What do you get out of racing?

Hey all,

I'm at a bit of a crossroads. I've been doing HPDE's for about 4 years now, and I bought a spec miata over a year ago to eventually get into wheel-to-wheel racing. I became a member of CSCC this February actually.

However, i'm beginning to have second thoughts. I watched several races at PIR last year and marvelled at the abuse the SM guys put their cars through. My SM only has a couple qualifys on it and 4-5 hpde's, so its nice and straight :). I expect any car that i track to take abuse, but wheel-2-wheel seems to elevate that to a new level. I've seen cars totalled at hpde's, but those were driver error for the most part. I'm not well-off enough to shrug off thousands of dollars either lol

Its tough to justify having an entire second car sitting around not doing anything most days out of the year as well.

I love doing HPDEs and have no plan to stop, i feel like each event my skills improve, my line gets better, and I become more consistent.

So what's in the leap from HPDEs to wheel-2-wheel that makes it "worth it" to you? Because right now i'm seriously considering rolling my 2 cars back into 1 and just continue with HPDE's.

- nate
Ask not what you can get out of racing, but what racing will get out of you.

Sorry, I couldn't let that one pass.

Not so seriously though. Everything one may get out of racing is only due to what one may put into it. Some guys run limited seasons. They have limited budgets. Some put all they got out there. Dbl the mortgage, sell the kids, everything. Ask these people if they were satisfied with the investment at the awards banquet.

You can't realistically campaign a car that is your daily driver. It's not practical. Stick with HPDE/Autocraze, even drifting if that's enough.

You can rent a racer a couple times to get the real attitude that's out there. Nobody wants to bang up their car. But sometimes thats just racing.

There's a lot of folks on this forum that can help you through that transition.
Last edited:
What makes W2W racing worthwhile to me is the competition and exhilaration that I wouldn't get in an HPDE. It's so much more of an adrenaline rush!

Being a competitive person, like most of my fellow racers, I find myself driving my race car harder in a race than I ever would in an HPDE. I'm doing everything I can to get past that guy or gal in front of me. I just don't do that in HPDEs although I've seen some people who do.

Regarding contact, I went all last season (my rookie year) without so much as getting a scratch up until my very last race in September when an out-of-control Spec Miata hit me after it hit a Honda. The damage wasn't bad and my car drove just fine and I consider myself lucky to have gotten off so lightly. Contact between cars of similar performance (e.g., SM, ITA, etc. cars) seems to be a fact of life. Usually, it's not substantial. Sometimes it is. While I hope to not get hit again, I realize that it's just a fact of life with W2W racing. That's why I drive a cheap race car :)

Perhaps you should try a Conference novice race and see if you like it. You'll be with other novices but most drivers are on their best behavior since Randy is watching everyone with that Eagle Eye of his. :D

You'll never really know until you try. If you don't like it, you can always sell your SM and put that money into building a suitable street/track car (maybe even your daily driver). Good luck!
Last edited:
Hey Nate -

I certainly understand the mental back and forth you are going through. I have spent many years successfully doing HPDE's and lots of autocrossing (still do an autocross every now and then - great environment for learning car control). But, I often found myself running HPDE's at 100% just for the thrill of it and, well because I could, I guess. But, doing those events in a glorified street car (in my case a Porsche Boxster), just wet my appetite to drive 100% but in a competitive environment and in a car with all the safety gear. So, in 2008 I bought a Spec Miata. I spent all of 2009 doing track days, autocrosses and time trials. This year I go W2W racing.

It has never dawned on me to rent a car for race day. Just not my style. But, since you have a car which apparently is pretty track worthy, might I suggest you check on Time Trials with local NWR-SCCA. I did several track trials in 2009 with a rented transponder and had a blast. Practice, qualifying and 20 min races just like the big boys, EXCEPT passing only on the straightaways. The local time trial program is a great stepping stone to W2W...I know that even Conference has looked into TT's as a way to grow the ranks of W2W racers.

