Do your research. If you're shopping for a race school, that's the best advice we can give. Ultimately, finding the correct school requires shopping around. Since more racing schools exist now than ever before in the history of mankind, we put this handy guide together to help make shopping around a little easier. Driving schools typically come in three flavors: serious race driver training, fan experience, and then there are ones that cater to both audiences. For the fan who wants a taste of driving a real race car and has no serious intentions of competing, there are many schools from which to choose. The weekend racer who seeks serious training has fewer options. In fact, most schools across the country cater more to the fan audience. But this is America, and somewhere and somehow, somebody is probably selling something you want. (If somebody's not selling it, figure out how to sell it, and then you can drive a Cadillac Escalade for the rest of your life.)
Schools that teach race car drivers technique, chassis setup, and more are available, and many are quite good at what they do. In order for racers to get the most from the course, however, they must be honest about their skill level and what they really need to learn. In all cases, big egos and delusions of knowing what you're doing need to be left with the horse you rode in on.
For weekend warriors, spending money on a race school may be hard to justify when that money could be spent on the race car. Look at this way: Getting that hunk of "dumb metal" around the track requires a smart driver. Do parts and quality construction make the car go fast? Do drivers make the car go fast? The obvious answer is both. While there's no substitute for experience and pure skill, a race-training school can help inexperienced drivers accelerate the learning curve (and help them go faster without adding miracle parts or tearing up equipment by repeatedly learning the hard way).
Questions Everybody Should Ask* Does the school use open-face or closed-face helmets? Closed-face helmets offer much more protection. Even in the closely monitored environment of a school, tires can blow, parts can fail, and people can wreck. Do you want the front of your face to hit something inside the car? The last thing you want is to look like you got beat over the head with a race car.
* What is the school's policy if you wreck, and who defines whose fault it is? Is insurance available?
* What is the school's policy regarding cancellations or inclement weather? If it starts raining while you're there, can you expect a refund for partial completion of the course?
* Does the school use radios? If so, are they one-way or two-way?
* Do the cars have rev limiters or any speed-restricting devices? They may sound like fun-limiters at first, but really, they're there for your own safety. There's a big difference between 150 mph and 170 mph.
* Do instructors sit in the cars, or are students driving solo? Some people like the instructors sitting next to them; others don't. An inside instructor can get the students up to speed faster. On the other side of the coin, an inside instructor can also be intimidating and distracting to some people.
Group Discounts And Corporate ProgramsWhen you have to write that big proposal and tell the boss it's time to take care of employees and clients, racing schools can be one of the most impressive incentives out there. Many schools offer packages designed specifically for that purpose.
Important Disclaimer!By including a school in this listing, Circle Track is not implying that we know with firsthand certainty that it is a safe operation, or even a good one. Getting behind the wheel of any race car always involves a high amount of risk-a lot more than sitting on the couch and eating potato chips made with Olestra, so proceed cautiously and at your own risk.
Stock Car Racing SchoolsBrett Hearn Driving SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 1175Vernon, NJ 07456973/702-0811www.bretthearn.com
This school comes to life once every year under the watchful eye of DIRT Modified driver Brett Hearn at the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middleton, New York (a 51/48-mile clay oval). It costs $300 if you bring your own car, $600 if you rent one of Brett's cars. The school begins on Friday with classroom instruction and concludes on Saturday night after a day of driving on the track. As of this printing, the date for next year's school has not been announced.
Buck Baker Racing SchoolDept. CT011613 Runnymede Ln.Charlotte, NC 28211800/529-BUCKwww.buckbaker.com
Buck's school uses former Winston Cup cars at Rockingham (North Carolina) Speedway, Atlanta (Georgia) Speedway, and Bristol (Tennessee) Motor Speedway. Instruction ranges from ride-alongs to one-, two-, and three-day courses. It covers everything from basic to advanced courses that include one-on-one instruction to meet the needs of each driver. Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, and Joe Nemechek have gone through this school. Prices for driving courses start at $410 for a half day and go up to $2,300 for a three-day course.
California Racing Experience/Nazareth Racing ExperienceDept. CT019615 Cherry Ave.Fontana, CA 92335877/CUP-CARSwww.cupcars.com
Geared more for fans looking to get into the driver's seat, these driving-experience schools operate at the California Speedway (near Los Angeles) and the Nazareth (Pennsylvania) Speedway. Winston Cup cars and Super Trucks can be driven in their half-day, one-day, and two-day courses in which an instructor is always in the car. Students never have to follow an instructor car, can pass cars, drive side by side, and draft bumper-to-bumper. Ride-alongs are also available. Prices to drive start at $395 for a 10-lap session and go to $2,195 for a two-day, 80-lap experience.
