Track Night @ HHR 3/15: A Cinderella Story


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Cinderella story from this past Wednesday, with photos and a happy ending. It’s worth a read if you have a few minutes. 🤗

SCCA Track Night 3/15 filled up FAST in February, and I missed the cut off when I tried to register.
I was on standby, but there were ~15 people ahead of me on that roster for the Intermediate group. 🥺

I calculated a 1% chance I’d get to go on track, so I spent all my prep time the day before on camera gear, batteries, walkie, drinks, snacks, and emergency tools in case anyone had a trackside issue. No prep work to the car.

I knew I wouldn’t be driving, and I made peace with it. Instead, I would ham it up in the pits and make new friends, cheerlead for Jen (our car club founder and a loyal customer of mine), etc.


My first hour on site, I worked with the SCCA TNIA event hosts (pictured further down), and I learned there was ONE no-show for the intermediate group. One.

24 of 25 registrants showed.

And only ONE stand-by applicant showed. This effing guy. 👍

At 3:45, against all hope and expectation, I got the green light to drive, and finished registering up in the clubhouse. 😮

At 4pm, I’m down in the staging area, frantically pulling EVERYTHING out of Stormy like a ship taking in water.

At 4:10 they start to grid the intermediate group for the first session of the day.

I’m putting on my gloves, head sock and helmet in the car, while waiting to grid, and simultaneously trying not to s**t myself.

It’s been 8 years since my last HPDE. I felt rustier than the chassis of a Michigan pickup. Nerves like someone about to rob a bank.

~4:10-7:30pm…LOTS of fun and hilarity ensues. 😏

It ain't all pretty or flattering, but it's unapologetically honest.

My first session was like two teenagers attempting sex for the first time...

Sloppy, confused, nervous, embarrassing, and poorly executed. 🤦‍♂️ 👀 McLovin' gets it.


HHR has some special secrets and Easter eggs you get to discover as you drive each lap.

Mastering them ensures your best lap with the least amount of disruption to the car.

This is a huge component to the addiction of this track.


My second session was TRANSFORMATIVE. I hit my stride. Slow compared to more experienced drivers that day, but smoother and faster like I needed to be. And it was in FULL street car mode. Street tires, insufficient camber, street ceramic pads.

I was handing out point-bys like they were cupcakes at a church gathering, to blisteringly quick Miatas and one BMW M235i cruise missile, all of them packing a well-seasoned driver. But I also passed quite a few bigger, more powerful cars.

Stormy was a little underdog out there. I could feel that I was the only weak link in the chain [with my dusty track driving].

Gratefully it got better and better with each lap.

Dance Dance Revolution...

There was a limited edition Shelby Mustang Terlingua that was playing cat and mouse with me for several laps.

(ed. - I didn't know what this was either, but now I'll never forget)

His corner entry speeds were INSANE! Despite the handicap of a solid rear axle, his car never slipped or faltered. He could place it wherever he wanted on track.

I had to take every corner entry slow due to the street suspension and street tires, but my corner exit speeds in the straights were SAVAGE with the GTI’s turbo thrust and DSG trans. 😎 🇩🇪

I’d check my mirrors mid-corner and see a white Mustang with an invisible rope tied to my rear bumper, then it would disappear when I got on throttle and released the Kraken.

We did this dance for a full session and a half. 😉

The Shelby owner found me in the pits at the end of the day and was very complimentary about the little white German egg. ❤️

Turns out he’s on Hoosier R6 racing tires wider than my back, and stickier than a political scandal. I felt much better about my driving after that. 😆

His 10-point rollcage in the back looked like a jungle gym for my son.

6:30pm, last intermediate session of the day. Cue up Europe’s “the Final Countdown”:

My 3rd session was ZEN. I could balance the car on just two tires whenever I needed. I had my lines and my corner speed limits in the safe zone. I wasn’t nervous. I was enjoying myself. And somehow my street brake setup NEVER went soft or dull. 🙏

The Michelin PS4S tires were incredibly willing. They’d give a slight squeal to tell me if I was overcooking a corner, but they never let me down or sent me into a slide. Even when I made some sloppy transitions, or when HHR’s track surface tried to chuck the car skyward.

I kept watching the corner stations for the checkered flag indicating it was time to come in. I didn’t want it to end!!!

6:50pm…just like prom night, the fun was over far too soon. 🥺 😩

We rolled into the pits to the home-cooked aroma of freshly baked brake pads and chewed-up tires. Mmm 😋 biscuits & gravy!


Your plus-sized author and his handsome new helmet. Easily distracted offspring in background...


