In my experience, the days and final hours leading up to a track day are too exciting, hectic, and nerve-wracking to maintain clear thought about everything non-car-related needed for the upcoming event. Those minutes are generally filled with frantic action, preparing every aspect of your competition vehicle to perfection.
You’re likely aligning your car the night before a track day, setting the ride height to handle this track’s terrain, bleeding brake fluid, changing the oil, and adjusting other various parts of your setup that you didn’t like from your last event. If you’re anything like me, you break a bolt, run into some pesky issue, or help a friend with their vehicle, which pushes your pre-determined sleep schedule back several hours. You wake up before sunrise the following morning, low on sleep. You hop in your car, drive to—and arrive at—the track, and only once settled, realize you forgot your helmet, you’re not appropriately dressed, and you didn’t even know you blew through those tolls without paying on your way there. Each of these lapses is not good, and can also be enough to end your track day before it begins.
We’ve got the solution, though—our Track Day Checklist. Read on, pay attention to the details, and lastly, copy it into your phone so you’re not struggling to remember what you need on those fun-yet-rushed mornings.
GoPro / Digital Video Recorder
Playing back all of your recorded laps from an event isn’t just fun to watch; it’s beneficial to improve your driving habits. However, I’ve also learned that it’s not enough just to bring your GoPro—or dedicated motorsport-oriented digital video recorder—to the track. It also needs to be fully charged and accompanied by spare batteries and a cleared memory card or two, so don’t forget those either.
It’s not a bad idea to grab your favorite fold-up beach chair or collapsible seat while you’re assembling track day necessities. In between sessions, you’ll enjoy taking a break in a position that doesn’t involve your sweltering cockpit or sweat-soaked racing seat. Prop this bad boy open in any shaded area you can find and let the breeze wash over you while you recharge your batteries after a strenuous group of laps. It will make lunchtime marginally more enjoyable, too.
Helmet / Gloves
This one is a no-brainer. You’re going to a track, so you’re going to think of your helmet, right? Wrong. It’s not part of the daily essentials (keys, wallet, phone, Chapstick, etc.), and it might not cross your mind to grab it when you’re rushing out the door at 5:15 am. As ridiculous as it may seem to add this to your checklist, it’s even less amusing when you forget to bring it.
I included gloves in this because I keep them together. If I’m using my helmet, I’m more than likely using my gloves as well. After I get back from the track, I make sure I air dry both then usually stick a scented dryer sheet in my helmet, stuff my gloves on top of it, and loop it all up in my helmet bag. That way, when I wear both on the next track day, they don’t smell like an old Italian hoagie that’s been sitting in your local YMCA’s sauna.
Tech Form / Pen
This one’s important. Most track days or HPDEs will only allow you to participate in the day’s festivities if your car passes technical inspection with the staff. I’ve seen organizations request that outside shops perform and sign-off on the examination before the event, or if you’re lapping with an organizer like NASA, they have trained staff performing tech inspections early on the day of the event. The tech sheet is your ticket to happiness for the day, so if it’s already filled out by a shop or if you need the event staff to fill it out for you, it helps to have said form, along with the ability to fill in the blanks. There always seems to be a shortage of pens amongst my group of friends, so it’s beneficial to have one on hand to sign waivers or whatever is needed.
E-ZPass / Automated Toll Collection
A toll tag is called something different all over the United States, but in Pennsylvania, where we are, it’s called an E-ZPass. It’s important to remember to grab it out of your daily driver and have it with you, especially in today’s society that treats cash as an inconvenience. Not having to fumble through your wallet—hoping you have a $20 bill for that $1.83 toll—will save you some trouble in the long run. Or you have a day like me, where you don’t even think to stop and pay tolls anymore, so you blow right through four of them in one day and collect some sweet fines in the mail two weeks later. Add it to the list, save yourself some trouble, and make sure it’s in your track car or tow vehicle.
