My SRT Track Experience: Part 2

This is a continuation of my day-long excursion at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ (turn your volume down before you click that one) with the SRT Track Experience. If you haven’t read part 1, you should read that first. This time we cover both of the road course modules and the Head-to-Head Challenge. Fun Fact: There used to be a drag race module as part of the experience, but it was taken out because none of the men liked it. The reason the men didn’t like it is because the women almost always beat them. That has nothing to do with anything in the article, I just thought it was funny when they told us so I figured you might as well. Let’s get into the article, shall we? ALLONS-Y!

The Road Course Begins: Baby Steps

After I managed to destroy the already short lives of several dozen cones on the autocross course, we all piled into the vans (Chrysler Town and Country, natch) and made our way out to the big boy track where we were greeted by a nice long line of SRT vehicles. 3 each of the Chrysler 300 SRT8, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Dodge Charger SRT8, and Challenger 392 were sitting pretty in the pit row gleaming in the sunlight while patiently waiting for a shot at the open asphalt.

We all get paired up with a partner that the instructors feel is close to our comfort level so that we don’t have one person that is able to really push the vehicle while his or her partner is struggling and a little scared to get on it. Fear is okay, and it’s natural, but too much of it will hold your partner back and that’s no fun for anyone. After a few laps it will melt away anyhow and you’ll just want to see what you can make the cars do out on the track. Ricky explained the cone system to us and how to understand when and where to brake, how to drop into the apex of a corner, and how to use all of the track to get the most speed through the curves. We were told that as long as we maintain 2-3 car lengths between us and the car in front of us, the instructors would continue giving us a little more speed.

So we saddled up for our first shot at the road course. I have to say that after reviewing the videos, I really felt like we were going faster. Even during the morning runs when we were just out there to get used to the cars and the track, it felt like we were hitting higher speeds. Maybe it was the hard acceleration that threw me off or the way the cars just rolled through turns like it was nothing. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. It was a lot of fun. Being out on the track was a whole new experience for me (and for many of the others, I would wager). I was really worried about getting out on the track. I love driving, but I like to cruise. I didn’t know what to expect so there was a little bit of fear to go with the excitement.

We all got to go out onto the track with each vehicle for 2 laps at a time, taking 2 turns with all of them. The entire evolution took a little over an hour, but to be completely honest it felt like it was over in about 20 minutes. We can chalk that up to the old “Time flies when you’re driving a sports car like a crazy person”. At least I think that’s how it goes. I could be wrong. Once we all had our turns to get comfortable with the cars it was time to jump in the vans and roll back for lunch.

The Head-to-Head Challenge

After we munched on a delicious lunch buffet with as much variety as the breakfast buffet, we went right back out to do more driving. You really don’t have a lot of down time during the Track Experience, and that’s only a bad thing if you don’t like driving. The first event of the afternoon was the head-to-head challenge. Think of it as a modified autocross course against another person, with an extra stop in the middle. The reason there’s an extra stop is because you and your opponent are traveling on identical courses, but in opposite directions. The two courses are joined at the start/finish areas so that you essentially do the same course two times. Drive through the first course, stop in the box, drive through the second course, stop where you started. The first person done with the least number of penalties is the winner. So just like with the autocross, accuracy counts just as much as speed. In fact, during a head-to-head accuracy is even more important than speed simply because a slower driver can still win with less penalties. If both drivers have flawless runs then the faster driver wins, but if the faster driver has even 1 cone penalty more than the slower driver that means the slower driver takes the W. Unfortunately the cameras were acting up on the Head-to-Head course, so this is the only video that got recorded. The worst part is that it doesn’t even go all the way to the end of the run.

And yes, I won that one. AAWWWW YEEEEAAAAH!

The races were set up in a bracket system like any good tournament would be. Everyone was assigned a number at the beginning and the computer took over. I’m not entirely sure how the point system worked other than what we were told before we started. The winner and the not-winner will both be awarded points in every round. Winning will always be worth more points than not-winning. But in order to prevent a lot of ties at the end of the races, the points change as the tournament progresses. For example, winning the last round will give more points on the last race, but not-winning the first round gives more points than not-winning the last race. Does that make sense to anyone but me? No? Well now you understand why they don’t pay me to write this stuff. Moving on!