David Pearson's Performance ProgramsDept. CT01515 Cherry St.South Daytona, FL 32119904/788-3774www.davidpearson1.com
David's school uses former Winston Cup cars and Allison Legacy cars at Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, St. Augustine (Florida) Speedway, and USA International Speedway (Florida). Driving classes include beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. To qualify for the advanced course, you must submit a very serious race resume. The price for an eight-hour beginner's driving school costs $500 to $750. Ride-alongs are also available.
Donnie Moran Race Driving SchoolDept. CT014325 Fawn Dr.Dresden, OH 43821740/754-2299
Donnie offers dirt-track Stock car race training at Muskingum County Speedway in Dresden, Ohio.
Drivetech Racing SchoolDept. CT017242 Scout Ave., Unit BBell Gardens, CA 90201800/678-8864www.drivetech.com
Drivetech has a reputation on the West Coast for providing generous seat time in its well-orchestrated program that uses Featherlite Southwest Series cars. It operates at California Speedway, Pikes Peak (Colorado) International Raceway, Altamont (California) Raceway Park, Cajon (California) Speedway, Phoenix (Arizona) International Raceway, Mesa Marin (California) Raceway, and Willow Springs International Motorsports Park (an outstanding road course near Los Angeles). Students drive solo in classes that offer anywhere between 20 minutes of actual drive time up to a two-day course that includes two hours of driving time. Prices range from $250 to $2,395 respectively, but vary according to the track. Ride-alongs are available.
Duvall's Driving SchoolDept. CT01614 S. Green River Rd.Cowpens, SC 29330864/489-3863
Duvall's Driving school offers dirt track instruction at the Cherokee Speedway and Antioch Speedway in South Carolina. The school uses both open-wheel and fendered cars. Prices start at $1,000.
Evernham/Hawley Racing SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 484LaVerne, CA 91750877/901-7223www.irwindalespeedway.com
Crew chief extraordinaire Ray Evernham and drag racing legend Frank Hawley teamed up to create this Stock car racing school that operates at the Irwindale (California) Speedway in Southern California (a half-mile asphalt oval.) The school uses Late Model stock cars and Mechanixwear Speed Trucks in its Adventure Programs (fan oriented) and Competition course (beginner to intermediate racer). Adventure courses start at $99, and the competition course (which features primarily one-on-one teaching) costs $1,795. Ride-alongs, data acquisition, and lapping sessions are also available. It's a serious school that teaches the technical, mental, and driving sides of racing.
Fast Track HighPerformance Driving SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 160Harrisburg, NC 28075704/455-1700www.fastrackracing.com
Southard has been training drivers and mechanics since 1975. Graduates include Mark Martin, Gary Nelson, Ernie Irvan, and many behind-the-scenes guys in NASCAR. Geared for racers who drive on half-mile-or-less tracks, the school's five-day chassis program with driving costs $2,000. Students can also bring their own cars ($1,000) and have the school help set up and dial in the car. They use a variety of Late Model and Modified cars with no rev limiters! Classes are held at Volusia County (Florida) Speedway (dirt) and New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway (asphalt). The four-day chassis school with no driving costs $500.
Southern Thunder,A Race Truck Experience!Dept. CT011801 28th St. N.St. Petersburg, FL 33713888/403-1444www.southernthunder.com
Southern Thunder runs its V-8-powered Parts Pro Trucks at the Sunshine Speedway (Florida), Clearwater (Florida) Speedway, USA Speedway (Florida), Lanier Speedway (Georgia) and DeSoto (Florida) Speedway. Prices for 10 laps start at $199.95 and go up to $1,995 to compete in an actual Saturday-night short-track race.
SpeedTech Auto Racing SchoolDept. CT014333 Motorsport Dr.Concord, NC 28027704/784-9502www.tospeed.com
Students can drive Winston Cup cars, Legends cars, and mini Stock cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway, North Carolina Motor Speedway, and Myrtle Beach Raceway. Half-day courses start at $325, and the school's best advanced three-day course costs $2,100. The school caters mainly to fans, but it can handle serious racers, too.
Speedway Club Legends Driving SchoolDept. CT01Lowe's Motor SpeedwayP.O. Box 600Concord, NC 28026704/455-3240 Ext. 4
This school uses Legends and Bandelero race cars at the 11/45-mile oval at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Six 10-lap sessions cost $495 and include one-on-one training combined with classroom instruction. If you just want to give a Legends car a try, you can take one for a 10-lap spin for $50.
