Your Ten Worst Track Day Experiences

Track days are the go-to events to test the limits of your car and improve driving skill. But they don’t always end well. These are your 10 worst track day experiences.


10.) Unsolicited Deer

If there’s one thing I hate about driving at night or on back roads, it’s the likelihood that a deer will jump out in front of me and completely destroy my car. If you’ve ever been to Pocono Raceway, you’d probably know that the area around the track is infested with them.

On my way to the track for the second day of a track day weekend. About one mile from Pocono and out of nowhere a deer runs into my car. I saw nothing, only heard a loud bang and a pop and my windshield was shattered. I immediately knew what happened.

Pulled over quickly and safely along with my father who was following in his pickup (how I know I was driving carefully not speeding).

Anyways windshield completely shattered, driver door completely wrecked, driver side mirror completely MISSING, a dented hood and a dead deer. Unfortunately the lack of mirror and the windshield meant we couldn’t finish out the weekend and had to have the car towed home.

Total bill was about $5K plus the lost track time. Worse I haven’t been able to get back yet.

Suggested By: evodad

9.) Mis-shift!

If you have a habit of mis-shifting or not knowing where your gears are, you better have a quick left foot. If you don’t, you’ll likely soon be out of a motor.

Coming down the front straight at Barber Motorsports Park in a 1st gen MR2, I turned the 3-4 shift into a 3-2 shift, and saw the tach blow past 9k before I could get the clutch in.

Coasted to the side with a dead engine looking for a trail of oil but not seeing it. Sat strapped in my car (I was well off the side) while the run group finished which is a very lonely place even with the track workers checking on me through the fence.

Epilogue, the clutch lining was failing causing what felt like a need to bleed the clutch. The bad shift destroyed what was left of the lining. The dead engine turned out to be a coil lead popped off of the distributor cap. I plugged it back in and fired it up. I managed to get it on the trailer. Can’t kill a Toyota 4GAE.

Suggested By: Countersteer

8.) What Do You Do When There’s Nothing You Can Do?

After years of watching his uncle go at it on track, weeks of planning and making sure his new Subaru WRX was properly broken in, this reader was ready to unleash it all on track at Pocono Raceway. He didn’t get that opportunity.

My first track day.

My uncle has been doing track days with the Porsche Club for 12 years, and being a gearhead, I have always tagged along to watch and see all the cars. I couldn’t wait until I finally had a track car of my own so I could get in on the fun.

This past May, I graduated from college, got a job, and bought a brand new WRX. I had only 3 weeks before my first scheduled track day, so I spent the first two weekends aimlessly driving 500+ miles per day so I could break the engine in.

After 2500 miles without exceeding 3000 RPM, I was all ready for my weekend of track days with the Porsche Club at Pocono.

Coincidentally, that weekend was also the same weekend that Noah sailed his arc. We’re talking 8-inch deep pools of standing water on the track and that ominous fog from the movie The Mist.

Some brave souls tried to go out on track, but one guy hydroplaned almost immediately and totaled his one month old Cayman S. He never even made it onto the track; he hydroplaned below the blend line while merging into the track. So the event was cancelled for the day (Saturday).

The next day I did finally convince myself to go out for the morning run before the rain became another unrelenting downpour. I never got past 60 mph. The fog was too thick and the car in front was kicking up epic rooster tails. It was just too unsafe to risk it.

So, yeah. All the hype, all the giddy anticipation, all the aimless driving to break in the engine, and the weekend was a complete bust.

Fortunately my second track day was at Watkins Glen on the most glorious sunny weekend that also coincided with the awesome Italian Festival the town hosts every summer. I guess good things do come to those who wait.


Suggested By: marshknute

7.) Announcer’s Field Day

No matter how you’re getting your track time in, no one wants to get publicly humiliated, especially not by the announcer.

First time at a drag strip (if this counts for the QOTD) so I was a bit nervous. Followed all the etiquette rules regarding the staging lanes, driving around the water box since I was on street tires, etc. Nerves got to me on the line so I forget to leave on the last yellow (sportsman tree) and I waited until the green was good and lit.

I got back to the stands and the people I was with were laughing and asking me how my sandwich was.

Turns out I was so slow that the announcer in the press box called out “Man, is that guy making a sandwich or what?” over the loudspeaker, much to the amusement of everybody in the stands.

I have since gotten a lot better on the tree.

Suggested By: crowmolly

6.) Couldn’t Even Make It Past Tech

If there’s anywhere off track you don’t want your car to break, it’s probably during tech inspection. That’s just embarrassing.

Lost the radiator during tech inspection, couldn’t find a replacement, day wasted.

There was this long line of cars waiting for tech, and I was sitting there idling away and the fan shorted out, causing the car to get hot, which in turn blew out the side tank on the radiator.


Suggested By: My X-Type is too a real Jaguar

5.) “100+ MPH With A Trail Of Blue Smoke”

This reader had to watch his own car grenade itself on track while his unlucky friend was behind the wheel. And the road to recovery after that was no walk in the park either.

Let a friend drive my car on the track (Indianapolis Race Park, now called O’Reilly Motorsport Park). Watched it come down the front straight at 100+ MPH with a trail of blue smoke coming out the back and a sound that made it clear there was only a couple cylinders firing. Wasn’t his fault. My bad tune caused two pistons to melt and then break free. Had the car towed to a dealership nearby for storage, since we were a couple hundred miles from home.