Track hounds. Nothing humbles you like a mostly stock-Miata blowing past you on a quick lap...

No wrecks or crashes the whole day.

One Dodge Charger went off track and offered free lawn care service to HHR w/his front bumper. Bruised ego only.

To quote Ice Cube:

- Special acknowledgments required -

-Jennifer W. for turning me onto an affordable track series I didn’t know existed

-Ryan H. for diligently looking after my son yesterday during my runs. He kept wee-man safe and engaged while I was on track.

-Jeff H. for being the only other real VW present (team spirit!), and for shooting photos of my fat mug while I was staged in grid.

Jeff’s wise words & advice from a couple Sundays ago stayed with me during my 2nd & 3rd sessions.

-Tim G, for gifting me this beautiful helmet that’s Snell certified

-Rod & the crew at HHR, who for almost ~15 years have kept this wonderful track alive and strong 🙌

-SCCA Track Night team (Courtney & co), for working with my situation, and for being supportive to all the participants
(even when I got black flagged on my first two laps for a rookie mistake
) 👀

And since you’d expect no less from me…

Photo dump!!! 📸 😎 ✌️ ❤️

If you made if this far, THANK YOU for reading.

Texans and locals should come join us in 3 weeks at the 4/12 Track Night event.✓&all=true&origin=78626&within=100

Both Stormy and I will be better prepared (and we successfully registered last week).

Cheers, car pals. 🍻


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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Additional pic-tars that couldn't be included in the first post...


The only off-road worthy track car in attendance...


Sample photo of the hot wheels collection. Purple Bimmer was my fave. Owner was cooler than a shake from Andy's Custards...

Mini-Me. "Strike the pose. Come on...VOGUE!"


The 3 SCCA bad-@$$es who let me sneak in under the wire and get some overdue track time. Thank you, Courtney & Co!


"Whiskey Myers" was exhausted and PTFO by the end of the busy track day.


I wanna do bad things to it. Purple Bimmer... [drool]


Stormy's dancing shoes. I thought for sure I would destroy the shoulders. Looks like -1.8* front camber was useful, and I wasn't overdriving it 90% of the time.


Scratching my life-long 370Z itch...



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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
What's that? You didn't get enough photos of this awesome experience?



Jeff's fully-built R32 with a parts list longer than John Holmes. ~525whp on 93 octane with just 15psi.

This little blue ICBM was the first 'fast & modified' 4-motion Golf I ever got to experience in a proper setting: nearby Lime Creek Rd, aka "LCR", aka "Texas's Tail of the Dragon".

The 60% rear bias from his modified Haldex was absolutely insane in the hairpins. The turbo thrust felt like a Saturn V launch in the power gears.

And now for the track car you've been waiting for...

#Terlingua! Les (the owner and one of the co-operators of the Mustang) was very cool and down to earth.

He drove 6.5 hours EACH WAY to attend this event. Don't question his commitment to Sparkle Motion...






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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
**UPDATED 3/21/23**

Thursday 3/16 - So I did the post-track day damage assessment yesterday:

TIRES - ~5/32" left front. All others even at ~6/32". I will end up rotating the left front to a different location to help preserve the tread life on it.

My left front deserves a CIGARETTE and a Scotch for the abuse it took running HHR clockwise 3/15. 👏

With only ~1.6-1.8* negative camber up front and -1.5* rear camber, I experienced ZERO scuffing or chunking to the outer shoulders, which is remarkable to me.

*Some* fender rubbing contact from the extreme side loads, which makes sense: front left tire took beating like Jared Leto's character in Fight Club that day.

And yes, fender-screw mod since the tires and wheels first went on, even when it was at stock height suspension.

PRESSURES: I started the track day at ~29.5psi, and even when hot, the Michelins never went above 35, which was perfect.

I had some horrific overheating issues back in 5/2015 with my GTO @ TWS. Weather was on full boil, tires kept spiking to ~38-40psi and losing contact patch and grip.

Anyway, for 3/15, I failed to bring my little digital pyrometer to measure tire temps across the tread. This is helpful for gauging ideal pressures, camber, & contact patch.

Additionally, it would have also been nice to use said pyrometer to measure how abused my brakes were.

BRAKES - To my surprise, my brake pads up front still look brand new; my rotors look fine. And my rear pads, original VW TRW issue binders w/42k miles, are holding strong at about ~50-55%.

Jennifer (club founder and fellow track junky) has run this same combo on her FoST with great success: stock rear pads, performance fronts, but she admits to being very kind to her brakes on track.

