Last week, we were invited to come out and experience the SRT Track Experience put on by the SRT division of Chrysler and the Richard Petty Driving School. This is a member’s only experience, hence to be involved, you must first purchase a SRT product. None of the staff at txGarage own any SRT products, but luckily, it’s more about who you know.
Let us first talk about what SRT stands for. SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology and is the high-performance divisions of Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge. When you purchase any of these SRT products, this SRT Track Experience is included into the price; so if you don’t attend one of these events after buying your car, you’re definitely missing out.
The run down:
The event is held at Texas Motor Speedway. We pulled up following the long road that leads underneath the massive track and parked just to the left of the infield track where we’ll get the opportunity to run some SRT products to their potential. To our left was the Media Center building in the middle of the oval. Checking in with the SRT guys, they handed me a badge with an attached flash drive. Each car is equipped with a camera system to record the driver and out the front of the car. All you have to do is pop in your flash drive and it records strait to it. It’s a pretty slick setup and the video turns out pretty good.
Next, the instructors come out to welcome everyone, get us all familiar with the concept of what we’ll be doing, and lay out some short ground rules. As quick as that, we’re splitting into teams and heading to the infield track. The lineup of SRT products we were able to drive was unfortunately mostly the 2010 lineup. They did have some 2011 Charger R/T’s and the 2011 392 Challengers on hand. Nonetheless, walking out to that track seeing a large group of high performance V8 cars just waiting to be thrashed around the track was a great feeling.
As you could imagine, the lineup isn’t that massive. The SRT brand is pretty exclusive for Chrysler with only a hand full of vehicles making the cut. Lined up on pit-row was a group of 2011 Charger R/T’s, 2010 Chrysler 300 SRT8, 2010 Challenger SRT8, and the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Now we’ve driven the 2011 Charger R/T and the 2011 Challenger 392 out on this same track before during the Texas Auto Roundup. This time though, we’ll be following in the tire tracks of professional drivers. If you want, or need a little more help, you can ride shotgun with one of the instructors at anytime to get some quick tips on what you should be doing.
You start off running 2 laps at a slow pace getting comfortable with the lines and braking zones of the track. Hop out of whatever car you were just in, hop in another SRT and back out. This time for 2 more laps running a little faster and a little harder on braking and exit speeds. Do another car switch and back out. The pace has increased even more and you’re now doing some hard turning, hard braking, and turning 3 laps now instead of 2.
I easily made it through the entire lineup and even got the chance to make two passes in the SRT8 Grand Cherokee. I also had time to run a few laps sitting shotgun with one of the instructors. Everyone out there was extremely nice and willing to talk and help where they were needed.
Just as we finished up on the infield track, we crossed the street and headed to a parking lot full of cones. This was a time-attack event using the SRT8 Challenger. We got our instructions and pep talk; this was a competition event versus the other team by the way. I was first up for our team and was already nervous knowing there was no way I could keep that big, heavy car from smothering every cone on the course. I jumped in, got a few more words of encouragement from the SRT team leader and off I went. Smash the peddle to the floor and spinning the tires off the line with just enough time to get right back on the brakes hard for the first corner. After coming to a screeching halt back in the box, my time was 35.something seconds with 2 cones knocked down. Not a great time but I get to make another pass. My second pass was a little better, running in the low 34-second range, but I made it through the course without hitting any cones so I was pretty happy with myself. After everyone had their 2 passes in the Challenger, we had the chance to redeem ourselves taking on the same course with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was insane to think about taking this same tight track with this bigger SUV, but the AWD was now working in our favor. My time in the Jeep was about the same as my second run and amazingly I hit no cones!
Next was lunch and more time to talk with the SRT staff. This is a great bunch of guys that are dedicated to what they do and travel the U.S. for most of the year to bring these events to a town near you. After lunch, it was back out to the infield track for more fast running, taking the driving lessons we learned in the first 2 events and applying them back to track driving.
The last event we were in was another competition event called head-to-head. Back out in the parking lot full of cones, they had 2 identical tracks laid out where 2 competitors could run against each other to see who was the fastest and more importantly who was the most accurate. All 4 of my runs in this head-to-head challenge I managed to hit no cones and not accrue any penalties. I was undefeated in my first 3 runs then lost my last run, being a little slower than my competitor who also hit no cones.
After this last challenge, we were all feeling good about our skills and accomplishments throughout the day. As a parting gift, we went once again to the infield track to ride shotgun with the instructors doing what they do best. With no one else on the track but professional drivers, the instructors were unleashed to run all out and really show us what these cars were made of. The distance in skill from what we were running and what these professionals can do is always nice to experience.
All in all, it was a great event and I’m extremely appreciative to the team at SRT for giving me the opportunity to take it on. These events are a great way to really experience what your car can do without having to thrash your car around these tracks. It also helps people develop their skills so they know how to handle their car and get the opportunity to feel the balance and weight shifting of the car. In my mind, all manufacturers should offer something along these lines included in the price of buying a performance car. Even non-performance cars can surprise you when you get it on a track in the hands of a skilled driver. We look forward with working further with the SRT team, Chrysler, Fiat, Dodge, and Jeep in the future and seeing what great products they have for us in the future.