By on August 28, 2020

PhotoStock10/Shutterstock.com. Track

The news lately seems to be all doom and gloom. The jokes and memes about 2020 continue to fly around the Interwebs. And much of the usual entertainment distractions available to us are on hiatus or heavily restricted, due to the pandemic.

All this makes me want to take a drive to clear my head sometimes. And while testing new cars for a living gives me an excuse to do just that, I think I need more than a relaxed freeway cruise or a blast down a back road to really relieve the stress.

I need to get my ass to the track.

I won’t be able to anytime soon, even though some tracks are open and observing pandemic safety rules, for a simple reason: I don’t have access to a racecar. Nor can I afford to plunk down more than my monthly housing costs on a rental.

Track days are expensive. Automotive journalism isn’t lucrative.

I was thinking about my experiences tracking a Shelby during pandemic times earlier today, and that’s what set off the proverbial light bulb in the ol’ noggin. I got to mulling over how nice it was to shut the world out for three or four laps, and how, given that the doomscrolling has gotten worse in the month and change since that day, I’d love to get out there again.

I’m not arguing that tracking a car is the only or best way to take your mind off the world for a bit. Of course not. Even during a pandemic, there’s plenty of ways you can entertain yourself both actively (playing a sport that allows for social distancing and masks, like golf) and passively (watching TV). You might not even have to leave your home and risk the ‘rona.

Indeed, thanks to cable, streaming services, video games, the Internet, and books, we are lucky to have many more ways to alleviate boredom, without spending much money or leaving home, than ever before.

Still, as I hinted at near the end of the Shelby piece, there’s something about being out there, on track, engine screaming, that I’m really missing right now. And I don’t think going for a walk, or spending a few hours slapping a ball into the woods (I’m a laughably terrible golfer), or even a nice drive on public roads can really substitute for it.

I know my track experience is limited compared to others who have graced these pages, and I know I’m not as fast as they are. I don’t care. Track driving requires a level of concentration and mental energy/effort that few other activities do. Given the state of the world and the quality of our discourse about said state, I need a break from social media and the flood of news and the political discussions taking place on our text threads. We all do, I think.

Can’t doomscroll when you need to keep your eyes up to spot the turn-in point. Can’t argue about policy planks when you’re looking for the apex. Can’t discuss the latest outrage in your political circles at 100 mph. Can’t check your phone when it’s in the glovebox, turned off. Nor can you look at it when you need your eyes to be up (where the eyes go, the car goes). Can’t touch the phone when your hands are solidly at 9 and 3 on the wheel, as they should be.

I know many of you suffer the same lack of time and money that I do. I know that, as I said above, tracking ain’t cheap. I’m also fully aware that this job allows me to have track experiences I otherwise wouldn’t.

So, yeah, tracking is a luxury most of us can’t indulge, even when a nasty, potentially deadly virus isn’t circulating unchecked. Again, I’m not advocating for it as the only means for a mental escape. As noted, there are cheaper ways to spend your downtime.

But if you can get out there somehow, do it. Maybe you can splurge on a rental or your wealthy weekend-warrior buddy will give you a shot behind the wheel, or even just a chance to help in the pits. Maybe your itch can be scratched by being a corner worker for a weekend. Even if you aren’t driving, there are other ways to use a track day to boost your mental health. That said, there are some high-performance driving experiences that are relatively affordable, even for the average cubicle farmer. Take a look around for deals.

I don’t mean to suggest that you should use track time to completely stop being an engaged citizen in the world. Far from it. There are difficult conversations to have regarding race, justice, and other topics, and you shouldn’t shy away, as long as the discussions remain reasonable. Taking a break from the world is good, checking out entirely is bad.

That’s part of the joy of tracking, too. The “real world” will still be there when you pull into the pits. And a day at the track will, if all goes well, leave you recharged and ready to deal with it.

[Image: PhotoStock10/Shutterstock.com]

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14 Comments on “I Need a Track Day. You Probably Do, Too...”


  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    All I have to do is go for a ride on my dual sport into the back country. No need for track days. I pick a more remote and less used route and that ramps up my need to focus and meet the challenge. There’s nothing like a 120 km “point of no return” with a 250 km fuel range to shift your mental focus.

  • avatar

    Speaking of track days… here’s a shameless plug for my organization.

