There’s no better place to learn how to track a car than a Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack event – and that includes road racers and Track Night coaches!
Take Steffen Clark, for example. Clark was a likely target for Track Night when he started his motorsports journey in 2009. The problem, of course, was that Track Night didn’t exist yet! Instead, Clark went autocrossing with his dad, starting locally and including some National events. It didn’t take long for the SCCA bug to take hold, and that start led him to his Blue Ridge Region as a board member and to purchase a fully caged ITA-prepped Miata for track days.
Those track days led to road racing, which included first Regional races and later (and currently) Majors and Hoosier Super Tour races. So while Clark isn’t a Track Night alumni in the traditional sense, it’s only because the program wasn’t ready for him then.
Luckily, it’s ready for you, and Clark is first in line to recommend it. Not only does he recommend it, though, he also participates – both as a driver, and more often as a coach and event lead.
“Track Night is a relatively inexpensive way for you to get out on track, it’s easy, it’s one evening,” Clark said. “You can leave work early, maybe, and come to your closest track. Bring your street car. It can have stock brakes and stock tires. Or there are people that have modified cars that come out. We do a few sessions a night. You don’t have an in-car instructor, but you can learn at your own pace and there are people there to help you. We’re all friendly.”
As an instructor, Clark can still remember what it was like to be the ‘new guy’ at the event. It can be intimidating to make the jump from “something I’d like to try” to “something I’m doing.” That’s where Track Night excels.
“I tell everyone, come out to an event,” Clark said. “Walk into someone’s tent. Walk up to someone and start asking questions. That’s how I got involved. I started working for Chris Windsor of Windsor Customs by just walking into his tent one time and just started talking to him. I was having trouble with my car and he answered some questions and then pushed me to do more. Just come to an event, ask questions, walk around. Do parade laps. Everyone with SCCA is very friendly.”
Even as an instructor, Clark is still asking questions.
“Getting involved with SCCA, it can open up knowledge,” Clark said. “Maybe someone will say something back to you and it’s like ‘huh, I didn’t think about that.’ Its good to have those discussions with students to really get your mind thinking. Conditions are always changing and we’re always learning. Even as an instructor, you may see them doing something and think maybe I should try that the next time I go out. Students, instructors, we’re always learning. It never stops.”
And that’s what makes Clark successful as a coach, an event lead, a driver and a Region leader. As he is quick to point out, though he likes to drive, there are other ways to get involved if that part isn’t quite for you.
“Come out and volunteer,” he insists. “You can literally show up the day of and they’ll always take the help. Flagging or anything else. They’ll put you with the right person and train you on the spot. You can volunteer there and maybe decide I want to go racing or get on track myself.”
Those enthusiasts who want to get on track, or just check out an event, can do so at any Track Night in America event across the country. More information on the 2022 schedule and event locations can be found here.
Photo by Jeff Loewe