Welcoming New Faces to Our Scene


Written by David S. Wallens

From the Aug. 2015 issue

Posted in Columns


Hella flush.

An accident waiting to happen.

You know what I’m talking about: slammed imports with tires stretched across too-wide wheels. Pavement-scraping ride heights. Wheel offsets that don’t do a thing to help run times.

All show and no go.

Plus, those wheel-and-tire setups are a menace to society. Think about the children.

I finally checked it out. Call it investigative journalism. A few months ago Simply Clean held a show here in the greater Daytona area, including a pre-show gathering the evening before. The location: two blocks south of GRM World HQ at CCW wheels. CCW has catered to the motorsports crowd for years, but apparently their custom fitments and timeless looks have endeared them to another crowd as well.

What did I find? Big crowd. Minimal ride heights. No attitudes.

This wasn’t the typical autocrosser or even track day crowd, though. Lots of younger faces. Kids toted around in customized wagons. Guys and girls showing off their own cars with a touch of humility. No one cared about classes, run order, or happenings in the tech shed.

The socializing was paramount, too–so was the picture taking, with both real camera rigs and phones.

Interest piqued, I figured I’d check out the big show the next day. As the Simply Clean site boasts, it wasn’t a competition. Last time I checked, their home page also featured an E36 sedan worthy of coverage in our mag– the ride height may be low, but the wheel-and-tire setup isn’t too extreme. I’d describe the car as, appropriately enough, simply clean.

I rolled up to the show in my ’75 Pontiac Catalina wagon. Go big or go home, right?

First observation: groups of people just hanging out in the parking lot watching the cars arrive. The parking lot–a very full one, I should add–was dotted with pop-up canopies, each one containing smiling faces and cool beverages. Surprisingly, they geeked out on the wagon just as much as they did on the usual suspects that filled the parking lot and show field: WRX Subarus, Honda Civics, E30-chassis BMWs and Mazda Miatas.

Once again, the event drew a diverse crowd. A group of deaf enthusiasts, appearing just as excited as the rest, moved from car to car en mass.

A few older cars were mixed in, too, like a gutted, caged, Army Green EF-chassis Honda Civic sedan. These old-school rides may not have had the typical stance look, but they carried the same attitude.

This show is where we found Nick Watkins’s BMW 5 Series. In fact, we shot the photos the day after at the truck stop next door.

How did we connect? The #simplyclean Instagram hashtag. It’s amazing how a seemingly simple tag can quickly tie a group together. Two other neat Instagram accounts I started following that day: MISS9K (Honda CR-Z) and KITT3N5 (supercharged Miata).

What I liked the most about the day–and that scene, to be honest–was the accessibility. Even modded Honda Ruckus scooters were welcome.

That’s why we’ve jumped into the SCCA’s new Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack. We’ve supported the program since its infancy, and they let me work with the novices at the Palm Beach events.

They way I see it, it’s another great way to get people instantly hooked on cars. No standing around, no shagging cones, no confusing run groups.

Look, I love autocross and have been doing it since 1992. Just this evening, in fact, I pinged a major manufacture about a potential program for this year’s Solo Nats.

I also love jazz music and regularly make trips up to New York just to take in some awesome live music. (Travel tip: Check out Fat Cat in the West Village, especially Sunday night’s after-hours set hosted by Brandon Lewis.) I fully realize that both jazz and autocross can be acquired tastes that require some commitment.

Track Night aims to quickly get people on track without any commitments. The novice meetings are very brief, and there isn’t a ride-along instructor. It’s a bit like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool, and having witnessed it firsthand, pretty much all involved seem to get it. Most people’s self-preservation mode seems to kick in, keeping them on the black and away from the walls. Plus, there’s no rule stating that participants have to run at 10/10ths.

Risky? Maybe. People die all the time after falling in the shower, off the toilet, or out of bed, and so far we haven’t given up on those activities.

I figure there are a bunch of ways to have fun with cars, whether it be sitting in a parking lot or clicking off some laps in a relaxed, noncompetitive environment. To the rest of the world, they’re probably both just as silly.

My advice: Find the avenue that makes you happy and enjoy. If it’s welcoming to new people, even better. Odds are that’s where you’ll find me.

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Reader comments:

nderwater PowerDork
Sept. 16, 2015 9:34 a.m.
Those wheel-and-tire setups are a menace to society. Think about the children.

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