After Laguna Seca Experience

One of the good things about Laguna Seca Raceway besides being a bucket list track, is the location of the track. Most racetracks in Texas are located in the middle of nowhere with not much things to do. Leguna Seca is located in Monteray, Califorina near the Pacific Coast. Also known as the Bay Area.

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This area of Northern California has one of the best climates to live. Mostly sunny year round, with highs of 70s and lows of 50s. Just imagine a prefect sunny day almost year round. No wonder people are nicer and more chill.

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One the off days I had, I went with my friend, Anthony, in this s2000 and took a drive in the Pacific Coast Highway. Went all the way up to Bixby Bridge and drove on a dirt road to get a good shot. The same place where I drove our Land Cruiser with Lambo and Nadine back in 2018.

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This brought back memories. I’m reminded of our boy Lambo, and we miss him everyday. But in a good way, thankful for all the memories and glad we gave a good life to Lambo.

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We love you buddy, and we’ll see you on the other side.

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Trying not to get all emotional, I was very glad to come back. The views makes a more calming atmosphere.

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After the races, I had an extra day before I flew back to Texas, and I spent some time with my brother. He is currently doing a contract in San Fransisco, and thankfully he was off on the day I was off. Ive been to San Fransico once, and that was on the road trip back in 2018, and again brought feels of Lambo.

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I noticed less homeless people out and about, but from I’m told their are homeless but they are hidden.

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We bought pineapple buns at Pineapple King Bakery. https://g.page/pineapplekingbakery?share. Very delicious and its cash only. They don’t have dine in, so we went to Morro Beach, and enjoyed the views while eating.

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Later went to Presideo to chill. You can see the Golden Bridge and Alcatraz. For the people that isn’t familiar from the movie “The Rock” starring Nicolas Cage. Alcatraz is a former prison. I was jokingly telling my brother, if I had to go to prison, I wouldn’t mind Alzatraz.

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Living in the city, parking is hard to come by. Looks its worse in SF.

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Later in the day, we went to Deloros Park. This place was full up young professional probably finished from meeting heading to park to relax.

We joked about how California work ends at 3pm since all the meeting on the east coast are probably already done by now. What a life.

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For the evening we went to Telegraph Hill and had dinner. Forgot to take food pics, but we had the oysters. Super delicious.

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When we got done, we had a nice view of the Oakland Bridge.

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The last stop, was treasure island. City lights of San Francisco.

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Very thankful I was able to experience this. This trip brought back old memories, and new ones. Life only comes once, and you’ll want to make the most of it. To reach your goals, you have to work hard it. But once you reach em, its rewarding. What you did in the past made you the person you are now, and what you do now will make you the person in the future. So go out there, and do your bucket-list things.

Land Cruiser Upgrades

During the summer, I had some mods added on the Land Cruiser. I bought Nito Gear 5.29 gears with axle rebuild kit from a February sale. I wanted to install the 5.29 gears immediately, but since you are replacing the gears in the diff, might as well add lockers. I didn’t have extra money to buy lockers, soo I did what any other person would do. I waited, and saved a little more.

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Around May, I found a good deal on eaton lockers online at cruiser brothers. I chose elockers, over air lockers because less plumbing, and avoid the risk of blowing out the axle seals. For me, elockers has less issues to go wrong vs air lockers.

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Couple more months pass, and I take my Land Cruiser to Pro Choice Auto Care. They are an all around shop, but also specialize in regears and lockers for Toyotas and Jeeps. The owner is Lee, and also a Toyota 4×4 owner. Lee and his workers did a great job installing the lockers, and also wired up the lockers to the factory diff lock switch. The OEM lock.

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I need to break in the gears for 500 miles before I could off road or tow anything. After putting 60 miles, it has been great. 5.29 on 35″ tires is spiny, but the overgearing makes it easier on the motor. More updates to come.

Volk Gang

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Ever since I bought Volk TE37 on the M3, I had to get Volks on all the cars I have. Obviously that is a lot money so I had to do baby steps. 4 years ago, I bought Volk TE37 for the AE86. Its the discontinued Ueno specs (14×7 et0).

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Last year I bought one Volk TE37 for the Land Cruiser. Why one? That’s because I didn’t want to rock a spare stock rim, and at the time, all I could afford is one haha. This year, System Motorsports had an overstock sale for a set of TE37. Conveniently my size for the Land Cruiser.

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I had to get it. With fuel prices going up, and supply cost increasing. It will be matter of time before the Volk TE37 gets more expensive.

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Just have to put it on the Land Cruiser, when it gets back from the shop. Time to get a set for the Tesla next. Might be another year before that happens. I will be looking around for good deals.