The main thing is to find your comfort level and have fun! Life's too short to stress about doing this, or doing that. Nobody is going to keep score. And also remember, you're never to old for new experiences. Ask me why I should know!

The rule of bent cars in grassroots racing works like this... If the car ain't pretty, it most likely runs up front. Phrase often heard (and said) at the race track, "Oh, that's too pretty to go fast." The idea is that making and keeping cars pretty is expensive and after awhile you stop worrying about the prettiness and spend more time/focus/money on making it competitive. Just look at the PRO3 group... Dozen and dozens of pretty cars and 3 fast ones. :p

The likely hood of denting/bending your Miata is relative to racing but not that many cars are "written" off as the youtube videos would have you think. Also consider this: If you can't afford to leave the car at the track, you can't afford to go racing.

W2W racing is worth it and wrote off my first car. I built another got back at it.

"Racing is life, everything else is just waiting."
Hey all, I'm at a bit of a crossroads. - nate

Yes, everyone who races has reached that crossroads whether they are spending $5,000 or $150,000 for a race car. And I'd say of the 300 plus drivers who race in ICSCC less then 2 hands full really have the sheckles ..."to shrug off thousand of dollars" on a wad of metal and fiberglass. As with HPDE and lapping days, you'll find that 90% of the cars that become total losses in ICSCC are from 'driver error' not from getting slammed.

Obviously you have the 'taste' for speed and precision driving. The only way for YOU to tell if wheel-to-wheel or nose-to-tail competition racing is for YOU is to try it.

Go through the driver training and go to your 1st novice race. At the end of the day you WILL have your answer. PIR is a 'better place' to try that 1st novice race if you have concerns as it's a more forgiving track. Pacific has a bad habit of getting novices in trouble in a couple of places. Not to be scared of it as it's FUN but challenging track in some sections. Need to work up to speed a little slower there. The cost of trying this is about the same as 3 HPDE or lapping days and you will probably have more fun!

You may find that beyond the 'time on track' there's much more to club racing. The comraderie, the BBQ, the paddock chat and sharing of common interests will give you as much enjoyment as the track time.
Last edited:
I have been racing in form or another for a long time now. I have raced in drag racing, stock car, hill climb, autocrossing and have done lots of track days with lots of success. I'll tell you now , nothing is more fun and exhilarating than W2W road racing!

Stuff does happen, it's racing. but after time you will learn who you can run tight with and who to give a little room to. Cars do touch but we race with a group of racers that take more pride in being able to make a pass without using the bumper.

As Richard advised, do your driver school and a novice race.
If you had a good time just remember this: It's even more fun in the race groups!!

Todd Stanley
#14 groups 1-5
and soon 3
Just look at the PRO3 group... Dozen and dozens of pretty cars and 3 fast ones. :p

You're smiling, but I couldn't let that pass. ;-)

I got bumped pretty good three times last year. Twice in tight racing in Pro3, once in G5, that, in my opinion, was just not necessary, but that's racin'. Having said that, you will get rubbed, if you do it enough. If you're unlucky, or a little behind the car at the wrong time, you may write the car off - you have to be willing to accept that risk if you are going to race. I have seen as many cars wrecked at HDPE or school days that at races, however.

The benefit - you will never drive your car or yourself as hard and fast as you will in W2W racing, nor will you ever learn as much just doing HDPE's, or even TT's. The change in your driving ability from when you come in as a novice to the end of the first year will be nothing short of amazing. Competition, in all endeavors (racing included), tends to improve everyones level of performance.

Last edited:
There is no better feeling in the world than to be side by side with drivers of like abilities racing down a track. The feeling of you being in control of a race car is unmatched by anything. It's not just you against the track, but you against the other drivers who are all getting that same racing rush as you. To know that you went out there and beat a couple of drivers, heck, even ONE other driver makes you proud. I got this feeling the very first time I got in a race car and it's never left me. I get out of my car after every race, no matter where I finished and have this stupid grin on my face. We like to call it the Legends smile after the cars we race. But if you look up and down the pits after any race each of the drivers has that same look. The added bonus to racing is the friends that you will make. I've raced in many events over the years against some of the best drivers. After the race you go over to their pit and usually the first thing said is "wow, was that some fun?"

