Get Involved

This page is a collection of the entire 'Get Involved' series of posts.  Please share this page with all your fellow gearheads and spread the word - racing is easy to get into!

Get Involved is a series of posts detailing forms of grassroots motorsports on a weekly basis.  I write these posts with one goal:  To get you to bring your car to an entry level motorsport event.  I want you to stop buying parts, stop planning for 'some day,' stop building the perfect car, and register for an event.  It is ridiculously easy to have fun with your car right now, as you're currently driving it.  You don't need a racing license.  You don't need a roll cage, a fire suit, or expensive modifications.  You do need $40, a valid state issued drivers license, and a car in safe driving condition.  It doesn't matter if its a stock Camry, a tuned Civic, or a $75k Corvette, there's a place for you.

There are a number of ways to get started - whether you want to drive on asphalt, dirt, or a race track.


Read on to find out how you can get some quality seat time in your very own car.


AUTOCROSS
This is where most people get started, including myself.  Local events are very approachable, and there will be one near you, no matter where you are in the country.  The largest organizer of autocross events is the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), which calls these 'Solo' events because you compete independently for time, rather than door to door for position.  Speeds rarely exceed 60mph and the focus is on the corners.  It may not sound fast, but believe me, your hands will be shaking with adrenalin after your first run.

Format:
Don't let the fancy car and numbers fool you, anyone can do this.
A track made out of traffic cones is laid out on a large parking lot, unused runway or other large tarmac.  Cars take turns traversing the track one at a time, with everyone getting an equal number of attempts. The fastest single lap time at the end of the day wins.  Drivers are split into classes based on their vehicle and level of modification.  There is no door to door racing and there are no walls or barriers that you could run into.  This is the lowest risk motorsport you're going to find, and absolutely the cheapest way to legally drive competitively.

Cost:
Usually $30-$50.  It varies by each local SCCA region, and many offer discounts for new folks.  Tire and brake wear are negligible for a single event.

Painters tape is perfect for numbers.  It leaves no mark
on your paint.
Level of Competition:
This sport is only as serious as you decide to take it.  Most people show up, put painters tape numbers on their car, have a good time driving their car, and then go home.  Some people bring special tires they only use to compete.  Other people spend thousands of dollars chasing the national championship.  Its totally up to you to decide your level of involvement.





Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
These will vary by event organizer, so make sure you carefully read the rules for your event, but you will need the following for most of them:
  • Helmet (most events will have loaners available for new people)
  • Seat belts
  • Car is leak-free (a drip may be OK - we just don't want to create a slick for the person after you)
  • Battery is properly secured - new hardware can usually be found at your local auto parts store
  • Lug nuts are tightened
  • No play in your wheel bearings - hold the top of your tire and push/pull them as though you are trying to take them off, if they move, you need to take it to your mechanic
  • Remove all loose items from your trunk and front seating area
  • Bring some sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and plenty of water with you
  • Most trucks and SUV's are disallowed due to being a rollover hazard.  So are these stock cars:
    • Chevrolet Sonic, Dodge Caliber (non-SRT), Fiat 500 (non-Abarth), GEO Tracker/Suzuki Sidekick, Jeep CJ series, MINI Countryman, Nissan Juke, Suzuki Samurai, Scion xB (2004-06), Scion iQ
How to get involved:
Saturday:  Get Groceries      Sunday:  Racecar!
The SCCA is split into local regions, so this will be a little different for everyone.  The easiest thing is to Google for "autocross near [local city]" or "SCCA Solo [local city]"and see what comes up.  If that fails, search for your region at this site: SCCA Region Directory and email the regional executive to find out how to get started in Solo events.  Most regions have Novice programs designed to help guide you through your first event, so you'll know where to be and when to be there.

What is looks like:




PDX / HPDE / TRACK DAY
These types of events are ways for us 'normal' folk to drive on a racetrack.  If you follow LeMans racing, World Challenge, or even NASCAR, this is your opportunity to drive on the tracks you've seen on TV.  Most of these events provide instructors, so you have someone with good experience helping you around the track.  You'll learn much about yourself, your car, and the track all very quickly.  The first time I went through the 'Esses' at Road Atlanta, I fell in love with my car all over again.  You'll come away with a whole new appreciation for your car and you'll think differently about every race you watch from then on.

