Here's everything you need to know about attending a track day.
Drag racing is a relatively affordable and fun way to drive your car on a race track. We'll admit that skill is involved in some capacity, but if we're honest, the person with the faster car usually wins. Autocross takes a significantly different skillset and helps drivers affordably explore their car's handling characteristics without too much wear and tear, but this too has issues. It might be affordable and accessible, but autocross is pretty low-speed, sessions are short, and driving through cones is less exciting than driving on a real race track.
In our opinion, high-performance driver's education (HPDE) events (also called track days) offer the best opportunity for enthusiasts to hone their driving skills and explore their vehicle's capabilities. Getting on track could seem daunting or out-of-budget, but it's actually easier than you might think.
Track days are non-competitive driving events hosted both at country club-style road courses or full-on race tracks, where participants can enter virtually any vehicle, so long as it is safe and mechanically sound. These events are more challenging than drag racing because they involve multiple turns and you have to deal with other drivers.
Track days are more exciting than autocross because they let novice drivers experience the same famous tracks driven by professionals rather than parking lots with orange traffic cones. Attending a track day will help hone your skills as a driver and let you explore the limits of your car safely without worrying about a speeding ticket or (hopefully) getting into an accident.
Driving at high speeds on a track can seem terrifying for a first-timer, but HPDE events often allow attendees to have an experienced driving coach sit in the passenger seat with them. These professionals will help get you familiar with important race track elements such as proper corning speeds, apexes, steering and braking techniques, and learning the track.
You might not become an expert driver with one event, but most beginners see their skillset massively expand after their first track day. The organizations hosting these events will help you become familiar with track day rules, etiquette, and safety precautions. Someone is almost always available to answer any questions that might arise. It doesn't matter if you show up in an entry-level sports car like a Subaru BRZ, a muscle car like a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, or a highly-tuned Chevrolet Corvette; you can still have fun while improving your skills.
There are 99 road courses scattered around the United States, so chances are there is one near you. Resources like the Track Locater on TrackShaker.com can help you find the closest race track and look at track maps. We tested the Track Locater in our home state of Florida and found several options: the Daytona International Speedway, Sebring International Raceway, The Firm, Palm Beach International Raceway, Jennings Grand Prix, and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Once you've found a nearby track, you can begin researching when that venue will host an HPDE event. Track Shaker offers a one-stop-shop for this information, with a searchable calendar showing more than 1,400 events throughout the year. The events are hosted by multiple organizations such as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). Some are even make-specific, hosted by organizations such as the BMW and Porsche owners clubs.
Track days vary depending on the location, amount of track time, and other factors. As a basic rule, these events typically range from $150 to $300 for around one to three hours on track spread out over several driving sessions. There might be other costs, such as a membership to the organization hosting the event. Track Shaker conveniently lists the registration fees for each event and even offers discount codes.
As a note, there are also hidden costs associated with attending a track day, such as wear and tear on your vehicle. Driving at high speeds puts a greater strain on your tires, brakes, and suspension components, so be sure that maintaining and replacing these consumable items is factored into your budget. Standard insurance often excludes race track use, so we highly recommend special track insurance for peace of mind.
As we mentioned, you can bring almost any vehicle so long as it passes a basic technical inspection before the event. During the technical inspection, someone will check your car's brakes, drivetrain, tires, body, safety equipment, and more. Track Shaker put together a helpful "what to bring" list, with essential items such as a helmet, wrench, tire pressure gauge, sunglasses, and more. It also lists optional but highly recommended items, including a phone charger, sunscreen, jack stands, and camera. Events also require you to wear long pants and close-toed shoes.
If we've piqued your interest on track days, be sure to visit Track Shaker for more in-depth information. The website is a helpful resource for learning about HPDE events, finding local tracks, prepping your car, and learning what to bring. If you're more of a visual learner, Track Shaker created a nearly 40-minute video (attached above) covering everything you need to know about attending track days.