Two high-speed, high-dollar auto events are planned for Dade County High School's parking lot this fall. The Chattanooga region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) is sponsoring an "Autocross Open House" on Sept. 30 and a similar event on Oct. 21.
Autocross, if you've never heard of it, is not a car race, explained SCCA's Beth Cox in an email, it's just driving a car very fast. "The fastest times win," she wrote. "It's one car at a time. Very safe."
A press release from Ms. Cox says autocross events like the ones at Dade High are "a great way to be introduced to the safest form of motorsports and to meet lots of friendly people who like to go fast."
"It’s an opportunity to drive a car at speed, or ride along as a passenger, on a track marked by traffic cones in a safe parking lot," further says the press release. "It’s one car at a time, so it’s very safe. In fact, we have safety stewards who are responsible for making sure everyone -- drivers, workers and spectators -- stays safe."
Additionally, says Ms. Cox, SCAA provides a $10 million insurance policy.
Participants pay $50--$35 for the event, $15 for the SCCA--and drive their own cars or trucks--"no vans, sorry"--with instructions provided for first-timers, and safety helmets available if you'd like to borrow one. One passenger ride is provided free to anyone who wants to sample the experience, and hot dogs and soft drinks are also on tap gratis. "All we ask is that you sign a waiver form and wear a wristband to indicate that you’re signed in," reads the press release.
If you'd like to know more, you can call Beth Cox at (423) 886-2950, send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit crscca.org. The press release says you can register to participate at the high school on the day of the event, which begins at 9 a.m.
The Planet wanted to know more about the high school's hosting of high-speed auto events--it seems an odd event to schedule in a venue where educators are always urging young drivers to slow down!--and called Dr. James Cantrell, operations director for the Dade Board of Education. He couldn't help much. "I've seen them out there but I don't know who authorized it," he said.
Cantrell said DCHS principal James Fahrney might know. In fact, Fahrney just took over leadership of the school last year, and said the autocross agreement was of long standing. He said part of what allowed him to "wrap my brain around it" was that "safety is such a big part of what they do."
He said the autocross organization periodically offers teens a driving safety at the high school. Cost is around $75, said Farhney, but the parents of young drivers who complete it get a break on their car insurance premium.
Additionally, SCAA pays the school $275 a month for the use of the parking lot, said the principal.
Fahrney said the autocross events give people a chance to "kind of get their lead foot out" in a safe environment, instead of "going out and doing something illegal, like racing in the streets."