Five Good Minutes With Heyward Wagner And The SCCA About Their Latest Idea—Time Trials Nationals

The Sports Car Club of America has been around since 1944, sponsoring amateur and professional racing in several diverse formats for thousands of racers during its existence. However, despite its long and storied history, the SCCA has another nickname—the Secret Car Club of America. The club hasn’t always done the best job of promoting itself and growing its membership over the years, resulting in an inevitable graying of the club’s membership.

As other motorsports organizations came into being in the last ten to fifteen years (24 Hours of Lemons, ChumpCar, American Endurance Racing, GoodGuys), the SCCA suddenly faced a significant amount of disruptive competition for new customers. In response, they hired Heyward Wagner (the man holding the Benjamin in the above photo with me and Friend of RG, Rebecca Turrell—sorry for that pic, Heyward) to be the Director of Experiential Programs—in other words, his job was to think up new events to attract and retain new members.

Among Wagner’s ideas is the wildly successful Track Night in America, now in its fourth season of existence, and Targa, a sort of mini One Lap that encompassed multiple motorsports disciplines (autocross, time trial, road rally, and trackcross) into one competition. And now, the SCCA is preparing to launch its latest venture, Time Trials Nationals, this September. Time Trials Nationals will take place at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, KY, and will consist of both a flag-to-flag timed session and a TrackCross, which is a point-to-point autocross-style time trial that involves only a certain section of the track.

I sat down with Wagner this week to talk about what it will look like.

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My First (Ass-Backwards) Track Day

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Some of you mentioned that you’d like to hear about more track stuff—so here’s more track stuff! Please welcome our newest Guest Writer, Steve Ulfelder!—Bark

Hot diggity, I thought as the alarm rattled me from Fangio dreams, the day is finally here! All the heel-toe practice, all the years watching racing on TV and wondering if I had what it took to push my car and myself to the limit, all the research about venues and sanctioning groups—the payoff was finally here in the form of My First Track Day!

<needle-scratching-record sound effect>

Nah. This is not that My First Track Day story (for which, I assume, you are grateful). I came at my own first track day the same way I approach most things in life: ass-backwards.

I spent a decade autocrossing, then 12 years in SCCA Club Racing. Though mediocre in both disciplines, I eventually became a solid racer. I was the guy at the front of the middle of the pack, unlikely to win but less likely to do anything stupid.

Mediocrity be damned: I was out there, doing it. All told, I must have run nearly 150 SCCA races.

How’d I manage to do this without ever trying a track day?

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When Men Were Men And The Mustaches Grew Wild

A few months ago, I spent two days at the Nurburgring with a Lotus Evora Sport 410 and a group of absolutely fascinating students. One of them is the fellow you see in this Mosport formula-car race video from 1973 — Ron Cohn. Now seventy years old, he’s still working on improving his touch behind the wheel. Ron sent me this video last night and I thought some of you would be amused by it. Most likely it was created to attract potential sponsors — there’s something charming about the idea of some executive having this film threaded through his office projector so he can see the adventures of Ron and his teammate at Mosport. If you’re interested in the Cosworth engine that powered these cars, there’s an explanation in somewhat stilted English here.

It’s Fun To Stay At The SCCA

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Qualified fifth this morning for my first-ever amateur SCCA race. Dont expect to set the world on fire. Just happy to be here. The good news is that I’m not the only Neon in the class. The bad news is that the other Neon is an ex-Koni Challenge SRT-4. On Motons.

Wish us luck.

Race Report: Wilmington Youth Karts

It didn’t start out well. For John’s second race, and his first time at the Wilmington track, we showed up about an hour late. Our neighborhood had held a block party the night before, outdoor torches blazing and kids running around in that kind of frenzied aimless excitement that I remember from when my dad’s baseball or softball team would have a season-ending party in my youth. I’d let him stay up until nearly midnight, so I felt that I had to let him sleep until eight-thirty the next morning.

When we arrived, John’s competition was already out there practicing. His name was Colin and he was a very soft-spoken, friendly young boy who looked to be maybe ten pounds lighter than my son. His kart was powered by the new Comer C51 with a free-breathing cone filter, which didn’t bode well for any straight-line drag race in which John might find himself. His father had brought a stand, somebody to rebuild the carburetor between races, and a very complete set of tools. Every lap Colin took, the dad would run out to the start/finish line and make a pumping motion with his fist until the kid was well past him. These were people who took karting very seriously.

In the first practice, Colin dropped John by maybe five karts per straight and was on track to lap him when I called a halt to the proceedings. I was genuinely upset. John wasn’t worried at all. “The race,” he said, “will go great.” Doesn’t he know he almost got lapped? I thought. Should I have coached him more? Pushed him more? How is he going to deal with being humiliated out there?

Turns out my son had a much better handle on things than I gave him credit for.

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I’m No Photographer…

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…but I’m not displeased with this one. Danger Girl on a cloudy Mid-Ohio Saturday afternoon, heading towards the Honda bridge. And I took it in “M” mode on the Rebel, setting everything but the focus myself.

When I see the results of my own “work” behind the camera, however, it reminds me how lucky I am to work with people like Andrew Trahan, Jamey Price, Sean Klingelhoefer, Evan Klein, Peter Dawson, Ryan Doede, Matt Tierney, Puppyknuckles Dave, and several others. The challenge that I have is writing something that will make you forget all that visual bullshit.

Just kidding.

Kind of.

Enjoy (what’s left of) your weekend, everybody!