So you think you really know how to drive that fast car in your driveway? Do you want to put yourself and your hot rod to the test but don't know where or how you can do that legally? The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has a program it calls SCCA Track Night in America, which allows regular people like you and me to take our cars—as long as they can pass a simple safety inspection—out on a race track where official SCCA races are run so you can see if you're as good as you think you are in a safe and controlled environment.
You Can't Drive How Your Car Was Designed to Be Driven on Public Roads
You've got that Hellcat or Camaro ZL1, or maybe a hot rod you've lovingly built yourself but nowhere to really see what it can do without risking arrest or serious injury on public roads. You never really get to open it up and see how it handles.
The SCCA saw a need for a safe and controlled environment where people can really see what they and their cars can do, without worrying about cops or speed limits or putting innocent bystanders at risk, so it came up with Track Night in America. There are 32 tracks around the country that hold SCCA Track Night events, and more are being added every year.
Just as with an SCCA-sanctioned race there are different categories. However, unlike a regular SCCA race, the categories or classes aren't divvied up by car style, design, or power output but rather by your skill level and how hard you want to drive. There are Track Tour Laps, the KONI Novice Experience, Intermediate, and Advanced.
Track Tour Laps usually start around 6:00 in the evening and are a leisurely drive around the track to familiarize you with the track and how it feels. You can bring passengers on Track Tour Laps as long as they are at least 12 years old, fit the required safety equipment, and have signed the required waivers. One of the cool things about Track Tour Laps is you don't have to register for them ahead of time, although it is appreciated.
The KONI Novice Experience is required for all first time participants in Track Night in America. However, it isn't limited only to first-timers. Anyone who wants a little extra guidance and coaching can participate. The KONI Novice Experience begins around 3:00 p.m. with a car inspection, followed by a briefing outlining the dos and don'ts. After that, you have a session on the track at “novice pace," after which you're directed back to the paddock for a review of that session. By the end of the night you will have three un-paced sessions to allow you to try out what you've learned.
The advanced and intermediate groups are for those who have been to SCCA Track Night in America before and are comfortable with driving their cars at higher speeds. Some drivers use lap timers to help themselves improve. Officials recommend that you “attend" the required driver's meeting online before the race. At or around 4:00 p.m., you will have a short session where passing rules, flags and their meanings, and basic rules of the road prior hitting the track. The first advanced group “Hot" session begins at 4:20, but they ask you to be on grid by 4:10 p.m.
SCCA Track Night Run/Work Program
Each of the above categories has a registration fee, but track and SCCA officials love participants who sign up for the Run/Work Program. If you register for this you exchange a couple of hours helping out around the track flagging, manning the front gate, or helping get people lined up on the grids in exchange for their time on track, instead of paying the registration fee. There is also a non-running volunteer category for those who want to be there and help out but don't want to run.
What You Should Do to Prepare for Track Night in America
There is nothing special you have to do to get your car ready for SCCA Track Night, as long as it's street legal. Prior to Track Night weekend, you should give your car a good going over. Check your tire pressure and tread depth. Make sure you have a full-size spare.
Make sure there are no leaks, as you won't be allowed on the track if there are, and make sure all the fluids are topped off. We also recommend bringing some coolant, oil, and power steering and brake fluids with you, as you may see more consumption of these fluids than you're used to as you'll (hopefully) be pushing your car and yourself harder and farther than normal.
All tracks require drivers and passengers to wear approved helmets. Seatbelts that are in proper working order are also required and will be verified before you're allowed on track. Some tracks also require that some smaller convertibles be equipped with roll bars. You can wear a fire suit and racing boots if you want to look like Frank Leary or Paul Newman.
The SCCA's Track Night in America is a great way for you to “stretch the legs—just me and the car and the track." It's also a great way to make new friends who share your love of cars. You won't be able to stop with just one visit.