Sutton Stock Car Racing SchoolDept. CT01Concord Motorsport ParkP.O. Box 5133Concord, NC 28027704/721-5757www.stockcarschool.com
Sutton offers a wide variety of courses ranging from private lessons to vacation packages to a five-day chassis and driving course. Classes cater to adventure seekers and to serious drivers who want to hone their skills. The school emphasizes chassis science and will give you as much as you want. It operates at the Concord (North Carolina) Motorsports Park's half-mile tri-oval in Winston Cup-style cars. Pricing starts at $749 for a basic one-day course.
Track Time Driving SchoolDept. CT011104 N. Meridian Rd.Youngstown, OH 44509330/793-9451www.tracktime.com
Track Time uses former Winston Cup cars at Michigan Speedway. A half-day school costs $495 (12 laps), the full day costs $895 (24 laps), and the advanced school costs $1,595 (40 laps). Track Time also branches out into other racing programs, including vintage racing schools and performance-driving schools (use your own car or their BMW Z3) It costs $595 if you use your own and $1,495 to use the BMW Z3. Formula 3 cars are also available at various road courses around the country.
Sprint CarsJimmy Sills School of Open Wheel RacingDept. CT012435 Morrene Dr.Placerville, CA 95667530/622-5493
Drive TCR and J&J Sprint cars with Shaver 410 engines and others. Courses are held at the Twin Cities Raceway (California) and Skagit Speedway (Washington). The school offers many classes, starting with a $295 half-day 16-lap course, a 100-lap "drive 'til you drop" one-day class ($1,595), and a three-day advanced class ($2,295). Some classes are geared for racers, and others are more for adventure seekers. Racers can bring their own cars (lower prices apply) and receive track time and classroom instruction.
Smiley Sitton's Outlaw Driving SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 210739Dallas, TX 75211214/331-4664www.outlawdrivingschool.com
Smiley uses former World of Outlaw J&J Sprint Cars at the 85 Speedway (Texas). The fuel-injected 410 ci engines are unrestricted, and the cars are said to be race-ready. Programs start at $495 for 20 laps and go to $8,950 for the most premium package, which includes 300 laps in four days with as much chassis technology training you can handle. Sprint Car and non-Sprint Car drivers frequent the school.
Speedway Sprint Car SchoolDept. CT013641-47th Ave. SWSeattle, WA 98116425/886-2323www.sprintschool4u.com
This school operates at dirt and asphalt tracks in the Pacific Northwest and and Western Canada in race-ready, 650hp Jenkins and Gambler Sprint Cars. The school also has Sprint Car race rentals starting at $3,500. Speedway covers the entire spectrum of students with classes that teach the basics in the classroom and 10 laps on the track ($295). Its Ultimate Driving Class costs $1,595 and includes 80 laps. Those with their own fullsize Sprint Cars can take the advanced Sprint Car setup class for $995.
Driving 101Dept. CT016935 Speedway Blvd.Las Vegas, NV 89115702/651-6300www.driving101.com
True, this school is listed in the Sprint Car section, but these are not Sprint Cars. They are school versions of CART Champ cars. The school operates at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the California Speedway, where prices start at $499 for 12 miles of track time and go up to $2,995 for two-day programs that consist of 120 miles. Driving experience top speeds range from 140 to 170 mph.
More SchoolsWhile we'd like to be able to write something about every school out there, space constraints prevent us from doing so. As a service to our readers who might be looking for something other than a Stock or Sprint Car school, we've included the following information.
American Speed Racing School800/789-9903www.americanspeed.com(Reynard Formula 2000s at USA International Speedway in Florida.)
