Initially when I was invited to take a trip out to Englishtown NJ for the SRT Track Experience, I figured that I would write an article about how much fun I had driving someone else’s car like I had stolen it. I’d have a few pictures sprinkled in there, and maybe some video clips that I managed to grab while I was waiting my turn to drive. I’ve driven cars before, and I have even driven at triple-digit speeds. No big deal, right? Fortunately for me, I was wrong. There’s no way to describe exactly what goes on during the Track Experience in just a few short paragraphs. Anyone that tries to condense the experience into X number of words or pages simply isn’t doing it justice. Over the next few days I am going to try to explain what it feels like to drive some of the worlds best performing production vehicles as hard as you possibly can only to be shown at the end of the day that they were capable of even more. Spoiler alert: you’ve never had this much fun in your life.
The morning started kind of late. I was up at around 6 AM showering and ironing my clothes. Before you ask, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Yes, I iron my jeans and my t-shirts. Go ahead and get it out of your system. Feel free to make jokes about how I don’t want to show up looking like a slovenly mess. Done now? Cool. We left the hotel a little after 7 since the track was about 20 minutes away. While I’m driving I feel like I’m going the wrong way so I checked the Google satellite map. On the map I see this massive oval structure that is in the opposite direction we are driving. Now since this looks, to me, like a race track (it is) and we were kind of flying blind (our fault) I stopped us, turned us around, and started driving toward the big oval. We made a call once we got near said oval and we were told that yes, that is a race track. But that is Freehold Raceway and we needed to go to Raceway Park… which is the one we were driving toward in the first place. That means it is also the one that we just spent the last 10 minutes driving away from. Well that’s a great way to start the day isn’t it? “Hey guys, we might be late because I think I know where I am going better than my GPS which is maintained by Google Maps, one of the most comprehensive mapping services on the planet. Herp derp.”
So we get back on the road with me shamefully bringing up the rear to dissuade me from making any more stupid decisions that could impact the rest of the group again. Eventually we make it to the track about 15 minutes before the events begin which is just long enough to get signed in, get our badges and thumb drives (more on those later), and grab some breakfast. The breakfast buffet was more than I expected. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, bagels, muffins, different types of cereal, milk, and juices were all laid out for us with caterers standing by ready to replenish whatever we managed to deplete. This same crew followed us around to each of the stations making sure we had plenty of water, Gatorade, and snacks to keep us happy all day long. This is one of the many details that shows you just how much work goes into each one of these events. Everything you could want is taken care of at every turn.
The first order of business was a video of Richard “The King” Petty talking about the SRT brand (he’s an SRT owner). Then we got a quick run-down of the rules in place for our safety, along with a warning: “If you turn off the ESP, you go home.” The reasoning behind this is simple. The ESP systems in these vehicles will correct a lot of mistakes. They won’t let you completely lose control like a vehicle without ESP would. When you turn the ESP off, the back end is free to roam wherever it pleases and that is a bad thing when you’re dealing with well over 400 ponies on a tight track in a vehicle that you’ve never driven before. If the ESP isn’t on there is a much greater risk of you losing control and possibly causing harm to yourself or someone else. Besides, it is more fun to leave the ESP on and try to break the back end loose. Why? Because you can’t. As long as you’re going in a straight line, you can spin the tires all day. But as soon as the rear end starts to get away from you, the ESP kicks in and the machine you’re piloting launches itself forward with a satisfying growl from the engine and a wonderful sinking feeling in your stomach. So even though you might play Gran Tourismo or Forza Motorsport with no assists on and think that you’re Billy Bigshot, leave that stuff at home. In the interest of fun and safety for everyone just leave that ESP on.