Update - Eligible Vehicles for Track Night Driven by Tire Rack

When Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack was born, the vision was simple: an hour of track time for enthusiasts in street cars. At least it was simple until someone asked, “What’s a street car?” The obvious answer: a car driven on the street. However, that begs the question, “What about an identical car that is not driven on the street, shouldn’t that be allowed, too?” To which the SCCA immediately said, “yes.” And thus began a 30-month exercise in keeping balance on the proverbial slippery slope.

There were several reasons why the SCCA wanted to limit Track Night in America to street cars. The biggest reason was the look and feel of an event. Simply, if you showed up for a basketball shoot-around in a slightly ironic T-shirt, gym shorts and running shoes, but everyone else was wearing uniforms and the latest/greatest basketball shoes, you might quickly decide, “these guys are more serious than I want to be,” and leave. Numbers, logos, stickers all mean something, and together they generally mean, “I am here to win,” or at least, “I am here to compete.” And that is not the desired Track Night environment. Track Night is a place people go to get an introduction to on-track driving, have fun, meet car people and where enthusiasts can become participants without the complications or pressure of competition. It’s really and truly just for fun.

But, aren’t racecars fun? Well, yes and no. Racecars are fun when being driven for fun. But racecars can also be both stressful and high maintenance, and they are prone to breaking, leaking and other bad behaviors that are not the best fit for Track Night. Yes, racecars can be fun. Perhaps more troubling for us, they can also be street cars, and street cars can be race cars. In fact, the more we tried to define the term racecar, the more we realized is has little to do with the car, and everything to do with purpose and attitude.

As an example, if someone calls up and says, “Hey, I’ve got a Spec Miata and I really want to get my spouse/kid/crew member/buddy on track. Is Track Night the right place for this?” The SCCA so badly wants to say “yes” because the car has a performance potential within our scope, and the intent is 100% in keeping with what Track Night seeks to achieve. However, if the question is posed as, “Hey, I have an SCCA Club Race event in two weeks and just put a motor in my Spec Miata. Can I come to Track Night and shake it down?” In that scenario, the answer must be a hard “no” as this is not keeping with the intent and purpose of the program. But, it’s the same car. So, how do you write a rule that allows one car but not the other?

Well, it actually gets really simple, as you can see here. For cars, it must be within the purpose and performance scope of a street car. That means, if you had to, you could drive it to the grocery store and return with a loaf of bread. For intent, if you have a competition racing license (from SCCA or any other organization), you can only drive a car that is not a race car. If you do not have a competition license, you can drive an appropriate car regardless of its stickers, build purpose or history.

Is there gray area here? Sure. There is likely some honor system, too. But the intent is pretty clear, and we ask that racers keep this in mind. The only reason we are excluding racers in racing cars is to create an environment where more of both can be born.

Photo Credit: Perry Bennett

Comments
Wilbert Cedeno

Interesting, but how about cars that were raced in an autocross or rallycross? Are those race cars now that can't participate in these track days?

Louis Bramante

As a "Work-Run" participant at NJMP for the past 2 seasons, I see many different variants of cars in both Tech and working the Grid. I see young drivers with Honda and Subaru vehicles who are just getting the "bug". I see many in intermediate and advanced classes with modified and some with complete roll cage chassis. The point here is at NO point are we "RACING"!

I listen to Jon and Tom every month explain and stress in our driver's meetings we are here to learn the lines, improve our skills, and learn how to be better "on-track" drivers. They cover the rules, they explain every time to all classes the passing zones and the proper way to "point to pass" and everyone regardless of skills set or level must abides by these rules.

As for "TECH", yes there is a "self-tech" form however, we workers check each and every vehicle, under the bonnet, in the cabin, in the trunk and the vehicle overall. NO ONE goes onto the Lightning or Thunderbolt course with as much as EZ Pass stuck to the windshield. We check every vehicle and driver in the "GRID" before every session. Driver gets checked for proper attire. (no shorts and use of proper shoes)

Now some drivers, myself included, have invested in Racequip shoes, jacket, pants, gloves, neck collar, head sock, and even the 5 point harness along with a new Black Armor helmet. Why? Because I understand that hitting a solid object from 100+ MPH will kill you without it.  I digress.

