Northern VA Auto Repair


Track 101: Where to Begin (Part 1)


Hopping onto a road track for the first time is definitely intimidating.  Those of us who are interested or curious and just don’t know where to start, I’d like to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated during sponsoring track events for our local car clubs. 

There are several track experiences available both with the car clubs or with the programs offered at the tracks.  For beginners, most car clubs offer track safety clinics and autocross that are either done on or off track or a combination.   Both of these are perfect for the beginner or someone who wants to keep their driving skills honed. 

For the track events, you’ll find yourself on a “road” track with 10 or so turns (right and left) and with grades and camber changes – No ovals like you see with NASCAR races.  The vehicles are varied from everyday drivers/commuters, to tricked out, dedicated race cars with roll cages and all the safety gear.  All vehicles are closed-wheeled cars with fenders. Your driving level and the type of event determines who you share the track with.

High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) events focus on both driving skills and higher speed/performance skills on the track.   These are segregated into different levels of run groups and require a bigger time investment.  Most tracks offer “Friday at the Track” or similar programs that are also segregated into run groups with the goals of providing track time to drivers who would like to log more hours and gain more track experience.  Once you gain the required hours and skills, you may be eligible to pursue a race license which opens up a humongous venue for sports racing!  These higher-level performance experiences are available with some of the more elite organizations like the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) or American Endurance Race (AER) series.  Some of the car clubs will culminate the season with a Club Race.

Keep in mind that most of the car clubs encourage participation for non-members and all makes and models of vehicles.  So, you don’t necessarily have to own/drive a BMW, Porsche, Mercedes or Corvette to participate in their respective events.  It’s also a good idea to come to the track and be a spectator for a few events and see what it’s like and figure out what event or club will be the best fit for you. 

Check out these tracks and sources to see what interests you:

There are several very active clubs in the area and several tracks that support all these events:

There are also venues at Watkins Glen, NY, Pittsburg and Atlanta.

Here’s a sample of some of the car clubs that Craftsman Auto Care is involved with.  We encourage anyone who is interested in driving skills to join one of these very active and awesome local clubs: