For most of us, cars serve a specific purpose. They get us to work, our vacation destinations, carry groceries and kids, and are basically just vehicles for transport. Few of us have ever really tested the limits of our sports sedan or the clearance on our SUV, let alone seen what a real, high-performance vehicle is capable of. "Driving is really the only sport where people don't tend to use coaches," says Johnny O'Connell, the winningest driver in the history of Sebring International Raceway. "The best money any driver will ever spend is that which is spent at one of the country's top racing schools." With that in mind, we chose these 13 schools, events, and experiences that aim to help reconnect us the road, the dirt, and the horsepower in our engines.
24 Hours of LeMons
The granddaddy of $500 amateur endurance car racing, LeMons as it's known, is the most popular race in the world in terms of participants. Over the previous seven years, LeMons has issued approximately 30,000 racing licenses, far eclipsing any other series. LeMons is more focused on everyone having a good time than real racing – for $500, after all, everyone has a clunker. However, with more than 100 cars on track at a time, there's more than plenty of on-track action to go around. You can crash, and you can get hurt, but the odds are much better that you just have fun. No experience racing on a road course is expected. All you need is one terrible car, three buddies, safety gear, and a solid, if not demented, sense of humor.
How to Enter
When: Races happen basically every other weekend. Check the website for details.
Experience Needed: None.
Equipment: A used car – no more than $500 in value – and fireproof racing gear. You will also need tools and mechanical know-how.
Beware: Body odor, whiny drivers, quarter-scale replicas of the Space Shuttle riding atop Toyotas.