I really wish that all of my races would have recorded. Not because I want to show off how amazing my driving skills are, but because it’s obvious that I’m not a professional driver. At the end of that run up there in the video, I honked the horn. Why? Was I looking for attention? Was I using it to mock my opponent at the end of the race? No, it was because I hit the brakes and the massive Brembo calipers grabbed so tightly and so quickly that I lurched forward and my hand hit the horn. BEEEEEEEP! [insert raucous laughter from the crowd here]. Not only that, but I managed to do something even more ridiculous in the race right before the only one that recorded. I’m sitting in the box, watching the red light to make sure get a really good launch. The light goes out, left foot comes up, right foot goes down, the engine revs like a monster and the car goes nowhere. When I say the car goes nowhere that doesn’t mean that all the power just spun the tires around with reckless abandon. It means that I’m an idiot and I didn’t take the car out of park. So I hung my head like the sad little man that I am, gingerly shifted into drive, and pulled away from the starting box. The punch line to that little story is that I won that race, too.

After the tournament bracket had been executed to completion we were given the results. The top 2 racers were to be given a special prize at the end of the day, along with the top 3 racers from the autocross in the morning. With only 1 loss, the #2 racer in the Head-to-Head challenge was Michael P. For those of you keeping track, that would be this guy! The only race I lost was my first race, and that’s because I went out there killing cones again. The #1 racer had no losses at all. 4 races, 4 wins, and the only undefeated racer of the day. I didn’t get her name because I’m as bad a journalist as I am a driver. And yes, I said “her name”. A female scientist out-drove a bunch of car junkies. We made sure to mock all of the other drivers for a few minutes. “You all just got beaten by a girl and a geek. You should be ashamed of yourselves!” But as with the autocross earlier in the day, everyone was having so much fun that our lighthearted mockery was laughed at. A few guys even said they were ready to turn in their driver’s licenses. I’ll be honest, it felt really good to win after making so many ridiculous mistakes.

The Road Course Continues

This was the part we were all waiting for. The morning run was just a warm-up. We had to get used to the cars and the track so that we could come out in the afternoon and feel a little more of what the cars were capable of. We were still riding behind the instructors, but they were opening the lead vehicles up a lot more, giving us room to do the same with ours. As you can see from the video, we weren’t going at break-neck speeds. But I can assure you that we were going pretty fast for the size of the track. There are very few areas where you really get to tear them wide open but because of the tight turns you get to feel all of the acceleration. The most surprising thing is how incredibly well they all handled. Remember in the first article when I said that it’s best to leave the ESP on? Well I was doing everything I could to get these cars to break loose (even the big 392 CID Challenger) and they weren’t having any of it. Even turning hard and standing on the gas resulted in nothing more than a little twitch from the rear of the vehicle followed by me getting mashed into the seat from the acceleration.

I realize as I write this that a lot of this seems like I am just writing a love letter to Chrylser Group LLC. I guess to some extent, that is exactly what I am doing. You can only say so much about the driving experience when you’re doing laps around the same track all day. They accelerate quickly, they brake quickly, the ride is amazing and the handling is the stuff that dreams are made of. I can only say that so many ways. But the thing that I got from the Track Experience that really stands out is that Chrysler is one of the few companies left that is making cars for people that love cars. Everyone lately is flaunting their low fuel consumption vehicles, or their super-ultra economy line, and the zero-emissions vehicles. Nuts to that. When every other company looks to increase fuel economy at the expense of everything else, Chrysler says “How can we give them more power?” Go sit in some of the new hybrid/zero-emissions/economy vehicles. There’s nothing to love about them. They feel cheap and plasticy. They are uncomfortable to sit in, terrible to look at, and no fun at all to drive. Those cars are just a means of transportation and nothing more. But when you get into any of the SRT vehicles you know right away that you’re piloting something special. The big cushy leather seats welcome you. The steering wheel feels warm and comfortable in your hands. When you start it up and the engine rumbles to life, the whole vehicle gives a little shake as if you just woke a monster from a deep sleep. When you get that big steel monster out on the road you feel exactly what you should feel when you drive. Your pulse quickens on a turn. You can feel it hunker down when you hit the gas to merge onto the highway. You feel like you’re becoming part of the car and it is a part of you. That’s what a car should be. These aren’t just things we use to get from Point A to Point B and back again. Your vehicle should be an extension of yourself and a glimpse into your personality. If the vehicle you’re driving now isn’t, maybe you should think about getting another one. I have a few that I could suggest.

I have one more article to bring to the table and that’s because there’s just 1 tiny little part of the day left to gush about. Remember when I said that the race winners got a special prize at the end of the day? That prize was a ride in the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe. Next time, friends… next time.

The SRT Track Experience is an entire day of full-throttle action for SRT vehicle owners and performance enthusiasts alike. The SRT Track Experience includes guidance by professional instructors from the Richard Petty Driving Experience for each of the five modules, to ensure fun and top-level instruction in a safe and structured setting. You can sign up for your own experience at

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