Extinguish your HPDE experiences as a reference point for W2W racing. They have very different goals, success factors, and rewards. HPDE events and road-racing are fundamentally different sports.

As mentioned, HPDE is about perfecting the connection between man and machine, carving the perfect lap. Of course, there are those in HPDE events that do the whole faux-racing thing while they're on-track, but that's silly.

Personally, I love the chess match we call wheel-to-wheel racing. Sometimes, it's all about the result (winning) at a higher-profile event, and sometimes it's about the interplay during the race. I have had very fulfilling races that I did not win, but thoroughly enjoyed the racing. You should really immerse yourself in the experience, and see what bubbles-up for you, as part of that adventure. The ICSCC novice program is an excellent option for that.

And, another unfortunate axiom is that "wrecking is part of racing". When I think back and recall first entering the sport, I remember that my sensitivity to cosmetic scrapes/bumps was inversely proportional to my growing passion for the sport. In other words, coming from HPDE, it's common to worry about the perfect paint, rock-chips, bug-jerky, and bumper-smudge. Give it a few races, and you'll wear that small streak of paint on your fender from the other guy's car like a badge of honor (assuming it was incidental contact, Bill :) )

What do I get out of racing? Big-assed bills, that's what! (Oh, c'mon, SOMEbody had to say it! :D)

That is so true, even after careful planning it still costs more then you planned on. But that is really part of any sport/hobby. Priced playing golf twice a month at a decent course?

Speaking as Novice of the Year in 2009 my best experances were:
1. Battling with Bart House in my very first novice race, wheel to wheel lap after lap. Untill I made a mistake and put two wheels off. Duh! :eek:
2. Battling wth Bart House in my second novice race and winning this time! I will never ever forget the feeling or look on my friends and families faces when I pulled in the paddock. :D
3. Battling with Jeff Van Leirop in the BMW Only race leading most of it until I made a mistake. Duh! :p

The rest of you have all done a great job explaining the differances between HPDE/Track Days/SCCA Time Trials. I came from all of those 2005-2008.

But you simply cannot equal the friendship and good times from being a ICSCC Novice. Ask any of the 2009 novices. Everyone comes over to encourage you, offer help and just generally make sure your having a good time. It is always, "Having fun?", "How's your car working?". "Nice pass!" "Man I thought I could catch you"

You will make some great friends that you will look forward to seeing each time you come to the track. This applies to the other forms also, but ICSCC Officials/Drivers/Volunteers go out of they're way more to do this then the other groups I have been with.

Not to be missed. Come join us. Rent a car if your not sure. If you do it just once, you will be back. There will be no stopping you.
As a novice open wheel driver last year I would highly recommend ICSCC's novice program. Emphasis are on developing your racing skills and the sessions are observed by senior drivers who are there to give you support.

Tim Bland
Howdy Nate. Hope you went to the general meeting last Saturday. I missed it but would have liked to have met you. ICSCC has the best, by far, bar-non, can't beat it, etc etc and I really mean it novice program there is.

Try it out and you will not be disappointed. You have a good platform to start with. You can drive as fast as you like until you are comfortable enough to hea towards the front.

If you worry about bending or getting bent while you are out there it will inhibit your growth. Not saying through caution to the winds, but this is a tight community. If you bend it up and need help there are lots of folks here is ICSCC willing to help out. That is what I love about Conference!
Thanks for all the responses, its been very helpful!

I'm gathering that the leap from hpde to racing requires a certain attraction to the thrill of competition, and whether that is worth the added risk of w2w. Hmm maybe i'll try a couple novice races and see if it grabs me before i make a final decision, that seems like the appropriate way to go about this.

