Racing: It’s for ALL the Idiots!

June 27th, 2011

A new generation of speed freak!

I drove for the first time when I was about 9 years old.

That’s also when I crashed for the first time, slamming hard into a big blue dumpster after the brakes on my homemade go-kart failed.

Those early days behind the wheel of a go-kart I made with my dad are what sparked my love for cars and my desire for speed (not to mention a hearty appreciation for good brakes). Today, like most responsible adults, my driving is limited to shuttling the kids to school and piano lessons with the inevitable stop at Costco.

Not exactly the stuff of blood-pumping exhilaration, which is why I’m so thankful for two things: the thrill of the track and my son’s go-kart.

Taking your personal car to the track can provide the exhilaration missing from everyday driving. It’s a relatively safe way to open the throttle and carve through turns while imagining you’re the next Andretti. I say “relatively safe” because anytime the combo of amateur drivers and full throttle meet, trouble isn’t far behind.

While you and your car might escape from a track day unscathed, it’s entirely possible you’ll either damage your engine or introduce your front fender to the wall. And unless you carry track insurance, your standard policy won’t cover any of the damage. So if you go, be prepared to go broke, but go broke in style.

24 Hours of LeMons

24 Hours of LeMons

If you have a $500 junker, a fun track option is to enter a 24 Hours of LeMons race. If you’ve never checked out the website, do so for a hilarious read. As the site says about racing:

It’s not just for rich idiots, it’s for all the idiots.

If you just prefer the simplicity and innocence of a kid with a go-kart, do what I did. My son has a 6.5-hp, rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive go-kart, and I love to watch him realize the thrill of speed. He even routinely makes runs up to the top of the cul-de-sac and back as I time him, trying with each lap to be a little faster than the last.

Watching him realize that the right combination of braking and acceleration results in quicker times is priceless… but putting him on a go-kart with working brakes is even better.

Have you ever taken a personal car to the track? Would you consider it? That LeMons race seems like a hoot!

-tgriffith

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  1. Jim Redd
    | #1

    I’ve never taken a car to the track… but then again, what fun would an old Elantra be there? I prefer the go-kart, great story there. What boy wouldn’t love to zoom around in one? And yours is already gunning for quicker lap times? Cool.

  2. Randy
    | #2

    Used to take my cars to the drag strip just about every weekend. Not likely to hit a wall, although blowing an engine or transmission is not unheard of. I did have a Formula Vee car for a few years, but I got it cheap when they outlawed square tube chassis. My boss at the time was an SCCA driving instructor, so I crewed for him often and got some great training in his MGB, but the Formula Vee got re-equipped with a built up VW engine and I exended the chassis by 3 feet to convert it into the only known VW-powered rail on the drag strip. The VW transmission sucked for speed shifts but I could hit the high 14′s when it shifted well, which is not bad for a beetle engine.

  3. panayoti
    | #3

    Even at my advanced age I still kick myself in the behind for not taking a Bondurant school session. Way back when (I thought it was too expensive), it was such a bargain, I was too foolish to know it at the time. Damn!!!

    Used to take my stock ’71 Dodge Demon 340 small block with a 10.75:1 compression ratio to the Salem (OH) drag strip, turn the air cleaner upside down and run the quarter in the mid to high thirteens. There’s a real hoot!

  4. panayoti
    | #4

    panayoti :
    Even at my advanced age I still kick myself in the behind for not taking a Bondurant school session. Way back when (I thought it was too expensive), it was such a bargain, I was too foolish to know it at the time. Damn!!!
    Used to take my stock ’71 Dodge Demon 340 small block with a 10.75:1 compression ratio to the Salem (OH) drag strip, turn the air cleaner cover upside down and run the quarter in the mid to high thirteens. There’s a real hoot!

  5. | #5

    ’71 Dodge Demon.. not that’s a car that tends to get forgotten about! Very cool.

  6. Scott Griffith
    | #6

    Travis.
    Your readers might be interested to know that your son turned the wrench on most of the construction of his go cart, as well as did most of the painting of the frame!
    Dad

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