Scott Parker
Contributor
December 1, 2007
Photos By: Chris Winter, Track Time

Tired of using all of your AAA tows to get your Mustang home from the dragstrip? Frustrated with waiting around all day for less than 30 seconds worth of racing? Maybe it's time you gave road racing-or more specifically, open-track driving-a shot. Even autocrossing can't compare to the amount of seat time you'll get in one afternoon at an open-track day. Plus, the adrenaline rush you'll feel from pushing your car to its limits and beyond is difficult to beat.

It's too expensive, you say, or you may damage your car, but the reality is that with some of the basics under your belt, you can spend the day at a road course and push youself and your Mustang to the limit (or just under, which is what we prefer to do). While top-notch racing schools like Skip Barber and Bondurant charge thousands of dollars for a couple of days worth of racing, there's a more economical approach to road racing you may not have entertained. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) hosts a number of open-track days throughout the country for the common man or woman, which requires no racing license or experience, only a car and the desire to learn.

Chris Winter at Crazy Horse Racing got started by removing the stock seat with a 15mm socket.

NASA High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) were created with the beginner in mind, providing valuable experience at $200-$300 at a time. First-timers and rookies (Group 1) get one-on-one instruction from an expert driver while putting their hot rod through its paces. Class-room instruction supplements seat time, and instructors offer additional pointers and advice on how best to negotiate your local track. As you progress, you'll move up in class (Groups 2 to 4), running the course in a field of more skilled drivers with less (or sometimes no) instruction, so you never have to worry about getting caught in a field of slower cars. Through this system, you may even advance to the point of obtaining a competition license, whereby you can go fender to fender with other Mustangs and Camaros in American Iron or the Camaro/Mustang Challenge.

To get the full experience, your author enrolled in Group 1 of an HPDE at Pocono Raceway to obtain off-track advice from Northeast Division owner Joe Casella, and on-track advice from instructor Chris Winter of Crazy Horse Racing, who practically grew up at HPDEs at Pocono. As you may know, Winter is an American Iron racer and a veteran of HPDEs. He was more than qualified to not only give me pointers on unleashing Gangsta Stang on Pocono Raceway's double infield Long Course, but also to aid in setting up the SN-95 for its duties as an open-track warrior. As you may recall, Gangsta has undergone quite a bit of changes since its introduction, resulting in one predictable and reliable ride. In its current state, Gangsta is well balanced and decently powered-the perfect weapon for an experienced yet intermediate driver such as myself. Its heavy-duty SSBC brakes, Tokico springs, D-Spec shocks, and a few bolt-ons make it well prepared for road-course duty. However, like anything else, it could always be better.