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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m not an expert, I just have a lot of knowledgethere is inherent danger when going to the track, review that liability and make your own decision.

Only take a car to the track you can write off and walk away from. Learning to race can be dangerous… don’t go to the track with something borrowed or with a loan on it. It’s just not a good idea. Every single weekend some HPDE car is totaled… it’s just a fact. Crashing happens… just remember that when you take your freshly painted (on a credit card), with a built motor (on another credit card), and mint JDM front end car (which left you $5 in your bank account) car (which also is your only car to get to work) out on track.

Example: This is literally my first track day back in 2002 (maybe 2001?). Stock-ish 1990 CRX Si, intake, exhaust, Falken Azenis and Carbotech XP9 brake pads... no tune, no suspension, no power, etc... cheap.
Wheel Tire Land vehicle Vehicle Car

For the sake of "keeping it short" (haha) this is track-centric... autox, hill climbs, etc. are just different animals. This is focused on how to get into wheel to wheel racing OR into time trail events... as the journey is basically the same in North America and you make the decision on which "racing" event to proceed into. I will not argue on time trail vs. wheel to wheel racing at this time (maybe later).

Feel free to join in the conversation, engage those interested, and hopefully this thread can evolve into a comprehensive and informative piece. This isn’t a comprehensive list of organizations… it would almost be impossible at the rate organizations keep popping up!

This is also very (all the info) biased toward the United States as its where I have the most experience. I did race karts in Brazil for two summers, but it was an arrive and drive setup and I don’t remember anything. If anyone has international information, I’ll be happy to add it.

I’m going to break thinks down by topic… Organizations, general expectations (of you and of organizations), and lastly… your car. This is an exciting and semi-complicated world that I am hoping “we” (as a community) can simplify for the novice/aspiring racer.


All organizations start you off in some sort of High-Performance Driver Education (HPDE). Those usually consist of a driving “passport,” where you start at the beginning levels learning the basics, such where braking zones are or where corner workers are… getting into threshold braking and apexing corners. Usually, these HPDEs consist of classroom time and time on track. Once you stablish enough skill in each group you will move up to the next group and eventually qualify to go to race school (if you want) or apply for the time trail/time attack license.

There is a “new” style of HPDE that is slowly creeping into each organization at its own pace. Traditionally, you have an instructor in your car for at least the beginner and intermediate groups… but that’s not the case anymore. Many organizations will have an instructor in your car of the beginner group and then have instructor(s) watch you at various parts of the track and then provide you feedback.

I’m not here to debate which way is better… I am biased as I did HPDE in a very traditional program and in an evolving program… but with only one organization and only within one region of that organization. Just be aware of the different styles and the shifts that are happening within each organization.

Here are the bigger organizations that are likely to be near you:

Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Vehicle

Sport Car Club of America (SCCA): Older/established grassroots motorsports group in the United States. They are newer to the HPDE programs.

Car Tire Wheel Land vehicle Vehicle

National Auto Sport Association (NASA): Newer than the SCCA but it’s been around over 20 years (racing). They are one of the beginning organizations to develop a HPDE program. Each region is run slightly differently.

#DRIVENASA - National Auto Sport Association

Tire Car Vehicle Wheel Hood

GridLife: The newest big kid on the block. They are evolving their racing and their HPDE at a very high rate.


Porsche Club: They hold HPDE and racing by regions. Some regions don’t race, I think.

Porsche Club of America

BMW Club of American: They hold HPDE and racing by regions. Some regions don’t race, I think.

BMW Car Club of America

Honorable mentions:
  • Track Daze
  • Chin Motorsports
  • Hooked on Driving

There are very few weeklong race schools left in the country. Those that are left are very good but (bias alert!) seat time is king when you want to be a good driver, and they don’t always give you enough. You need seat time in your car to develop your skills and to develop your car… 5-7 days isn’t enough (especially in someone else’s car) …. BUT they are still around for a reason. Most pro level drivers eventually get one of these types of schools on their resume.

Skip Barber Race School: As seen on Hoonigan and currently has a lot of sponsored cars (with grassroots drivers) running in various races (IMSA, SCCA, NASA, etc.). My understanding is these are very long and intense days.

Wheel Tire Vehicle Automotive tire Car

Skip Barber | Race Car Driving School

Lucas Oil School of Racing: This is an open wheel focused school.

Radford Racing School (formerly Bondurant Racing School): A traditional school like Skip Barber.

Home - Radford Racing School

General Expectations:

As soon as you have picked the local organization and track (the more local the better for your first adventure) … you need to mentally prepare yourself. Remember, you are going to the track to learn. You might be the fastest out all your friends at Mario kart, actual karting, etc.… but your ego must be in check.

