One of the big difficulties with racing out of your own pocket is that life gets in the way. That's not a bad thing, but it is reality. Sometimes new parts have to be delayed until after the house payment is made. And sometimes the car may not be as clean-or as completely prepped-as you might like because a member of your volunteer crew went on vacation, or had a kid get sick, and you simply didn't have enough hands on deck to get everything done.

This is especially true when it comes to testing. If you race the same equipment at the same track week after week, that's one thing, but if you are going to a new track or have changed virtually anything on your car it's practically impossible to be perfect right off the truck. Most tracks offer practice time the day a race is scheduled, but there are often times when an hour or two of track time just isn't enough and a full-blown test is called for. But tests are difficult because it costs money to rent the track, you and your crew probably will have to take vacation time from work, and getting the most from a test requires all the prep (and often more) involved with getting the race car ready for an actual race.

That's why it is so important, if you are going to make the investment of time, money, and effort to go testing, to get everything you can out of it. With that in mind, we tagged along as Joe Gibbs Racing took driver Tommy Cloce on a test. Cloce is the 2009 Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil ASA Member Track National champion, and one of the perks of winning the championship is the opportunity to test with the Gibbs race team.

The team Cloce is testing with is the outfit that normally races in the NASCAR Camping World East series. However, the track for the test is Dillon (SC) Motor Speedway, an ASA Member track that was purchased and rennovated by former truck series racer Ron Barfield a few years ago. And while the purpose of the session is to test Cloce's abilities behind the wheel, crew chief Mike Sibley's intention is to treat the session as much like a real test as possible to see just what Cloce is made of. This allows us to see how a professional operation like JGR handles a test day at the track.

Just like the old adage that the three most important things in real estate are "location, location, location," the very same can be said about track testing and preparation. Sibley says that in order to test properly, your race car should be prepared to the very same level that it will be on race day. Make sure any work that needs to be done on the car is completed ahead of time so that you can spend the most time possible with your car on the race track. Also, in order for the test to be valid, you want everything possible to be identical to the way it will be during a race.

Obviously, once you hit the track you don't want to start making chassis changes without a plan. And planning must also begin well before you hit the track. Start with the setup you will put under the car to begin the test.

If you are testing at your home track, then you can begin with your race setup and adjust from there. But if you are going to a track you've never tested at before, you have a couple of options. First, you can call around to other drivers or even your chassis builder to see if anyone has any experience with the track and can offer you some advice on what setups seem to work best there. If you don't know anyone and have to go in "blind," your best bet is to start with something basic your driver is familiar with. Don't guess and go in with some wild setup you aren't used to because you won't already have an idea how the car should behave, and it will be more difficult to determine what changes need to be made.