While you're building the car, think about safety. The first calls should be made to safety equipment dealers. Even the veteran racers are susceptible to injury if they are not properly prepared, and there's still a fair amount of drivers who don't do everything possible to be safe. You can follow that path of potential harm, or you can take the right step from the start.

As we have pointed out, the race track is not responsible for your personal safety. You assume the risk once you make the decision, so it stands to reason that the decision to be safe is a logical one. It will help assure that your experience with the sport or hobby continues until you decide to stop.

While track rules generally include the basics of safety, there are areas where the driver/owner can make improvements. A reliable fire extinguishing system is a must. It should be easily accessible to the driver and safety workers in the event a driver is unable to activate it. New belts should be used. If you buy a used race car, it may come with the belts. But there's a good chance those belts have little value, as they may be old or weathered. It's not a chance worth taking. Get new belts and install them properly. The manufacturers are only a phone call away with helpful advice.

The nature of the sport allows that there could be an accident waiting to happen. It doesn't matter how or why-it just happens in racing, and as a novice, you are at increased risk of being involved. Reactions may not have developed to a level where you can drive around a mishap. Part failures can put you into harm's way. It's nearly inevitable. Even the pros get caught up in accidents.

The important part of the accident experience is what you did on the front end to lessen the damage on the back end. Properly mounted seatbelts will hold you. Layered clothing, including Nomex or similar fire-retardant material such as underwear and socks, provides the starting point. A quality fire-resistant suit that is clean will continue the layers of protection. One point to note-protection is the most important aspect of a racing suit. It should be removed when working on the car to prevent oils and fluids from getting onto the fabric.

Gloves are a wise investment. We use our hands to work on the car (wearing mechanic's gloves is also a good idea) and likely have a job that requires our hands-the job that pays the bills that allow us to go racing. Self-protection should be instinctive.

Understand Your Place Your talent may not come bolting through in your first race. Unless you've had substantial practice, this is your first opportunity to place the car in competition. Be realistic when you're on the track. Get comfortable in the car. It's a good idea to check the lineup board well before your race to understand where you will be starting. It will allow you to get a better understanding of the competition. You will likely have some new racers and some veterans mixing it up. Understand where you need to be at the start of the race, and be ready when the call comes for your division.

Once you take the green flag, drive smart. If you cannot keep the pace with the leaders, accept it. Do not let the car wander all over the track. Try to maintain a racing line, regardless of the speed. Be courteous to the leaders as they approach. Understand where the slow lane is and get there. Be aware of your surroundings. If you don't, someone may lose patience and help you get out of the way.

There's a difference between racing and getting seat time. Do not expect to go racing in your first foray. That seat time is important at all stages of racing. Even the professionals get seat time in testing. They're not racing, only getting better at what they do (and making the cars better).