Take It To The Track

I track because it’s a place for me to get my need of speed. I see people drive fast and wirelessly in public roads. I used to be that guy.

You might think you are a good driver, if you drive fast in public. Driving the car in that manner makes the car more unpredictable, and the driver’s movements causes that. You also have the element of the unknown road conditions. You are posing a danger to yourself, and to the others around you. It only takes one wrong move to ruin your life. Do you really want to take that chance?

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Trust me, you are not impressing anyone when you drive fast in public. No one cares, if anything it’s just being annoying. Just goes for the same for the take over meets. Doings donuts and crashing into people, cars, or curbs. Life isn’t a video game, where you hit reset if you mess up.

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People might say “Oh its soo expensive to track”. All I hear is excuses. Most track events can range $150 and upwards of $1000. You can find a track event in your budget, just have to look around. I would find events with SCCA, NASA, motorsportreg.com, or even Facebook event post. Amature or grassroots track days are very affordable. The cost to go to an event is cheaper, then the cost of going to jail.

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Track day offers an environment where you can drive over 100mph, and not worry about going to jail. Tracks layouts have plenty of run off, and yes, some more then others. Driving at that speed and near the limit will teach how be smooth with your car. Play with weight transfer, and understand the concept of car control.

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That is why I always come back. I like to drive fast, and not worry about going to jail. When I got my race license that rush is something indescribable. I thought HPDE was fun, but doing wheel to wheel racing is an experience on its own.

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I hope y’all drive safe in public. If you want to drive fast, please take it to the track.

The Highs and Lows

I remember my first track day. I was nervous, and excited at the same time. My first thought was “Am I going to blow up the car?”. Eventually something will go wrong. That fear I had lingering, actually motivated me to go for it.

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My thinking was, “I’ll try it once. Experience what it is like REALLY driving fast.” That first time was a great experience. The M3 did great, I didn’t crash, and had a great instructor guiding me. Nothing went wrong. I was hooked.

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But I think there is another side to this too. What if my 1st track day experience was bad? Be it I blew up the motor, or crashed, or had an argument with another person. This might have put me off, and not want to track ever. I’ve seen that with other people, and had a terrible experience their first time. Would I want to go back?

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To me, it would have probably motivated me to come back, because the joy and skills learned from track day is a talent that isn’t gained on the streets.

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I’ve hit some are hard times with car stuff. Back in 2011, I had a 2009 VW GTI, and the timing chain tensioner broke. This is known issue from VW, and since I have warranty, I took it to VW dealer to get it fixed. Unfortunately, my claim was declined. The reason is because my GTI was modified. I was quoted $10,000USD to get a new motor and labor. This was terrible, because I owed money on the GTI, and now I need a new motor. Talk about ultimate fail. But I didn’t say “fuck it, I’ll just get it repo’d.”

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You would think, because of what happened I would probably get out of the car scene. But I didn’t take that route. I saved up money, and after 1 year I was able to pay for the motor install. During that year, I was still making payments on my broken GTI, and driving my Miata with no AC. Living in a ghetto studio apartment paying $600 a month. It was hard, but my passion for cars never died down.

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This brings me to this… It’s how you look at life experiences. You will have great times, and their will be times of doubt. During the low, you have two choices. You can abandon ship and do a 180. You’ll choose a different path. Or you can stick with it, and figure out a way to keep on doing what you think is very important to you. Both choices are not better then the other. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to make the decision that improves you as a person. Meaning you don’t become an resentful asshole.

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Of course, you WILL have a bad experience at the track and say “this isn’t for me, I will never do it again.” That could be because, that hard time you felt was so discouraging it wasn’t worth it to come back. Or in the same situation you might think “track problems happens, and I’m going to figure out how to get ready for the next event.” That could be because, the enjoyment being at the track outweighs the disappointments.

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I’m an optimistic guy. I’ve had tons of track issues: car catching on fire, blowing up a motor, body contact, or event spending 2x that amount on gas since last year. All things that discourage me from racing. But when I put the race suit on, and line up for grid, all those doubts disappear. I’m stress free, and this allows me to return to life as normal sane person. The car control skills, and finding the limit safely is a great outlet for me. Finding a hobby that you really enjoy is very important for work life balance.

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The most valuable thing to learn is, figuring out what is most important to you. Figuring out that goal you want in life. When you hit the hard times, you get up, and stick to your goal.

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NASA Race at Hallet

First time at Hallet Motor Racing Circuit, and it was hot. Like temperature hot. The weekend was 100F with 98% humidity. Felt like I was in a sauna. It was tough in the race suit.

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Regardless of the sauna weather, the track is very fun to drive on. It a shorter track more suited to the lower HP cars. The straights, you’ll hight 4th gear with fast flowing corners. The elevation changes are nice, and blind corners, will test how big of balls you have.