    NECC Motorsports (“NECC”) conducts high performance driving events for all makes and models of cars ranging from pure stock to race-prepared. Our events include open track and time trials on sports car tracks in northeastern USA. Safety is our prime concern, of course. If your car can pass our tech inspection rules, you are eligible to drive with us.

    This year, we held high performance driving events at New York Safety Track and Pocono Raceway. That completes our schedule of events for 2020 – our 47th year, by the way! We thank all of the drivers who ran with us. Typical price for a full day on the track is about $350.

    You can visit our website where you’ll find complete information about our events, including our rule book, tech inspection, typical schedules and more.

    http://www.neccmotorsports.com

    We’re also on Facebook where you’ll find photos from our most recent events.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’ll be at Sebring on October 4th. Between COVID and the heat of summer tracks days have been very limited so far… just two all year in fact. Always fun and challenging to get in some hot laps, looking forward to getting back in the groove.

    And yes even if you don’t turn any laps check the schedule at your local track and see if they allow visitors. You can walk around outside and check out the cars. Its like a free car show with a side of amateur racing thrown in. You normally get some exotics as well as the Roadkill style beaters the more serious drivers have. The whole track scene is very family friendly since no alcohol is allowed. Almost everyone will be happy to talk about their car, let you take pictures and maybe even sit in if you ask nicely (just don’t touch the controls). There is normally a food truck or some on-site vendor slinging dogs, burgers or tacos.

    The group I run with (Chin Motorsports) allows anyone to do two parade laps in any vehicle after lunch. These are slow speed (30-40 MPH) laps behind a pace car. This way you can say you’ve driven on a track even if its not at speed squealing your tires.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    This year will be the first time in the more than 20 years I’ve been instructing (BMW and Porsche clubs) that I won’t be going to the track. :-(

    For me the issue isn’t infection risk at the track itself, over which I have some control, but the local Billy Bob owned/operated franchise motel, and the nearby restaurants. The midwest tracks I go to are outside of single day commuting range. And I don’t do camping!

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Man , I wish I had a track capable vehicle , I haven’t done a track day in over a decade. One unpspoken benefit after being at my relative limit (not the vehicle’s)- I have no desire to speed on public roads. Knock on wood I haven’t gotten a ticket since my last track day.
    We’re definitely at a disadvantage here in flyover country for available tracks. I’m not sure if my local tracks (Kansas Speedway, Heartland Park) have open track days any more.
    There are autocrosses, but they really are a phenomenal day killer for 90 seconds of action.

    • 0 avatar
      turbo_awd

      This – I’ve done a couple of auto-x, and the 7-10 minutes total action are fun, and the competition is too, but it’s not *THAT* much fun, at least for me.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Years ago I took my ’84 944 to a ‘classic car’ track day. I was let in but not allowed on the track – even though my Porsche qualified as a ‘classic’ to the organizers. I soon found out why:

    My friend’s Dad’s Gen I NSX was caught at nearly every corner entry by a Boss 302, after losing it long before nearly every corner exit;

    An aged gentleman ( another friend’s grandfather ) stuffed his red Countach into a gravel trap – he walked back to the garage area to get his black Countach ( he stuffed the black one in the same place );

    A Caterham blew the back half of its exhaust off and was black-flagged…

    Autocross might be the way to go. Track days are hard on equipment and tires and the wallet, from what little I’ve seen.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Solution is Easy-Peasy :

    Come to Los Angeles where the local stupid kiddies are racing and crashing at ever growing numbers all night long .

    I was in South Central L.A. to – day when one of them decided to ‘race’ in the Northbound commuter traffic @ 6PM, his car was demolished , I hope no one was seriously hurt .

    I imagine this same scenario is playing out all across America’s highways & byways, non ? .

    Don’t even need wimpy gloves, Nomex or helmet ~ just go careening out and kill / maim a few strangers .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Run what you got. I’ve never not had fun on a track and that includes some laps in a late 80s Chrysler Lebaron.

    Someone will always be faster than you are. Better to be the slowest than the dumbest.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    Early on in the pandemic here in the northeast, all the tracks were closed and the season was uncertain. They’re back open now with social distancing protocols in place for the paddock areas. You have to admit it’s a pretty low COVID risk activity. It’s not the best year for novices as most organizations aren’t doing in car instruction and many have chosen to forgo the novice run groups all together.

    And you’re right, it’s perfect therapy right now.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    It scratches the itch a little differently, but try a test and tune day at the local strip. 20’ish buckish usually. Can be pretty amazing how much focus you can jam into just a few seconds.

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