Thanks again!
Nathen, try 3 novice races if all goes well you will have your license upgraded (at no cost) to Area.
A. You decide it is for you can upgrade on your third novice race weekend to your first class race FREE.:cool:
B. You decide it is not for you, or not for you right now you will have learn more then you can in an HPDE/Track day. And you will have the novice license completion to look back on and say you did it.:eek:

Really I doubt you will have any problems (I was agressive as hell, and I did not). Sure if your running up front to middle of pack in Pro3 or Spec Miata class were there are LOTS of cars stuff can happen. But nobody wants to bang they're car up at least among the ones I know. The experanced guys will race/pass you harder then the Novices will but they know who is who and the experance level and drive accordingly.

If you choose the novice program don't forget some of the other cool stuff you will experance:
1. The early morning colder then @#$! flat bed trailer ride showing where the flag stations are, pit in-pit out, and the "line", the blend line and apexs. After the first one of those you will feel it is hazing ritual #1

2. You get this bright orange square decal to put on you car front and back so EVERYONE knows your a novice. This decal is super thin, super strong and loves to stick to it's self in 0.01 of second. Hazing ritual #2. The decal has the added benefit of attracting new friends and officals to ask how your doing.:)

3. Saturday Morning Novice Meeting after the trailer ride. While your freezing and your eyes are watering you get an explanation of flags, rules, proceedures you need to know interlaced with humor and questions. Not a hazing ritual.

4. Come back or stay for Sunday and watch the 30 min race group sessions and see for yourself in person how the racing goes. At most tracks you can watch a race from many vantage points in the 30 minutes.

You do not have to be super competitive or even kinda competitive to enjoy the novice program while you learn. BTW the hazing rituals are a joke. We (my fellow novices and I) named them that as we were on our first trailer ride.
Bring a hat, gloves and some coffee!:redface:

Should you decide to race then comes the various camps (Pro3, Miata, ST, Ground Pounders, Open Wheel) to intice you with they're own brand of hospitality to get you to come over to there camp to eat and drink. ;)
Then come visit with all the volunteers at the bar-b-que and social.
We bench race with the best of them.
Only difference is, speaking as a turn worker, we sometimes see what happened just a tad differently to what the driver does. Sometimes our stories are even better. But the laughter is contagious.
I think you are not going to find a greater group of people......bar none.

Oh and Nathan, if you want to experience some of the racing( before going to the dark side), we would be more than happy to take you under our wing trackside and have you help us on a turn. Gives you a really cool perspective out there.
Why don't you think of coming out and volunteering for the 6 Hour Enduro on March 28th? It's a great way to start meeting us.

Lynn Rimmer
ICSCC- ROD Director
(Race Officials Division for volunteers)

How about #5 on your list:

The absolute THRILL of racing on a track with all the corners staffed by workers and seeing all those flags waving as you go by. Something you don't experience much of in HPDE's.
Nathan, to be serious for a moment when compared to my other post (not that the bills can't be pretty serious!), I mostly started racing because I got bored with all the rules at HPDEs relating to timing and passing zones. I wanted the opportunity to get out there, drive fast and have fun, and have the freedom to pass wherever I felt like it. Only "problem" with that was that sometimes those guys didn't WANT me to pass. In fact, they were doing their damnedest to stay in front of me and I had to really push myself if I wanted to get by. And, hey! it turns out that can be pretty fun! :)

Getting out on a flag station can be a blast (especially the corners that see a lot of outbraking moves or interesting lines mid-battle), but the workers have this disconcerting habit of putting warm bodies to work waving flags. As a W2W n00b myself not that long ago, I vividly remember being really uncomfortable with responsibility for a yellow or blue flag. Of course, now that I've been racing for a while, I know that there ain't nobody actually looking at those flags, so I wouldn't be so nervous...
Well, Mr. Adams, sounds to me like you want to be our moving, causing report writing, target this season.
We have to have one every year........man, I think you just volunteered (no pun intended).