Miss Amy Gets Hooked on Driving

Last week I had occasion to drive at New Jersey Motor Park’s Lightning track with the group Hooked on Driving.  HOD is now the seventh club I have been able to experience in my past two years of track driving; I am finding that while there are some obvious overlaps with the way other clubs are run, there are definitely some variations.  The detail oriented part of my brain definitely stands up and takes note when I come in contact with others who also believe everything is in the details. Details give me joy.  As with other clubs I was updated via email prior to the event with reminders of schedules, rules and regulations. By the time I arrived on the track I was on a first name basis with Joe Mills, the owner of the Northeast Region HOD club. I like to get my checklist addressed and everything laid out the night before a track event - to the extent that I bring a lanyard to put the driving schedule in. In the driver’s meeting they give you a daily schedule and I like to keep it closeby in my lanyard. I even like to put it in upside down so when I am looking at it the schedule is right side up. Don’t start calling me any retentive names now…it works for me! I walked into registration and Joe handed me the schedule in a lanyard already - AND it was upside down for easier viewing. Hey! Did somebody tell him I was coming?

Driver’s meetings all seem to have the same feel to me now; been there done that. Okay I know all the flags and what they mean and what all the rules are. But this time there was one extremely pleasant surprise. They had a drawing from a hat for a set of Race Ramps and then another one for a set of four (count em four) Pirelli tires. Now that would be one nice detail to add to my Cayman. Alas, it was not to be. This time my name was not drawn…but there is always a next time isn’t there?

Not having driven Lightning before I requested an instructor. George Dispigno, a fellow cayman lover, was aptly chosen for me. He knew exactly what my car could (and couldn’t do) on a track with street tires. So he hopped in passenger side and we proceeded to pit out. I looked up towards the steward and thought I recognized him. I did!  It was Scott Graber, NY police officer from Long Island. I had this disconnect because he was acting so seriously now; last time I saw him we were rolling on the floor laughing about some other club’s track hijinks. But he was all business today - as well he should be. Safety first on the track; laughter later is always a good motto to live and drive by.  George and I rolled out to pit out and then stopped. There was a 10 minute time frame where we just sat in the car chatting, helmeted, seat belted and radioes wired up.  This is something I never experienced before. While I have already had my virgin day at the track and was chomping at the bit to get moving onto a hot track, I was definitely struck by the thought of how utterly key this fine point would be to a fresh noobie.  Those initial seconds before getting onto your first track are something close to terrifying (you guys may not want to admit it publicly…but I am right and we’ll leave it at that).  But what if my first experience had been like that - just get acclimated to where you are and what is going to happen next - that truly would have helped take the edge off.  It was nice to get acquainted with George and trade stories while we were waiting for the green flag.

What a fun happy track Lightening is. I had been told if I liked Limerock (I do) then I would love Lightening (I did). I definitely gravitate to tracks that have a nice rhythm to them - as soon as you get into the groove of them that is. George was amazingly calm and a testament to well matched instructor/student practices. There were a few times if I were the instructor I would have been screaming BRAKE, but he calmly said MORE brake; okay MORE brake NOW.  Never alarm the student by screaming; his slight inflections up were enough to let me know I should not be going in too hot to a particular turn.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that lunch was included with this group. Up until now my experience has been fend for your own with track food. We’ve all been there - who among us knows what is in that cheese sauce on the fries at the Glen? It is orange though. Anyways, it was an unexpected extra touch…yet another detail.

All in all, it was one perfect 72 degree sunny south Jersey September day. No incidents to report and I made a few new friends - that seems to happen every time! Every other club I have driven with has their own strengths and minuses; HOD has cherry picked every solid point from other clubs and made them their signature features..making it easy to get hooked on driving. It definitely is all in the details!

Miss Amy
Photo credited to Mike Bloom of the Monticello Motor Club

Warm regards,