Tracking Out – January 2012


So the story goes that Howard Mintz, our autocross chair from 2004-2007, had lured me in as his successor with the promise of very little amount of work, exceptional help all around, and the added bonus of being afforded the opportunity to write a magazine article each month! Wow, that sounded pretty cool! I happily stepped up to the challenge. I mean, who wouldn’t? In retrospect, I should have noticed how happily Howard skipped away, pausing only to click his heals in a Dick Van Dyke-y, “Hey we just got Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang up and running and ain’t that swell” kind of way. A broken back and 10,000 cones later, I wearily handed my set of keys to the club van over to Tom and Tom, Iervolino  and DePascale, respectively (or not, since they are both Tom), with a smile and a wave. Any how, I probably used the same used car salesman trick that Howard Mintz employed…a little Armor All on the tires, new cones on top of the old, mangled ones…you know the deal.

What did I care, though? I was on to my dream job! I was to assume the cushy job of NNJR treasurer! King of the club finances, I would just have to write a check or two each month, balance a checkbook now and again, keep the batteries in the calculator fresh, etc. I knew this, because Ford Shaw and Craig Mahon promised me!  How did it all work out? Well, since the new treasurer, Ken Ernsting, as of this writing has not yet taken delivery of the checkbook and treasurers box-o-stuff, I will happily confirm that being Treasurer was no bother at all. (I will just duck when I see Ken at the next meeting.)

And now I am back on the road again as your 2012 track chair! Craig Mahon once again has assured me that the schedule is pretty light, and that the duties as track chair are pretty much limited to van driving and kissing babies at events, all while spreading DE goodwill and cheer.

I thought I would do some math:

Track events planned for 2012: 10

Track Days: 25

Miles to and from tracks: 5,354

Hours behind wheel of club van: 89

gullible [ˈgʌləbəl] adj easily taken in or tricked

In all seriousness, though, I am really excited about a lot of good things coming our way for the 2012 NNJR Driver Education season. First off, if you have not already heard, we have our very popular November date at Virginia International Raceway back on the schedule, on November 2 – 4. A second piece of possible news (and this is very tentative, and merely “possible” at this point, but I am ever the optimist) is that Pocono Raceway is currently undergoing a major repaving of the tri-oval. With any luck, the infields will also get the royal treatment. No promises yet, but we may have fresh pavement to run at our closest track…fingers crossed.

For the road trippers among us, we will continue to host our events at two “destination” tracks – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Ohio and Mosport up in Ontario, Canada. We will also continue with our current line-up for our Watkins Glen events, with our three-day event in August and our two-day mid-week upper run group event in September. Rounding out the schedule are three sets of dates at the Garden State’s finest track – New Jersey Motorsports in Millville, NJ.

At the time of this writing, we are still working on nailing down our exact dates at some of the other tracks, including Lime Rock. Aside from some possible movement of a day here and there to the left or right, however, we believe that the tentative schedule is pretty much what we have to look forward to in 2012.

Before all of our actual track days start in April, though, we have a couple of winter events approaching. Especially for members of our club that are interested in finding out more about our club’s driving programs (both Driver Education events at racetracks and autocross events). Locally we have our Mid-Winter Drivers’ event  for new drivers coming up on January 29. Everyone always has a lot of fun at this event. Hey, if you cannot actually be at the track on a late January afternoon, why not hang out with a bunch of guys and talk about it? We will explain the track and autocross programs in detail, and there will be videos too. There will also be instructors and chiefs sitting at every table to answer questions and tell old war stories. Check out the ad elsewhere in this issue for additional details.

For seasoned drivers and instructors, we have the annual Advanced Drivers Seminar (PM) and Instructors Workshop (AM) coming up on February 19 at The Villa in Mountain Lakes. This year’s special guest speaker will be Brian Till. Brian has spent a lot of seat time in Indy Cars, and is said to be a really entertaining speaker. He also has been an instructor at the Mid-Ohio, and a pit reporter for Speed TV. Again, additional details are elsewhere in this magazine on the ad for the event.

As everyone starts to settle into the first weeks of 2012, it is a good time to start planning your DE season. Are you ready? Is your car ready? Do you need service work done, or perhaps a new helmet or harnesses? This is the best time to get the equipment and parts you might need. Selection is better when demand is low, and you may be able to find some deals in the dead of winter. Also, I know most shops appreciate early birds, especially if there are any major projects like engine work or suspension to be completed. Do not wait until April!

As a final thought, I wanted to extend my thanks to our outgoing Track Chair, Craig Mahon, for doing an outstanding job these past two years. It has been an interesting perspective to follow Craig into the role of our club’s treasurer after he moved up to Track Chair two years ago. Being treasurer is a big responsibility and I had perhaps the best vantage point of just how well Craig performed in that role for the club. The books and records I inherited as part of the job were immaculately organized, and he took the time to give me clear direction as I assumed that role. I have also appreciated as an instructor for our DE program, as well as a participant, just how well our track program has run under his leadership. I had tongue firmly in cheek earlier in this article, but those time (and mileage) numbers are pretty accurate. Multiply those by two years, and you have an idea how much time and energy Craig has put in these past couple of years to help us all have enjoyable and safe track events. We all owe Craig a beer, and our best wishes for his new role as President of NNJR!