Bertil Roos Racing SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 221Blakeslee, PA 18610570/646-7227
Bob Bondurant School of High Performance DrivingDept. CT01P.O. Box 51980Phoenix, AZ 85076520/796-1111
Bridgestone Racing AcademyDept. CT01Box 260Shannonville, Ontario KOK 3AO CanadaSummer: 613/969-0334Winter: 613/966-0866
Danny Collins Racing SchoolDept. CT011626 Albion St.Denver, CO 80220303/388-3875
Derek Daly Performance Driving AcademyDept. CT017000 N. Las Vegas Blvd.Las Vegas, NV 89115888/463-3735
Dirt Track Racing WorkshopDept. CT01P.O. Box 3408Terre Haute, IN 47803765/386-7231
Russell Racing SchoolDept. CT0129305 Arnold Dr.Sonoma, CA 95476707/939-7600www.russellracing.com
Skip Barber Racing SchoolDept. CT0129 Brook St.Lakeville, CT 06039860/435-1300
Bragg-Smith Driving School Inc.Dept. CT012001 Interbay St.Las Vegas, NV 89128800/391-6891
Car Guys Inc.Dept. CT01P.O. Box 21275Roanoke, VA 24018540/772-1517
Danny McKeever'sFast Lane Racing SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 2315Rosamond, CA 93560888/948-4888www.raceschool.com
Justin Bell's Viper Driving SchoolDept. CT011053 Van Arsdale St.Oviedo, FL 32765877/GO-VENOMwww.viperschool.com
Go 4 It Racing SchoolsDept. CT01374 N. 96th St.Louisville, CO 80027303/666-4113www.go4itservices.com
Jim Hall II Kart Racing SchoolDept. CT011555-G Morse Ave.Ventura, CA 93003805/654-1329www.jhrkartracing.com
Panoz Racing SchoolDept. CT015300 Winder HighwayBraselton, GA 30517800/849-7223www.roadatlanta.com
Powell Motorsports HighPerformance Driving SchoolDept. CT013140 Highway 7ABlackstock, Ontario LOB-1BO Canada905/986-2277
Touring Car ClubDept. CT011035 S. Fremont Ave.Alhambra, CA 91803626/284-2183www.touringcarclub.com
Road Course Stock Cars Looking for a school that permits students driving stock cars to let it all hang out on a road course? Drivetech is one of the few Stock car racing schools that sets up its oval cars to run on road courses. The cars, which are essentially NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series cars, receive a neutral weight setup and different gearing to take students around an altitude-changing, hair-raisingly fast, nine-turn course called Willow Springs in Rosamond, California. Members of the Circle Track staff have been through this course, and all agree that a stock car on a road course is even more fun than it looks.
The Fast Track school provides the opportunity for fans to get behind the wheel of Winston Cup-style cars at Lowe's Motor Speedway (North Carolina), Texas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Bristol Motor Speedway. Half-day, 10-lap programs start at $350, and the top-of-the-line three-day, 100-lap program costs $2,400.
FinishLine Racing SchoolDept. CT013113 S. Ridgewood Ave.Edgewater, FL 32141904/427-8522www.finishlineracing.com
FinishLine is highly recognized for training serious racers to drive better on short tracks. The school even guarantees you'll drive faster, or you'll get your money back. The school also has fan-oriented programs and ride-alongs. It caters to the beginning racer or the racer who is already driving and is having problems getting to the checkered flag first. A half-day driving class starts at $499, the intro to short-track racing costs $1,099, and the three-day advanced course costs $2,699. Courses are held primarily at the St. Augustine Speedway, and dates at the Lanier National Speedway (Georgia), Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Canadian tracks are in the works for 2000. Vehicles include NASCAR Late Models, Grand Americans, Sportsman cars, and a Super Truck.
Jarrett-Favre Driving AdventureDept. CT013660 Maguire Blvd., Ste. 101Orlando, FL 32803888/GO-RACE1www.drivingadventure.com
Dale Jarrett and Green Bay Packer's quarterback Brett Favre have teamed up to offer a fan-oriented program in Winston Cup-style cars at Bristol Motor Speedway, Nashville (Tennessee) Speedway, Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway, North Carolina Speedway, and Lowe's Motor Speedway. The adventure classes start at $295 for a 10-lap session, and prices go up to $1,375 for 50 laps. Ride-alongs are available.
Monster Racing EnterprisesDept. CT011057 North Dupont Hwy., Ste. 125Dover, DE 19901800/GO TO WINwww.monsterracing.com
Winston Cup, Busch Grand National, and Craftsman Trucks can all be driven at Dover Downs (Delaware) International Speedway, aka "The Monster Mile." The school is oriented toward "racing experiences." Classes are held on weekdays and weekends. Ten-lap driving programs start at $299 and go up to $959 for a top-of-the-line, 36-lap program. Ride-alongs are available.
Richard Petty Driving ExperienceDept. CT016022 Victory Ln.Harrisburg, NC 28075800/BE-PETTYwww.1800BEPETTY.com
Richard Petty is king of the "experience" programs, as his schools cover 19 tracks (mostly Winston Cup tracks) in 16 states from coast to coast. Consequently, the school is the most-attended one throughout the country. Students can drive Winston Cup-style cars at key attractions, including Daytona International Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and-there are just way too many to list here. Eight-lap classes start at $329 and go all the way up to $2,999 for the 40-lap Advanced Racing Experience. Prices fluctuate considerably depending on the track. Ride-alongs are also available.
Southard's Racing SchoolDept. CT01P.O. Box 1810New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170904/428-3307www.racingschool.net