She also has a much more capable suspension that was professionally set up for her, and it does wonders for corner speeds.

RS3 brake ducts have been here for a couple weeks and will be installed prior to the big 4/12 event.

I would have installed them before 3/15, but I also wasn't "supposed to be tracking" that day. (See Dr. Evil below)

TRACK ADVANTAGE - Looking back at the map of HHR, I think it helps that the biggest brake zone (CW direction) for me is uphill going into turn 4. It feels like a slightly smaller version of turn 1 at COTA, though I have only spectated on that one.

The uphill ascent @ HHR makes it super easy to drop speed and late-brake a little, and the corner is super wide to give you a wide range of lines to take. I have a lot of room for improvement on this corner alone.


By the time I rocketed through turn 8 & clipped turn 9 (ed. - because left-handed sweepers are a heavy man's jam!), I was carrying enough gusto that turn 10, the killer hairpin, was the only real party stopper, requiring a delta from ~90-100mph down to ~30-35 on what felt like smooth, level ground into a 180* turnaround.

Miatas & Caymans had a tremendous advantage in these tight corners for their low weight, inertia, and ability to rotate under power.

Turn 10 could be likened to a catholic nun in a private school with a ruler in her hand:

If I carried too much speed into that corner, even a few mph, or chose a poor line, the little GTI would plow and groan; the tires squealing in a parade of shameful understeer. Blessed be the Porsche owners...

In Summation... #tracklife

Looking over all this, it seems HHR is the perfect track for my little car, with all of the FWD MQB's strengths and inherent weaknesses.

A larger course with longer straights would likely overwhelm my brakes after just a few laps. I am glad to be a forgiving hour's drive from this little oasis of speed.

My next goal is to do some ride alongs with better drivers on HHR, to learn from their lines and strategies.

Similar to when Jeff (turbo VW R32 owner) blew my hair back on LCR that fateful Sunday, except HHR offers safe-quarter to its drivers, with ample space for runoff in the event of an "oops" moment.


Thanks for reading (I didn't intend for it to be this long!)
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Autocross Champion
Great writeup.
Looking forward to it.

I signed up for novice group since I have never been to H2R. Was intermediate ok for you being the first time out there


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Great writeup.
Looking forward to it.

I signed up for novice group since I have never been to H2R. Was intermediate ok for you being the first time out there
Intermediate is great if you know how to use your mirrors and allow faster cars to pass you.

I have a 10yr racing history behind me, so I’m very competent on track, but HHR was a new track for me to drive on, and it was my first time tracking the GTI. And also…I haven’t tracked since mid 2015.

Imagine being really good on the guitar, then going 8 years without getting to truly “play.” 👀 🎸

The challenge with novice is SOOOO many new drivers end up all over the track, and aren’t yet up to the multitasking required to watch their mirrors, corner stations with flags, and the track itself.

I love intermediate because other drivers know what they’re doing. All the driving and passing felt way safer and smoother.

SCCA will ask you candidly what level of track experience you have, and will help place you accordingly.

Lemme know if that helps any.

My first session may as well have been a scouting run with lots of bad choices since it all felt new. I was slow and sloppy.

If you have track experience and you’re attentive to your surroundings (in all directions), you’ll hit your stride in intermediate by the second and third sessions. 👌🍻

HHR is an awesome track that will also reveal any flaws in your suspension. Ask me how I know… 😂 😏
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Autocross Champion
Good to know. I've been to a few track days in intermediate & recommended to go advanced (but would rather stay in intermediate & not be on track with Hoosier GT3's), but didn't know this track. But was apprehensive about going novice because of the things you mentioned. Only downside is intermediate was 15 deep waiting list & novice was available, so also didn't want to risk not going.


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Good to know. I've been to a few track days in intermediate & recommended to go advanced (but would rather stay in intermediate & not be on track with Hoosier GT3's), but didn't know this track. But was apprehensive about going novice because of the things you mentioned. Only downside is intermediate was 15 deep waiting list & novice was available, so also didn't want to risk not going.
Oh yeah, that changes everything!

Pick the spot that’s open.

Hopefully the newer folks in novice will give you proper point by’s so it isn’t just “traffic” for you.

Look forward to seeing you in 3 weeks, Monkey!

(I was the only VW in my group last time, + a Mk8 in novice)


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Here by popular demand, pro photos from the track. ✈️ 😋 🧨 💣


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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Moar pic-tars!!!

I do it for my fans…


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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Great write-up, thanks for the effort! Very entertaining and glad you had a great time.
Thank you, friend!

“I like to play…” 😏 😉 🙌



Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX


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