Gas Container—With Gas
A crucial necessity for most vehicles to have at a track day is a gas can that’s filled with fuel. I use a five-gallon VP Racing jug that is easy to use and transport inside my car. Even if you start with a full tank, after ripping around a 1.5-to-2.0-mile circuit (or larger) in six roughly twenty-minute increments, your vehicle’s fuel tank will be drained down to fumes by the end of the day. Having the full fuel container on hand alleviates several less-than-ideal scenarios from ever happening. This includes having to leave during the lunch break—or worse, during a session—to find a gas station nearby. You won’t have to pay the exorbitant fuel prices at the track, and it will prevent your car from experiencing low fuel levels while lapping—provided you’re keeping up with its level throughout the day. However, my favorite reasons for having a full gas can at a track day are to make sure I have enough fuel to get home or be able to share it with friends who might be running low. Pro tip: Wrap a bungee cord around the handle to make fastening it in place inside your car a little easier.
Cooler / Water / Gatorade
Track days will take a lot out of you, and with no way to cool down, you’ll sweat profusely and potentially overheat. Cold drinks are a necessity to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration at the track, and your bottles of water will get warm sitting outside unprotected. As a general rule of thumb, you should be consuming one quart of fluids per day for every 50 pounds of body weight. The combination of nerves and perspiration will keep you from having to use the bathroom numerous times. I usually pack a cooler with more water than I might need and include a Gatorade. Sometimes after a particularly intense track session, water doesn’t quench properly, and I turn to the Gatorade for assistance in my rejuvenation. Try to stay away from heavily caffeinated drinks or soda as they impair hydration and cause highs and lows.
Motor Oil / Funnel
Whether or not your car burns it, it’s a good idea to bring some motor oil with you. Having the precautionary quart or two will allow your engine’s lubricant to remain topped off no matter the circumstance. If you’re driving a 25-year-old Honda with a similarly aged motor inside, you’re likely already accustomed to checking your oil level frequently. For the rest of you, bring oil, a rag, and a funnel to the track. Check fluid levels before each session. This small step can prevent oil starvation and the catastrophic silence—and tow truck—that typically follow.
Toolbag / Jack / Zip Ties / Wheel Lock Key
In stark contrast to my experience at junkyards, the good people far outweigh the bad at track days. For the most part, we’re all there to have a good time and help each other progress. Because of this, if you’re stuck at the track and in need of a tool, someone will likely have the remedy you desire. However, to prevent that situation from arising, it’s wise to pack your bag or toolbox full of tools and zip ties and keep it on retainer specifically for track days. This way, you have a good gauge of the tools your specific vehicle may require, you can be responsible for yourself, and be able to offer tools to others who may need them. If you have a small enough jack, I’d recommend bringing that and a jack stand or two, as this will not only allow you to work on your car, but also check out any suspicious noises underneath the vehicle. Also, add your wheel lock key to the list, if applicable.
Tire Pressure Gauge / Temperature Gun
Yep, these are separate items from the rest of the tools because they are that important—you just can’t forget to pack them in the toolbag. There’s only one item between your vehicle and the tarmac: your tires. Before, during, and after a session, their temperature and pressure are crucial to your car’s performance and predictability. It’s vital to make adjustments throughout the day to maintain proper pressure and compensate for changing track conditions. You don’t want to slide all over the place because you never adjusted your pressures after the drive to the track. Don’t get caught at the track without a tire pressure gauge. Trust me—you’ll be glad you packed it.
I included a tire temperature gun, too, because while it may not be an exact measurement, it can indicate which tire tread edge is over or underworking. Although, in my experience, it’s less of a necessity than the trusty pressure gauge.
Long Sleeve Shirt
Organizations like NASA require long-sleeve shirts, pants, and closed-toed shoes for any drivers. I’ve seen scarce instances where ambient temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit on event day necessitated a more lenient outfit. The rest of the events I’ve attended have all been subject to this dress code. Because I already wear pants and closed-toed shoes every day of my life—fear of my pale, skinny legs seeing daylight—I have this reminder on my list to either pack a long-sleeve shirt or lay one out the night before. This way, I’ll never run into a problem with attire while at the track. Note: breathable fabrics are a good idea. No leather unless you want to look like Ross from Friends trying to get your clothes off that night.
