brown’s race schedule on www.matcotools.com to see results. If Brown places First, Second, or Third in any of three races, cardholders who reveal a matching location and position on their scratch-off card will win that prize. Qualifying races include:
• Denver, Colorado, on July 24, 2011
• Sonoma, California, on July 31, 2011
• Seattle, Washington, on August 7, 2011
I’m a geek at heart, and if you’re like me, you live and breathe the automotive world. It’s clear I have an addiction. I’ll suck up as much information about anything with an internal combustion engine and anything related to it. I immerse, search, and hunt for all things car related. Like a lion on the prowl, my senses become acute. Eyes widen and ears automatically hustle into the nearest car-related conversation wherever I’m headed.
For myself, it’s gotten ridiculous and has even expanded into celebrating everything transportation. It includes trains, planes, and even ships, too. Heck, if it has a set of keys, a start button, and it moves on the street, water, rails, or in the air, you can bet I’m all for it. Steam, coal, fuel, human, even nuclear powered. I don’t care what it’s propelled by; I resist discrimination. With such an insatiable appetite, it’s caused me to search the subjects until the bitter end.
I’ll do whatever it takes to get my fix. Recently, that means watching videos and clips on YouTube.com. Free time consists of sitting for hours on end researching the different branches of my transportation fixation. I get hooked on subjects and won’t let up until the battery on my laptop or iPhone has given up. Just last week, I spent a portion of my evening watching countless tractor-pulling videos. Weird, I know. The coolest part was that these were daily driven rigs with no more than large tires, exhaust, and an aftermarket tuner program for more boost—amazing.
Video clips are a great method for supercharging material and creating quick content that’s chock full of cool information. It’s easily accessible online and even through a smartphone. We’re slowly implementing those features. This means you’ll not only get tech stories through the magazine every month, but an extra dose of what we’re doing in the form of a short video, too. Just like the toolboxes in our garages, as editors, we have to be proficient in all of our outlets. This includes producing edit for the magazine and recently, video content.
We dig the idea and are making the necessary arrangements to make that happen. We’re hoping you like the approach as well. Let us know what you think and email us at email@example.com.