At 54 years old, with racing experience 20+ years ago, and now returning to the sport last year, I learn a lot from the younger drivers with heavily modifies vehicles. And yes, in the "ADVANCE" group there are a few with cages, full suspension kits, spoilers, spltters, etc. But, those are the group with the LEAST off-course incidents, spins, crashes, etc.

I see the most in the NOVICE group where they have not learned car control. Do you know where they learn it? From the Drivers with the high end cars who have invested the time and money to prep the cars correctly! I feel we are making changes incorrectly!

YES, we are not there to RACE! Moreover, we can not expect a novice to figure it out from a book or getting bad information from other novice drivers. As for the INTERMEDIATE level driver, this is where I see the most "OFF COURSE" incidents. They bring 300+ HP cars with little on track time and push it beyond their skills or understanding of their car's capabilities!

In closing, My opinion (take it or not) is to require a driver to keep a book, NO advancement in class if you don't have the hours in NOVICE without off track incidents or crashes. And as for ADVANCED group, they should be modified! A vehicle doing 140+MPH on the front strait-away with standard seat belts and nothing more than a Helmet will on average, NOT survive the crash without serious injury or regretfully as one did this year, die.

SCCA TrackNight in America is a GREAT thing for so many. Rethink your position and amend the rules accordingly. Think about it. Nothing stops a driver from slapping a set of license plates on a car and say, "its legal". What is next, will cars trailered-in be prohibited? Please focus on the sport, Black flag the offenders and get them off the track if they are a hazard. but do NOT stop this from being the best thing to spur interest in this sport in the past 30 years. We, the members, have a chance to do a good thing here. Lets NOT blow it!

Thanks for listening!

Heyward K Wagner

Thanks for the feedback and perspective- definitely something for us to think about.

 

Skip

That section of the article about the look and feel of the event, what numbers, logos, and stickers say, and the suggestion that such does not comport with the desired Track Night environment gives me reason to question whether I should continue attending TNiA events.  

 

My NC Miata is a mildly prepped STR class autocross car with SCCA class letters and numbers on the sides, contingency sponsor stickers like Hawk Performance and Bridgestone on the quarter panels, trunk, hood, or above the wheels, and the logos of SCCA Pro Solo and Solo Nationals and TNiA sponsors like the Tire Rack banner across the top of my windshield. 

 

When it comes to Solo, yes it does mean "I am here to compete" and "I am here to win".  But not for track.  For the sake of performance and safety, I have roll bar, race seats, and harnesses, and I use an HNR device.  On track, I'm an intermediate skill level driver with about a year of experience, and I'm simply there to have fun.  I try to improve my lap times, but I'm not racing anyone. 

 

I compete in SCCA Club Trials, but I'm not a racer, my car is not a race car, and I don't hold a competition license.  My car is fully street legal and registered and plated, and I drive it to events.

 

My car and I meet all the eligibility requirements for TNiA, but I get the impression that my participation is not desired because my numbers, logos, and stickers don't mesh with the desired look and feel.  So should I stay away?

Heyward K Wagner

Hi Skip-

I think you are exactly the sort we WANT at Track Night events- someone who is looking to have fun in an appropriate car.  There are certainly some touchy feelings on this, but my opinion is that autocrossing a car does not make it a race car, and I think we can all agree that a STREET Touring cars are by definition STREET cars.  As to the numbers and stickers and such, I see your point, and I am hesitant to make hard policies here- this is really more about the overall look and feel, and I think we can also agree that a Road Racing car has a very different look and feel than a Street Touring autocross car.

Douglas L.

The real problem is v8 guys with 500+hp and no clue what an apex is....it's good to have some grey area cars there. I am a novice that has been to many events and the info and networking that I've gotten from those with "grey area" cars has been priceless....I think these people should be embraced, maybe make advanced group them only or something along those lines

Heyward K Wagner

Agreed!  That is why we wrote the policy as we did.

David A.

In my opinion, if the car is registered to be driven on the street it should be allowed. License plates with current tags should be the requirement. I also believe that there should be stricter tech inspections done. I have ran sessions where drivers cars have been leaking excessive fluids and/or parts falling off that create hazards for other drivers.  The honor system tech inspection isn't quite cutting it. 

Heyward K Wagner

Hi David-

 

Your opinion is covered by the first heading of the new policy-

Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack allows the following:

  • Road-legal production vehicles
  • Road-legal kit cars with license plates

 

I appreciate your feedback on the tech procedure, it is something we are constantly monitoring and reviewing.

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