Advil / Aspirin
It’s a terrible feeling when an old injury or a brutal dehydration headache flares up during a track day. Your attention will shift to the pain, and drastically impact your day. It may not fix the problem—and the best solution is still prevention through stretching and proper hydration—but it will be a day-saver if you pack some Advil or aspirin with you. At least then, your ride home won’t be miserable and pain-filled.
Lunch / Snacks
I’ve elected to separate lunch from the water and cooler entry as I’ve managed to glaze over the lunch aspect—when it was combined with drinks on my list—and subsequently forgotten to pack any food. Numerous food establishments surrounded the track on that day, so I lucked out, but that’s not always the case. Do yourself a favor: pack a lunch in your cooler and don’t bank on deep-fried, frozen chicken fingers at the track to get you through the day. I could go into a whole spiel about nutritional snacks right now, and proper diet, but you all know what to eat.
Pretty standard, but I bring money to track days strictly for one reason: to tip tow truck drivers. I don’t like to think that I’m hard on equipment, but I’ve made a habit of breaking my car beyond the point of drivability several times. In turn, I end up calling AAA, awaiting their arrival, and elongating my day. I was raised to tip tow truck drivers, so I always do. They take good care of your car, and it’s a token of appreciation for becoming your de facto transportation home. Cash could also help with the purchase of any magnetic vehicle numbers or the tolls, as mentioned above. The one day you don’t have any with you is the same day you’ll likely need it.
AiM Solo / Lap Timer
Similar to the GoPro, this one makes the list because it allows you to follow your progress throughout the day and analyze your data readout after the fact. I don’t need to explain why lap timers are a good idea for a motorsport enthusiast to have, but I do need to tell you that you should add it to your list and charge it the night before your event. It would be a shame to own one and forget it at home or have it die before the end of the track day.
“I swear I ran a new PB, but my Solo wasn’t on.”
Mm-hmm, I bet you did.
Tow Hooks are a new item on the list for me, but I needed to add them once I purchased my S2000 as they are removable, and I don’t like to keep them sticking out of my bumpers. Because they are not permanently attached to the chassis, I tend to forget I need them. A lack of tow hooks would cause a bad situation—provided you pass tech without them—if your vehicle becomes stranded on track and there were no visible objects from which a tow truck could pull. I’ve seen some questionable damage to a vehicle as a result of a lack of tow hooks. The safety crew must remove your car as quickly as possible, and they don’t care how much your coilovers or LCAs cost. They’ll strap a chain around whatever is available and drag your car back to the pit area without blinking an eye—nor should they. Do yourself a favor: add tow hooks to your list and it will be smoother sailing when the unfortunate happens—and maybe prevent excess damage to your expensive parts.
Blue Painter’s Tape
The final item on my list has many uses on a track day: blue painter’s tape. Whether it’s lining your glass headlights to prevent broken shards from littering the track’s surface or covering your front end and behind your wheels to avoid rock chips—of which there will be many—the tape is a useful addition. I’ve used it to display my car’s racing number for the day, and I’ve seen friends seal their carbon sunroof deletes with it. Easy to apply and easy to remove, it’s a robust solution for numerous reasons.
I’ve compiled this list over several years of attending motorsports events, which has served me well. I’ve included it again below without explanations so it can easily be copied and pasted into your phone. Add to it as you wish, as it’s a lifesaver during preparation. I hope you enjoyed reading my examples. If you have any items that you think I should have included, use the contact form and let me know—I’m always interested in making my race-day preparation more effective.
- GoPro / Digital Video Recorder
- Helmet / Gloves
- Tech Form / Pen
- Gas Container WITH GAS
- Cooler / Water / Gatorade
- Motor Oil / Funnel
- Tools / Jack / Zip Ties / Wheel Lock Key
- Tire Pressure Gauge / Temperature Gun
- Long Sleeve Shirt
- Advil / Aspirin
- Lunch / Snacks
- AiM Solo / Lap Timer
- Tow Hooks
- Blue Tape