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!