It’s long been a discussion point within the club: How do we grow our membership and integrate new motorsports enthusiasts into all the #funwithcars opportunities SCCA has to offer? From the national office to the local level, many members have been working towards this goal, with Track Night In America (TNiA) being one avenue that has experienced recent growth and success in this arena. Turns out – that’s because it works.
This summer, two drivers that first showed up at a NER TNiA event received their Novice permits for road racing, and we can now expect to see them as regulars at road racing events across the northeast.
Testing the Waters with TNiA
“I found the TNiA event with only a day or so to go and it was full. But they advertised if I showed up that I could go on track touring laps,” said Mark Lindsay of Connecticut. Those touring laps were so much fun, he came home that night and registered for his first full TNiA at Palmer Motorsports Park in May 2017. When he arrived, “I was about 10th in line of twenty, and it was Corvette, after M3, after Mustang,” he describes, as he sat in his 2010 Honda Accord. “I was a bit nervous about what I had gotten myself into.”
For Allen Briere, also of Connecticut, his first TNiA event was at Thompson Speedway in May 2015. With previous experience at HDPE and Autocross events, Allen had stepped away and not been involved with any motorsports activities for almost a decade. Then he ventured to the Thompson event. “The low cost of TNiA and afternoon track times were what drew me.” He continued, “I had been interested in racing from a very young age, however the only exposure I had was with circle track racing, which seemed to be missing something. At an older age now, I can conclude it was excitement, thrill, and wanting to turn right.”
Mark in his 2010 Honda Accord
Allen in his 2006 VW GTI
Both men were hooked after that first TNiA. “I could not believe how much fun it was, especially for the price,” Mark said. “The atmosphere was great, and everyone was very passionate about cars and driving fast. This was something I was missing in my daily routine.” Allen added, “The first thing that impacted me was how approachable and helpful the SCCA team was. I will always remember how this event reignited my interest in motorsports.”
I asked myself, ‘Did I just become a racecar driver??? YES, Yes I did!
Moving Into Road Racing
With only their street cars, both drivers continued to attend TNiA events, trying different locations, but both recognizing that they would eventually want more. “I ended up logging 72 lapping sessions in three years and in May 2017 I located an old ITB VW GTI log-booked racecar. I purchased the car, and through the friendships I made in NER’s TNiA staff, they held my hand, gave me a list of safety items needed, and helped me set a target date for a CRE at Thompson,” said Allen.
Mark eventually attended a Palmer road race to learn about the different classes and decide what would be best for him. “After that event, I was sure Spec Miata was for me,” he said. “It is a huge class with someone to race at every speed and lots of vendor support. It is also competitive in many other classes, so I could double dip if I wanted.”
The SCCA website clearly laid out the path to a competition license for Mark, but the most time-consuming part was going to be building his car. “I looked into renting, but that was too expensive. I looked at buying a finished car, but I couldn’t find a car I could afford built like I would want. In the end, I settled on building the car with help from everyone – family, friends, vendors, other competitors and everyone I talked to at SCCA.”
Peter Morrison and Greg Amy practically dragged Allen to that target driver school at Thompson. Peter offered to conduct the Annual Tech on site, and Greg “didn’t let up. He was messaging and texting me all through the morning session to ‘Just Get Here!”, and he’d take care of everything.”
After arriving two hours late, Kathy Barnes walked Allen through registration and missing paperwork, Peter did the annual tech, and “before I knew it, I was strapping in and out on the track for the school.” He added, “The day was a blur, becoming comfortable with door-to-door racing was completely different, and by the end of the day, I had my little Novice book. To be completely honest, it all happened so smoothly that when the day was over, I asked myself, ‘Did I just become a racecar driver??? YES, Yes I did!”
Mark’s first weekend being in a race suit on track brought out the nerves. “It was raining all weekend and I didn’t want to throw it all away before it began. The car was brand new to me, so it took a while to be comfortable. It was exactly what I was hoping for though. I had great battles all weekend and was moving forward every session. I couldn’t have asked for a better start!”
Now a Novice Racer
“Once you’re strapped into a car, no one knows you’re a novice,” Allen remarks. “My first race weekend, I felt prepared and looked forward to seeing my new racing family.”
When asked how TNiA helped prepare them for road racing, both drivers immediately commented on the friendliness and helpfulness of the SCCA staff. “It’s a sense of family,” Allen explains. “They provided an outlet for my desire, advice and coaching. The low stress level of TNiA is 100% the reason I am where I am. It was so easy.”
“Nearly everyone staffing TNiA are racing themselves. They have a passion and it is contagious,” Mark continues. “TNiA helped me get familiar with local tracks and helped build my confidence. That first weekend racing, already knowing the track really helped with my nerves.”
Advice for Others
Since most TNiA staff are the same people working road racing events, both drivers recommend simply asking the question “how do I get involved?” Ask questions about the different classes and how things work. Spectating at a road racing event is another way to learn more. Mark notes, “Every competitor I have met loves to race and is happy to talk about it.” “Just come say hello or offer to help out,” Allen adds. He concludes, “SCCA has an open door, staff that helps you with everything, and is genuinely concerned with you enjoying your time.’
Now that these two drivers have their competition licenses, watch for them at NER events in the near future. Allen will be bringing his ITB VW GTI to tracks, while also building another 2006 VW GTI to run in T3 at Time Trials. Mark’s Spec Miata will be at all the NER events, with “a few reach tracks thrown in – Watkins Glen and VIR are definitely on the list.”
As a club, NER would like to thank both these drivers for sharing their personal stories and experience with both TNiA, CRE, and their pathways to competition road racing. We are excited to welcome them into the road racing family and thrilled that they have found many ways to fuel their motorsports passion through all the programs and specialties SCCA has to offer.