To start the on-track festivities,...
To start the on-track festivities, BBRS owner & CEO Jeff Boyer and the other instructors give a few pace laps to warm up the cars as well as perform the missing man formation in honor of Buck. A very nice touch.
Just like in high school driving class, you can watch all the film you want. Somebody can explain how to drive a race car for a week with drawings and technical explanations. But it doesn't mean anything until you're behind the wheel yourself.
Whether you run Late Models, Mini-Stocks, Modifieds, or any other class of racing, you can always benefit from more seat time. Or, if you've only run Mini-Stocks or Limited Late Models and want to move up to ARCA, ASA, USAR, and so on, you need seat time in that type of car. Or if you're a fan and just want to see what racing is all about from the driver's viewpoint, seat time will help you.
Now if you're like a lot of younger racers who read Circle Track you likely have only ever driven one type of race car and going to a different division will bring in a whole new set of challenges that you'll have to tackle if you're going to be successful. You can listen all you want to racers in other series talk about how their car handles or what to expect at a given track, but without that quality seat time it doesn't really mean anything.
That's where a racing school comes in. You'll get an experience, an education, and that all important seat time in a car comparable to your targeted series. A Mini-Stock drives and handles completely different than a Late Model, Modified, or a full-bodied Stock Car. The feel, the setup, vehicle dynamics, even the way you sit in the car is different from division to division. A good school can help you overcome those differences.
So, what do you look for in a racing school? First, you want to find a school that specializes in or has the cars you want to race. You also want to find a school that runs at some of the tracks you aspire to race. Now these tracks don't have to be the exact tracks in your targeted series, but they should be at least similar. Daytona, Talladega, or Indianapolis may be the e-ticket ride, but the experience you get there won't translate to a half-mile bullring.
We had the opportunity to attend the Buck Baker Racing School at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway. Located in North Carolina, the late NASCAR legend, Buck Baker, started his school 30 years ago because he saw that nothing like it existed for young and upcoming racers. He believed that there was nothing like seat time at a true racing school to get acclimated to full-bodied Stock Cars if you wanted to race in NASCAR, ARCA, ASA, USAR, and the like.
Because of that philosophy the school has always used real NASCAR race cars purchased from teams after they retire the cars. Its current lineup includes former pre-COT Cup cars and a 2007 Nationwide Series car. The cars are detuned from race trim so they can last more than a weekend or two. While that may be a little disappointing to hear, most students won't notice the difference as they are concentrating on other aspects of driving.
When Baker passed away a few years ago, his widow looked to sell the school but most suitors wanted to change the name and the curriculum. That wasn't what Buck would have wanted, so she talked with lead instructor Jeff Boyer about buying the school. Jeff jumped at the chance and is now the owner/CEO. A former, and on occasion, current, ARCA competitor, Jeff came to the school 12 years ago as an instructor.
So, what's the day at a racing school like? You'll first show up and sign in. Like any track you go to, there'll be a waiver to sign and other paperwork related to the school. While you're waiting for everyone else to arrive you can walk around the cars and see what's waiting for you.
Once everyone arrives, the school will have a classroom session where it covers everything from safety while you're at the school to car safety, track safety, and what you should expect to get from attending the school.
After unloading the cars,...
After unloading the cars, the staff prepares them for duty. Here, the former Sprint Cup National Guard car has had the ride height adjusted and just needs to be warmed up. It was 25 degrees that morning, so everything needed a lot of warming up.
Lead instructor, Allan Johnstone,...
Lead instructor, Allan Johnstone, gives a morning classroom or in this case, a pit wall, session on what to expect for the day. Every racing school will have classroom instruction where it will cover track safety, car safety, and a basic overview of the track and how to get around it. This is probably the most important part of the day because if you miss something here it can have dire consequences later on the track.