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During practice, my contact on the left eye became misaligned. I could tell, because my field of vision was foggier on the left, and the right was very clear. Couldn’t really remember where my turn in was or braking zones.

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Then in race 1, my exhaust decided to yeet itself. Thankfully no serious accidents. What happed was I had an old crack on the exhaust which got worse from the heat and eventually caused the part of the exhaust pipe to break off.

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Thankfully, the guys at Texas Track Works and Norwood North Italia did some track side welding! Got me ready for the next race. Unfortunately, I didn’t race in the last event because it was too hot. I was already fatigued and didn’t want to risk crashing because of heat exhaustion.

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My friend Tony, gave me his old cool shirt set up. I’ll have AC in the race car for the summer races!

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It’s okay if I didn’t do my last race. I still had a great time with the homies. We had crawfish on Friday, Saturday was cheeseburgers, and for late dinner. We had midnight ribs, the Oklahoma BBQ way. I will be back next year. Next race is at Leguna Seca!

NASA National Championships

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What a week. First time going to nationals, and first time going Laguna Seca. I have been prepping for this since my race in Hallet. I got enough race points to make nationals, and now 100 percent committed.

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I paid for transport with the other Spec Miata friends. The cost was 3,000 USD to transport round trip. Yes, its expensive, but I would have paid roughy that much if I trailered the 86 with my LC. Since I had enough points on my credit card, I got a free round trip ticket to Monterey and back to Houston. Win, win.

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Best part about the transportation,  is having space bring my tools, and sets of tires. I wish I was paid to race, and fly all over the world. One day maybe.

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My car made it to Leguna Seca before me! Getting excited, and also nervous.

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I arrived later that day and picked up my Turo car rental. It was cheap rental, but the car was kinda eh. Thats a different story. Anyways, I got my rental, and then drove 20 mins from the airport to Laguna Seca!! I was so stoked at that point. I met up with Anthony for the driver registration. We recieved a swag bag, umbrella, and couple paddock passes.

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Then I picked the 86 from the SM crew, and I parked next to the Honda Challenge boys. Mainly because we all sharing the Airbnb. Easier to go in one group.

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Wednesday, I arrived 4pm and made it just in time for registration. Thursday I didn’t sign for the extra day of practice. I explored the Pacific coast highway with Anthony. My non racing adventures I’ll make another blog post. Lets just say Norcal, and Bay Area are very beautiful with the perfect weather.

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Leguna Seca things. Unfortunately there is a sound restriction, because of the home owners complaining about the noise for sometime. The really sad thing is, Leguna Seca was built before the homes.

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Friday was my 1st day of practice and qualifying. I went around the ring road to get views of what other car where doing. Some corners, they were not lifting, or just a brief lift of the gas pedal.

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I did my first practice session and was great! Manage a 1:57 on my first time out. But in Grand Turismo 4, I was getting 1:48 with similar set up.

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Post race, just waiting at impound. Make sure my car is in compliance. Unfortunately I have the lowest HP in the race class, and 320lbs over my minimum competition wt.

After practice, it was qualification number 1. we Had 4 quali before the Sunday race. The quali was there to help determine the race group for the green flag.

In the 2nd quali, I had two exhaust bolts that decided not the live this life. Ended up dragging my exhaust to paddock, and interestingly, I didn’t get black flagged. I knew my car was super loud, basically running open headers.

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That is why I have spare bolts. This time I double nut and red loctite on the bolts.

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No issues after that!. Except for my exhaust mounts was bending from the g forces of corkscrew. The car ran great, and that’s all I cared about.

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Saturday, I arrived at the track early to make my dyno appointment. This was to make sure my car is compliant with ST6. Which honestly, would be surprised if I was over my HP.

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The dyno graph look healthy with nice flat torque line throughout the RPM and nice increasing HP line till redline. Made 110 whp and 90 tq. Small numbers, but I’ll take it. Yes I miss the power of the M3, but the 86 is teaching me soo much as a driver.

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The NASA inspectors where gawking over my 86. I think I’m the only grip 86 that is legit racing. I really need to get the word out, that the 86 can be great grip cars too. Nice battle for the old Hondas and Miatas.

After dyno, I had my 3rd quali and still managed 1:55. Not really improving on time and other racers in my class was at least 3 seconds faster then me. I was only faster then one car. Not really great, but I know the car is not optimized for ST6 like the other cars here. So knowing that, it did give confidence I could be a good driver. But also made me think. I might need a driver coach to teach me where I can improve. Yeah I could mod the car more to optimize ST6, but I think I should do driver mod first.

