Dave Conrey
June 1, 2006
Photos By: Tanner Schlientz

It's early November 2004 and I'm limping a white convertible V-6 rental car back to the agency, reminiscing about the past couple days. I had just finished a full weekend of open track driving at the first-ever Howling at Buttonwillow put on by the SVTOA Western Region at Buttonwillow Raceway in central California. This was my first on-track experience. I already felt the soreness welling up in my back from trying to keep my butt planted in an unbolstered leather seat during several high-speed corners.

Jump ahead to November 2005, and I am back at Buttonwillow Raceway for the 2nd Annual Howling. This time, I brought friends, a mechanic, and my very own Mustang (see "Beginner's Luck," May '05). What you wouldn't know is that prior to the event, we installed a complete Griggs Racing suspension and big brake package, but we'll talk about that more in a different story. What is important now is even though I have little horsepower, the green beast can handle high-speed turns with the best of them. Gone is the exuberance of inexperience, replaced with a desire to take the car into a late apex, deeper and faster, pushing the limits of traction until they have to pry my hands off the steering wheel. (Note to self: Don't hold on to the wheel so hard next year.)

This Howling event was much like the first, except on a slightly larger scale. There were more cars, more drivers, more sponsors, and more activities. There was so much going on, I'm surprised the SVTOA staff kept it all together, but the weekend went off without a hitch, or at least it seemed that way. Vicky Griffin, the SVTOA western regional director, and I never got much more than a couple of minutes to chat because of her busy schedule, which I take as being a sign of success. The staff was more organized this year, and the timing of all the run groups along with the other events went smoothly. But, to be honest, I didn't pay as much attention. If I wasn't out expanding my photography skills around the paddock, I was riding around the track in my new car.

I wasn't alone, though. A lot of the faces from last year returned. This time, they brought their friends as well, and exposed new people to an exciting sport. Conversations were less about the extreme experiences of riding along with pro drivers and more about the technical aspects of taking this turn or that. Glee and fear were replaced by adrenalin and a tactile sense of power and control that can't be explained, only felt, and like a narcotic, requires more speed, tighter turns, and passing on the inside.

I could go on about all the vendors and their new products, the show cars, the meetings, the classes, the guest speakers, the box lunches, the late-night BBQ party at the hotel in freezing cold air, or any of the other extracurricular activities, but all these things were merely diversions to keep us busy between run groups. All said and done, we just wanted to be on the track again, and by the end of our last day at Buttonwillow, I thought only of coming back.