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