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Dai had cracked rotors. He is on willwood 4 piston front, but its a conversion to Corrado rotors. No one in the Honda crew has Corrado rotors. Dai ended up having to buy a GSR spindles from the racer friends to run his willwood BBK to GSR rotors.

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Dai didn’t get to finish his race weekend unfortunately. But he made the most of it, and explored San Fransisco with his family. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

Quali 4 was the last one before the big race on Sunday. But the quali was different. This was a race quali. So wherever you placed in this race will determine the grid position in the big race. I love race starts, I try to take advantage of the cold tires, and get in front before the tires start to warm up for the competitors. That way, I can be in front, and get defensive to hold my position. Basically hold them off till the checkered flag. Works most of the time.

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I finish the race, and place 5th. But I was DQ’d, and will start at the very back. During impound, my lip on the bumper was 0.5″ too long. Not within ST6 rules. Bummer, but rules are rules. I did manage to find a way so I wont get DQ’d for my Sunday race.

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Scott had some spare foam rolls, and I just ziptied to the lip. Now Im compliance. Tacky, but you gotta work with what you have. Main goal is racing, and finishing it.

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Zip ties for the win.

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Sunday comes, and its a big day. Rain was called in the forecast. I woke up to heavy rain, and getting nervous. I have no wipers. Yes, I have rain-x on the widows which helps wick water away, but not sure how well it would hold up.

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The Spec Miata race was before our race, and looked like the track was drying up with sun out. But in the near distance, you can see dark clouds looming. Norcal is know for its micro climates, I just hoped the rain stayed out for our race. This was probably the most nervous in race that I’ve felt. I was thinking “if its rains, will have have that inner Tsuchia in me or pull my inner Aryton?” Nah, probably not, those drivers are Gods. Im just here trying to have a good time.

Thankfully the rain held out just in time for finish line. I made it!!! Raced Leguna Seca, and the car drove on its own power!!! The best feeling in the world!!! I might not have gotten podium, but just being here was a win for me.

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Takes a lot of hard work and overtime to make racing possible. I always ask myself why even do it. And moments like these is why I do it. I do it because speed, and going fast is in my blood. I respect my life and the others around me, so I race at tracks. I get the need for speed here. Just being one with car, is something you never experience on public roads. This is my hobby. This is my passion. I do have people also discouraging me, but in the end of day. I’m the one that still has the drive to keep going. And I will, till I can’t anymore. Thank y’all for the love and support. Appreciate it.

Throwback

Going though the old photos, I stumbled on old nostalgia. Back when where all broke, and in college.  Austin was still a cheap place to live, I-35 rush hour traffic was only on rush hour. The cars we had people didn’t want, and now probably worth a lot if we didn’t mod them. Good times with the Natsukashi Garage crew. We all grew up, but the same vibes.

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Racing on a Budget

On the last post, I was talking about how to get into racing, and cost behind it. Some of you might get discouraged, and maybe not want to go into racing.

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But there are ways to hopefully make racing more budget friendly.

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You can volunteer your time with a track organizer for corner work, or whatever they need you for in exchange for free track time. Organizers always need volunteers since renting out a track for an event can get expensive, and probably don’t enough money left to pay for additional staffing. Personally, NASA offers free track time if you volunteer your time to help out. Volunteer you time for a track weekend, and you’ll get track credits for upcoming events.

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Another way to get free or discounted track time is becoming an instructor. But to become an instructor you do need to have track experience under your belt, or better yet have MSF (motorsport safety foundation) accreditation. This option, you’ll have to pay initially. The MSF level 1 cost $50, then to get to level 2 you’ll pay $500. Once you become an instructor, you get the free or discounted rate for the race weekend. Again, you’ll give your free time to instruct, but you will have your own session tracking. The downside is, if your have car issues, you might have very little time to fix it. After your session, you’ll be instructing, and then go out racing shortly after, depending on the schedule.

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What about getting sponsored? Yes, you can do that, but I think its very hard to get 100% sponsored. I have sent sponsorship proposals to companies that I have used their products on the AE86. Only 2 said yes, and was very small discount. I got 10% off my order, and in exchange, I had put a sticker on my car. I think the only way sponsorship works for the benefit to the driver, is if you have a big media following. If you do get that big sponsorship, you’ll be in some kind of contract with that company to plug them in the media. That what I’m thinking since I’m not sponsored in a big way. But the pro drivers I see racing, that do have the big media presence seems to have the big companies logos on the car and race suits. If they are on TV or streamed, obviously people will see the company logos. For me, I just don’t have big social presence, but I’m working on it to hopefully make it grow.

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Regardless, you’ll still need to put in the effort. No one is going to hand you a free track day. I hope his article helps you. See y’all at the track!

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Links:
https://www.motorsport-safety.org/
https://drivenasa.com/