The Drivers Project II: On-Track Experience at Pocono Raceway

Additional photography: Kyle Crawford

  • Upon leaving the Reading Pagoda, the Drivers Project II continues 70 miles north to Pocono Raceway, a historic and still current NASCAR track.
  • At Pocono Raceway, participants were treated to a catered BBQ lunch sponsored by KW Suspension, as well as unlimited parade laps courtesy of Falken Tire.
  • Renowned driving instructor Ross Bentley was a special guest offering members of the Drivers Project tips and personal coaching.

While hundreds of miles get put on the project cars that partake in the Drivers Project, Pit+Paddock has made it a mission to involve an element of performance driving as part of the itinerary. The overall idea is that participating vehicles should be able to withstand the demands of a road trip, as well as be able to handle a few sessions of spirited laps on a road course. After all, we’re not just out there on the road just to look pretty.

Last year, we set the bar a little high with a history lesson at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca by Lexus ambassador Scott Pruett. It was truly a memorable experience. For many, it was their first time seeing Laguna Seca outside of TV and video games. The icing on the cakes were some incredible photo and video ops as well as a few parade laps led by Mr. Pruett himself.

For the Drivers Project II presented by Hawk Performance, we headed to the Pocono Mountains in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, where we rented out Pocono Raceway for the afternoon, which honestly doesn’t quite have the same excitement of Laguna Seca, but its history and number of racing legends that have passed through the NASCAR circuit are equally as impressive with names such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon in the record books.

The 2.5-mile-long NASCAR track isn’t your typical oval but a tri-oval, hence its nickname, “The Tricky Triangle”. Through the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were track configurations added that allowed for IndyCar races; however, those days are long gone. Some of those curvier track layouts remain as options for those that rent out the track, which is what those on the Drivers Project II were able to experience. We took advantage of the North Course, which stretches 1.5-miles and utilizes NASCAR’s Turn 3, which features six banking degrees. It’s one of the more straightforward configurations but allows drivers of all skill levels to push their limits safely and experience what it’s like to drive on the taller banking of a NASCAR track.

Not just all fun and games, we had invited a special guest to meet us at Pocono as we still wanted to add an element of education and appreciation to the track experience. Ross Bentley was on the way home from working an event at Watkins Glen, so he made a detour to join the Drivers Project II and share his knowledge. Ross is currently a distinguished performance driving coach after retiring from Rolex Sports Car, America Le Mans, and Champ Car. He’s also a successful author, podcast host, and public speaker, often training athletes of various sports how to take their game to the next level. For many who have looked up to Ross, it felt like a dream as he would offer up not just driving tips but also some insight into what has helped some of his fastest students gain that extra edge.

Falken Tire had equipped seven of the Drivers Project vehicles on the new Azenis RT660 tire. It’s a tire that is currently raved about by regular road course junkies since its launch last year. I’ve even been able to attest to their impeccable grip and above-average tread life thanks to the Fast on Falken track day and also put several miles on the tires on my road trip to Pikes Peak last month. It’s a motorsport-inspired street tire that seamlessly met the demands of the Drivers Project — able to withstand the long miles of a road trip while also being ready to tackle a winding stretch of road or weekend track day when the opportunity presents itself.

The last hour of the day concluded with group photos on the start/finish line, which looked absolutely epic as we were able to park cars five-wide and with the main grandstands in the background.

We want to thank KW Suspension for catering the lunch portion at Pocono Raceway, where participants were treated to an assortment of slow-smoked meats from renowned Jesse’s Barbecue (a must-try if you’re craving good BBQ in PA).

After leaving Pocono, we ventured north to Scranton, where we stayed at the Radisson Lackawanna Station hotel. It was interestingly a former train station built in 1908 and rumored to be haunted, which became one of the biggest talking points of the road trip as nightfall approached. Day one was in the books, but there was plenty more to do. Stay tuned for our recap of day two next.

We’d like to take a moment to thank all of the partners that made the Drivers Project II happen: AEM Performance ElectronicsAkrapovičCompetition ClutchCSF PerformanceFalken TiresGatesHawk PerformanceInjenKW SuspensionsMeguiar’sSparcoTitan 7 WheelsTurbosmart, and Turn 14 Distribution.