You are entering a new, higher stakes arena… you will need to listen, learn, observe… be an open book. Be ready to meet people, make friends, be social, respect each other… the nicer you are, the more people will look out for you, the more people will share their “speed secrets.”

My challenge to you… set a goal with your instructor every time you go out. Continue this as you advance in the groups… always have a goal every session or you are just lapping and not learning. Watch videos (without the sound at first) to learn a track (the flow, look for markers, etc.), then turn the sound on to learn when people are braking and getting on the gas. Know as much about the track as you can before you show up… showing up cold puts you behind the curve.

You can expect the organization to email you with A LOT of details. READ IT ALL. You will be provided an instructor or POC for the event. You will likely get multiple emails with a schedule… print it out and bring it with you… keep it with you. They expect you to have your own car number (they will tell you your number normally) … so bring painters’ tape! Plan to be early… organizations don’t like people being late, they won’t wait for you… early is on time.

If you don’t have a motorcycle helmet, check with friends/family, or see if the organization loans them out. This is one thing you don’t want to forget… though I’ve seen racers forget their helmets at home, so it happens.

Your Car:

You will want to give yourself enough time before an event to make sure the car is in good shape (more on that later) … you need to plan (more details on this in another post I’m sure) on what to bring, where you still sleep, etc. Every organization expects you to take care of yourself (food, sunblock, water, etc.) … and trust me you will forget to eat and drink water throughout the day.

Each organization has a tech sheet you need to find and likely fill out before you attend your first event (and subsequent events usually). You will want to nut and bolt check your entire car… you will want to make sure your brakes and tires are in good shape. You will want to make sure all your brake lights work, you don’t have oil leaks, etc. Each tech sheet has 20-30 items to look over and you should look at everything before the event… give yourself time to repair your car!

DO NOT MODIFY YOUR CAR JUST TO GO TO THE TRACK (outside of what I will talk about later). You want the most familiar car possible. You don’t need extra horsepower… trust me, it’s way more rewarding to pass a high horsepower car with less power… it just is. Mostly leave your car alone… you’ve been driving it around, you know it… take what you know to the track and work on you… the driver.

Example: 1994 RS Integra, B18B engine, Intake/Header/Exhaust, Koni/GC, ITR rear bar, Roll Bar, Seats, GSR trans with LSD... yes that is a mustang GT, on slicks, with their arm out the window telling me to pass. Work on the driver and less on the car.
Car Vehicle Plant Tire Wheel

There are 3 things I would potentially buy/do before your first event. At a minimum I would have your brake system flushed and use high temperature brake fluid. This will force you to get in each wheel well and look at things. Its a safety thing.

The last two things are a balance… if you really think this is for you… you will need to commit some money. You want to consider buying beginning (autox, light track day) front brake pads and 400-200TW tires (Falkens, RE71s, etc.). You don’t want more brake than tire (too easy to lock up) and you don’t want more tire than brake (you’ll cook your high temp fluid) … it’s a balance and not really needed… but it will let you go faster for longer BUT having soft brakes and greasy tires will teach you a lot of car control… the decision is yours to make.

Please add your comments below. If i missed anything worth adding... i can edit it... if i'm wrong... I can also admit to it and edit.

Premium Member
6,344 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Heck Yeah Heck Yeah... Thank you for sharing. I started with the NASA/SCAA HPDE weekends. I like how the program has pre-inspection shops before getting to the track. I am not sure if that has changed.

There are many truths and facts to your stickie. You have many suggestions from other instructors and racers say about getting to the track without having installed the biggest and most expensive of everything on the first outing. It is fun and rewarding experience building a relationship of trust with one's car. Being able to know what the car actually needs next is how the times get faster and the driver gets better on a sure pace naturally.

Thanks for sharing brother.
I started years ago doing SCCA autox events for youth... called Speed Freaks. In college I helped start Madison Motorsports, a college car club... and we started going to NASA events to work. I worked for a year as a corner worker and then in the tech shed. In my youth, the SCCA didnt have any training for racing, you just brought a race car to the "school" and they tested your skills and you went racing.

The pre-inspection process isnt always needed. Its organization and regionally dependent. In the end, its your responsibility (if you read the paperwork) to ensure your car is safe.

As you evolve in High Performance Driving Education these are my biggest high level takeaways:
1. In the beginning, reliability is more important than speed.
2. Get as many different instructors as possible to learn all the tricks.
3. When you advance to a level where you are driving solo... invest in a data system with integrated video. This will be how you learn from now on.
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Premium Member
6,344 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
thank you for this ! def can’t wait to get my integra done. track car all the way
Unless you have a truck and trailer, i think there is a line to how prepped you need to make your car before you go to the track... hit me up if you want any assistance.
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