Get out and Race
April showers brought May flowers, for some people. For the rest of us, April meant the beginning of the race season in the Northeast. Now that May is upon us, and the race season is in full swing, there are plenty of opportunities to take your car off the street and drive it onto the racetrack where it really belongs.
Eastern Pennsylvania is an ideal place to live if you enjoy racing. There is a huge array of legal racing venues for you to satisfy your hunger for speed and you can even do it in the car you drive every day. Racing is a great way to release that built-up I-want-to-go-fast energy.
Let’s take a look at our options.
Starting off right here in Berks County, we are home to Maple Grove Raceway (www.maplegroveraceway.com). This is a ¼-mile drag strip that frequently offers "Grudge Racing" on Friday nights. Grudge racing is just open track time to race your friends or the random person in the other lane. In addition to the grudge racing, Maple Grove hosts many other events that are open to all to enter.
In addition to Maple Grove, we are fortunate to have five other drag strips within two hours of Berks County that offer drag racing that is open to the general public (listed in order closest to Reading):
n Cecil County Dragway, Rising Sun, Md., www.cecilcountydragway.com
n Numidia Raceway, Numidia, Pa., www.numidiaraceway.com
n Island Dragway, Great Meadows, N.J., www.islanddragway.com
n Atco Raceway, Atco, N.J., www.atcorace.com
Old Bridge Township’s Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J., www.etownraceway.com
Another Berks County option for racing is our local hillclimbs, Pagoda and Duryea. They take place, respectively, in June and August. These two events are part of a series of hillclimb races that take place all over Pennsylvania. Details on all of the hillclimb races can be found on the Pennsylvania Hill Association’s Web site, www.pahillclimb.org. Although you can enter your street-driven car in these events, you will need some added safety equipment; please see the PHA Web site for details.
One the safest ways to explore the limits of your car is with Sports Car Club of America’s Solo2 autocross events. These events offer challenging temporary courses set up in large parking lots. There are a large number of autocrosses in our region. The Northeast Pennsylvania region of the SCCA, www.nepa-scca.com, holds autocrosses as close as Frackville, Schuylkill County, and the Susquehanna region of SCCA, www.scca-susq.com, hosts these events as close as Hershey. If you are willing to travel a bit farther you can check out the events put on by the Philadelphia region, www.phillyscca.com. For an even broader look at the regional autocross scene, check out www.autox4u.com.
If you are feeling more adventurous, the northeast United States has plenty of racetracks and a plethora of organizations that can get you onto them.
Some of the most notable tracks in our region (listed in order closest to Reading):
n Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa., www.poconoraceway.com
n Summit Point Motorsports Park, Summit Point, W.V., www.summitpoint-raceway.com
n Lime Rock Park, Lime Rock, Conn., www.limerock.com
n Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, N.Y., www.theglen.com
n BeaveRun, Wampum, Pa., www.beaverun.com
It’s great to know about these tracks, but it is more important to know what organizations can get you out there turning laps. Each one of the following organizations has its own rules for technical and safety inspections. They also can be very different in how they operate their track days. That being said, I am listing these organizations simply as a resource. I would recommend doing further research before you decide to attend one of their events. Lastly, I suspect this list is not comprehensive as it only includes the organizations that I have researched while looking for safe ways to test my car and my driving.
Here are some of the organizations that can get you some seat time on a real racetrack:
n Sports Car Club of America, www.scca.net
n National Auto Sport Association, www.nasaproracing.com
n Performance Drivers Association, www.pdadrivingschool.com
n Eastern Motorsport Racing Association, www.emraracing.org
If you want to pursue some legal motorsports, I highly encourage you to look into the facilities and organizations listed above. All of them have been extremely helpful with my questions and they always seem eager to help out newcomers.