Format:
Drivers are allowed to bring their personal cars onto real racetracks.  There may be a speed limit imposed (around 100mph) for new drivers, until you are signed off as a trusted driver.  There is no competitive passing. Slower cars must give cars behind them a point by to allow them to pass.  This prevents incidents where one of the two drivers could be caught off guard.  You are on a real race track at race speeds and if you go off track, there are real cement barriers and tire walls waiting for you.  While most people have no problem at all and drive home happy, as a general rule, you should not bring anything onto a racetrack that you can not afford to walk away from.

Cost:
Varies from $100-$500 depending on the event and track.  Higher cost usually leads to more drive time.

Level of Competition:
These are non-competitive, untimed events.  There are no winners, no losers, and no aggressive driving.  This is solely an opportunity for you to experience driving your car on a race track.  Due to this, some insurance policies will cover your vehicle while on track.  Contact your insurer to find out, making sure to emphasize that it is a non-competitive, untimed event.

Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
  • Helmet - usually Snell M2000 or better rating
  • Closed toe shoes, full length pants and a long sleeve shirt.  Preferably 100% cotton - stay away from polyester since it will melt to you in a fire.
  • Factory seat belts for most cars, a proper harness may be required for heavily modified vehicles
  • Car is leak-free (a drip may be OK - we just don't want to create a slick for the person after you)
  • Battery is properly secured - new hardware can usually be found at your local auto parts store
  • Lug nuts are tightened
  • No play in wheel bearing - push/pull on your tire, if it moves, you need to take it to your mechanic
  • Remove all loose items from your trunk and front seating area
  • All body panels properly secured
  • Bleed your brakes in the days leading up to the event
  • If you have a convertible, you should contact the event organizer to check for specific rules.  Some tracks require roll bars and others do not allow convertibles at all.
  • Bring some sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and plenty of water with you
How to get involved:
The SCCA hosts PDX's at a number of tracks around the country.  They can be hard to find (some people call it the Secret Car Club of America), so you may want to Google for your local SCCA forums.  You can also check the track's website to look for upcoming SCCA events that you can inquire about.  If you don't find anything that way, check this site:  SCCA Region Directory and email the regional executive of your area to find out how to register for a PDX. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) hosts HPDE's regularly and you can use the same methods to find locations and dates for events.  There are a number of independent groups that host track days around the country.  Google is once again your friend here.  You can also go to motorsportreg.com and see what events are coming up in your area.


What it looks like:






RALLYCROSS
Rallycross is very similar to autocross, basically replace asphalt with dirt, sand, or gravel and you've got it.  You don't need an all wheel drive car or even anything designed with dirt in mind.  You should be prepared to have some mud on your car and if your car is lowered, you may want to check with the organizer to see if that will be an issue for you.  Speeds rarely exceed 60mph and the focus is on the corners.  It may not sound fast, but believe me, your hands will be shaking with adrenalin after your first run.

This is a stock Civic off-roading.  This means you are
officially out of excuses.
Format:
A track made out of traffic cones is laid out on a field, desert, or dirt.  Cars take turns traversing the track one at a time and add their time from each run together for an overall time.  Fastest overall time wins.  Drivers are split into classes based on their vehicle and level of modification.  There is no door to door racing and there are no walls or barriers that you could run into.  This is done off-road, so there are usually some bumps and sometimes ruts - absolutely no jumps, though.  This is still a very low risk motorsport, though you should be careful bringing a lowered vehicle, and be be prepared to wash your car afterward.

Cost:
Usually $30-$50.  It varies by each local SCCA region, and many offer discounts for new folks.  Tire and brake wear are negligible for a single event.
Another stock vehicle.  Are you seeing the pattern?

Level of Competition:
Like autocross, this sport is only as serious as you decide to take it.  Most people show up, put painters tape numbers on their car, have a good time driving their car, and then go home.  Some people bring special tires they only use to compete.  Other people spend thousands of dollars chasing the national championship.  It is totally up to you to decide your level of involvement.

Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
  • Helmet (most events will have loaners available for new people - ask before you show up)
  • Seat belt
  • Car is leak-free (a drip may be OK - we just don't want to create a slick for the person after you)
  • Battery is properly secured - new hardware can usually be found at your local auto parts store
  • Lug nuts are tightened
  • No play in wheel bearing - push/pull on your tire, if it moves, you need to take it to your mechanic
  • Remove all loose items from your trunk and front seating area
  • Bring some sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and plenty of water with you
This Audi was at home on the dirt.
How to get involved:
The SCCA is split into local regions, so this will be a little different for everyone.  The easiest thing is to Google for "rallycross near [local city]" or "SCCA rally [local city]"and see what comes up.  If that fails, search for your region at this site:  SCCA Region Directory and email the regional executive to find out how to get started in rallycross events.  Not every region hosts rallycrosses, so you may have to travel.


What it looks like:







DRAG RACING
The goal is simple:  first to the finish line in a straight line wins.  Almost everywhere in the country has a backwoods drag strip somewhere nearby.  Most of them host open nights where you can pay to take your car out on the strip.  Prices vary by location, but $20-$50 is pretty normal.  Here in Atlanta, we have Friday Night Drags hosted at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  For $20, you get to race your car in bracket style elimination in front of a crowd of up to several thousand.

Format:
The most basic events allow you to drive your car on an 1/8 or 1/4 mile strip.  Nicer facilities will have timing equipment and staging lights.  Some locations organize competitions.  Generally, two cars go at a time.

Cost:
Usually $20-$50.  For 2 or 3 runs, tire and break wear will not be noticeable.  Depending on your car, you may go through a noticeable amount of gas.

Level of Competition:
Like most grassroots events, this varies.  You can do a few runs at an open night with no competition, or you can try to take home a trophy from a Friday Night shootout at your local track.  If you're entering a shootout style competition, expect open classes with heavy modding encouraged.  Don't be intimidated by some of the absurdly fast cars you may see.  They've put a lot of time and money into their rides, but they started out just like you.

Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
  • Helmet
  • Seat belt
  • Car is leak-free (a drip may be OK - we just don't want to create a slick for the person after you)
  • Battery is properly secured - new hardware can usually be found at your local auto parts store
  • Lug nuts are tightened
  • No play in wheel bearing - push/pull on your tire, if it moves, you need to take it to your mechanic
  • Remove all loose items from your trunk and front seating area
  • Bring comfortable shoes, and plenty of water with you
How to get involved:
Google is your friend here.  Find your local track and see if they list open nights on their schedule.  If you're in Atlanta, show up at the Speedway on Friday night - $20 gets you entry ($8 for spectators) and practice starts at 6:15PM.





What it looks like:





CORNER WORK
In every race, you see them, but probably don't notice.  There are 3-5 people at every corner waving flags, inspecting the track, and watching the race for any change in track condition.  They are responsible for communicating information to the drivers as well as reporting any incidents to race control.  It takes a team of 50+ people to host a proper club race and double that for a top level professional race.  These people are volunteers, sometimes travelling from many states away (and occasionally across an ocean) for the opportunity to sit mere feet from the fastest cars in the world.

Format:

You and your fellow volunteers divide into teams, each responsible for a separate corner around the track.  You will wave flags, communicate with race control, respond to disabled cars, and report foul play among the drivers.


Cost:
$0.  Actually, you will usually receive a stipend to help cover your gas costs.  You receive free entry to the event and the track will usually provide a free lunch for the workers.  Many times, you will earn a discount on track time as well.  This is how I got involved with PDX.


Level of Competition:

Well, none.  You're not competing, but that doesn't mean there is no skill involved.  You will definitely be able to recognize the people who have been working corners for several years.  They will see things on track and on the cars that you will miss, but you will learn from them quickly.






Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
  • 100% cotton clothing - in the event of a fire, you do not want anything that will melt to you
  • sun screen
  • water & a snack
  • gloves
  • whistle (for getting the attention of other workers over the noise of cars)
How to get involved:

SCCA and NASA both offer opportunities to work corners while earning a discount on track driving time.  Do an internet search for your local chapter and contact them to learn about opportunities - they will always be looking for good volunteers.

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