Before we could return with a truck and a trailer the owner of the dealership calls me and informs me that their lot was broken into and my car was partially stripped. They took a bunch of generic parts and fortunately for me they didn’t completely strip the car. When I got the car back it had a blown engine and was missing the trunk, stereo and parts of the dash.

Took me two years to rebuild the car, but I still have it today.

Suggested By: Redfive

4.) Flying Sand And Rocks Makes For Unhappy Car Owners

After unwillingly driving through an awful surprise sandstorm after their track day, this reader’s car suffered over $4000 in cosmetic damages. Oh what fun.

The worst experience didn’t happen at the track but instead on the drive home. Was at Spring Mountain motorsports ranch running the 3.4 mile full loop (pre-expansion) and once I arrived in Pahrump, the AC in the car fails. No big deal I thought because AC isn’t on when you’re at the track and the early morning and early evening drive back from the track to the hotel is short enough that AC isn’t necessary. Well it’s all fun and games at the track until we leave Sunday evening.

Heading out of Pahrump and onto the 178 and then the 127 we are met with one of the worst sand storms that I have ever encountered. The wind was blowing so bad that it wasn’t just sand but quarter sized rocks flying through the air. It only got worse as we hit the I-15. As most of you are car enthusiasts, you can imagine how painful the experience is as you hear each rock bounce off the car and the constant barrage of sand. It wasn’t until we got to the Grapevine that the wind subsided. The window, grill, headlights, fog light lenses, mirrors and hood took substantial damage. The insurance guy came out and wrote a check for just over $4000 in damages and that wasn’t even including paint. So back to the AC, imagine driving 7.5 hours home without air conditioning and being unable (or unwilling) to drive with the windows down due to the massive amount of sand and rocks pelting the car in 85 degree heat. Yeah this sucked big time.


Suggested By: paulcsce

3.) Know Your Car!

This reader had a huge scare after black smoke began pouring from his recently purchased Mitsubishi Evo. Luckily for him, he barely had anything to worry about. Unlike that unlucky track day duo described up in number five.

My worst trackday experience was not too bad compared to some (I’ve seen plenty of cars totaled at track days (including a Ford GT and a few Ferraris), but still sucked.

I had just bought my first Evo off of a good buddy, who had done quite a few track miles in it, and had nicely set up the car for HPDE. I got it all serviced and ready for my first trackday with it(I had done lots with different cars before) at thunderhill raceway, a very fast track up here in NorCal.

I did a few laps in the car and everything was working great, so I pulled in, and handed the car over to one of my best friends, Matt, who is a pro driver in Grand Am, and fast as hell, to see what the car was capable of in super skilled hands.

We did a couple flying laps, with Matt basically passing every car on the track, four wheel drifting into turn one at over 100, and generally just hauling ass like pro drivers do. We were coming down the back straight, when all of a sudden Matt lifted off and started coasting. I also noticed a corner worker frantically waving the black flag at us, and then looked back and saw the huge plume of smoke behind us.

My heart completely sank as I thought the motor had gone, and Matt shut the car off and coasted to the pit exit. I was totally despondent, figuring my new car was ruined and would cost me a bunch of money I didn’t really have. We popped the hood and oil was everywhere. I assumed the worst. My buddy who owned the car before was also there and all of a sudden he started laughing and shaking his head. I was like WTF are you laughing about! He pointed to the dipstick that was hanging out of its holder and told me that everything was fine. Apparently Evos have so much crank case pressure that they have a habit of launching thier dipsticks out at the track. My buddy pointed to the zip tie that was hanging off a nearby bracket and told me he always tied it down before a HPDE event after the same thing had happened to him.

I washed out the engine bay, added some oil, and the car ran fine until I sold it years later. Still freaked me out big time.


Suggested By: Gripevo1

2.) Rental Helmets Are Great! (Not)

Remember folks, a brand new SNELL approved helmet only costs around $300. Don’t be the victim of helmet-stench. Or the rash that might come with it.

My first time at a track I was so excited. However I discovered that I couldn’t participate unless I had an approved helmet, which being a newbie I did not. Spirits were crushed. Luckily after asking around one of the organizers was able to find me a lender that I could borrow. Oh happy day I was made whole again. Then I actually put on the helmet and it smelled like the inside of a monkey’s anus. I was torn and faced with the prospect of driving almost two hours to the track without getting to experience it. I sucked it up and donned the stink box on my head anyway and did a quick lap. It was great and I almost forgot I was inhaling the stench of death itself. I went home happy and went to bed with a great sense of satisfaction. The next morning I had this rash on my face that took two weeks and a doctors visit to clear up. Never use a borrowed helmet.


Suggested By: chuckietheeng

1.) Just A Harmless Prank

If someone pulled this on me, there’s no way I could keep my cool. Especially if it were right after being denied some good track time.

Went to a local dirt track with my old Acura 1.6EL, forgot my driver’s licenses. They wouldn’t let me in.

Decided to watch the action from the stands. Got a few beers, went to the toilet and them some kids decided to pull this old porta-potty prank on me.


Suggested By: Margin Of Error

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For number 9, is this a common occurrence. I’m always hearing nightmare stories about the “moneyshift” especially on 3-4 changes. I’ve never done it myself, but I eventually want to go on track and am wondering if this is a track day only phenomenon.