Track Days

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

Hillsboro, IL

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.