SCCA

Have car, will Track Night in America: This weekday race alternative makes track time a go

SCCA's Track Night in America events take place across the country at lesser-known tracks.

Photo by Dan Sabol

For a parent, weekends are precious. Weekends are for road trips, backyard parties, and youth sporting events. A mere 52 opportunities to connect with your family.

For the gearhead, however, a weekend can mean a long couple of days away, driving or towing to the nearest track for some full-throttle action. While the family can and often does tag along at weekend track events, devoting attention to the car, the kids, and the spouse can be a challenge.

Track Night in America 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost The Ford Mustang is sold as either a coupe (shown here) or a convertible.Photo by Chris Tonn

Since 2015, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has been offering an alternative to a weekend at the races. Their Track Night in America program is a mid-week track experience open to just about anyone with a car and a helmet. It starts mid-afternoon and leads into the twilight hours. For this dad, sneaking away from the office at noon and missing a single dinner with the family is a much better alternative to an entire weekend away.

Over the past five years, the SCCA has offered over 650 Track Night events at 47 different tracks – and finally, an event popped up in my home state of Ohio. I had a 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost coming to my door to test. I'd finally run out of excuses – it was time to get on track.

With a bunch of sweeping corners spread over a brief two miles, the Nelson Ledges racecourse between Cleveland and Pittsburgh has been thrilling racers for decades. It's a throwback to the early tracks that appeared in the 1960z – it's rustic. Many newer tracks offer a country club atmosphere – Nelson Ledges has a shack with some bathrooms, a timing building that is undergoing some repairs, and a few picnic tables. It's all about the on-track experience, and this track delivers.

Track Night in America 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost The Mustang's available High Performance package added 19-inch machined-face aluminum wheels to the tester.Photo by Chris Tonn

The EcoBoost High Performance package on my tester seemed ready-made for track duties. It adds 20 horsepower to the standard turbocharged four-cylinder (up to 330 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque), alongside many of the suspension, braking, and aerodynamic goodies from Ford's V8-powered GT Performance Package. For me, the highlight was the 13.9-inch brake rotors being clamped by large four-piston calipers. These brakes give plenty of stopping power on track, and never felt like they were fading under the heat of stops from triple digits.

Track Night in America is meant for street cars, not race cars, as the SCCA's goal is to let people simply have fun with the cars they already have. Many other track day programs tend to encourage drivers to work their way up a "ladder" of sorts from novice track events to time trials all the way to wheel-to-wheel racing. While that's certainly an option, the SCCA just wants people to enjoy performance driving in a safe environment without the pressure to compete.

Track Night in America 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Ford gave the test car a larger rear sway bar and unique stability control tuning, elevating its on-track performance.Photo by Chris Tonn

I wish something like this had been around twenty-plus years ago as I began to make a little bit of money. While I'd long spent time at the track as an avid spectator, getting on track back then generally required a dedicated race car. I explored those options – even going so far to buy a retired SCCA Honda Civic to get back on track for myself, only to be laid off shortly after getting it home – and I found myself pushing my motorsport ambitions aside.

Track Night lets drivers self-select into one of just three groups – Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced, all based on prior track experience. There's no breaking out cars based on speed – just driver ability. Considering our current pandemic, Track Night is well positioned – there are no instructors strapped in the passenger seat. Rather, they space out and observe from trackside, and will pull aside drivers to give pointers and encouragement between each of the three twenty-minute track sessions.

The novice group gets accordingly more attention, as well as a masked-up group debriefing after each session. The instructors joked that social distancing is important on track as well as in the paddock – a safe six feet helps to keep away both viruses and sheet metal damage.

Track Night in America 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost The car's Showstopper red leather upholstery adds a bit of a dramatic touch to the interior.Photo by Chris Tonn

As I have little actual on-track experience, I selected the novice group. I was expecting some slower cars in the group – and while there were a couple, I was also watching my mirrors fill with C7 Corvettes, Porsche Caymans, and a Chevy Camaro SS 1LE. The four-banger Mustang was quick – keeping pace except coming off corners with a recent five-liter Mustang – but let down a bit by the ten-speed automatic transmission, which was reluctant to shift as quickly as I'd like. The car was magic in the corners, however, as the balance afforded by the lightweight engine let both ends of the car rotate at will.

Instructors told me that their main goal is for everyone to drive home with the same intact car they arrived in, so keeping within the limits of both the car and the driver is paramount. Only one incident marred our evening – a snarling Chevy El Camino modified in the Pro Touring style came back to the paddock on the end of a rope with some tire barrier damage to the left side of the car, though it seemed to drive home without problems.

Track Night in America 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Photo by Dan Sabol

SCCA has a winning program on their hands. Over five years, over forty thousand drivers have registered for Track Night events. It's a great way to keep socially distant at speed. I missed a conference call and one family dinner, and was home in time to tuck the kids into bed. I get to spend another weekend with my family. Admittedly, I'll spend some of that weekend pondering if I can trade the family minivan for a new Mustang EcoBoost.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Twisted NAS-E California Series is a new all-electric 4x4.

Photo courtesy of Twisted

Earlier this year, a luxury 4x4 retailer in Austin, Texas showed off the Twisted NA-V8, a vehicle based on a classic Defender that comes in five different body styles. Now a limited run of 30 Twisted NAS-E all-electric 4x4 is bowing.

The NAS-E is born of the classic Land Rover Defender 90 body with a soft top and features an electric powertrain, a luxurious interior, and impressive off-roading capability. Each model is compliant with all North American EV Regulations and California CARB regulations.

Twisted NAS-E and NAS-E Plus

Photo courtesy of Twisted

"As the world moves steadily toward mass electrification, the Californian market has been missing a uniquely stylish electric 4x4 option that can stand out at the beach, off-road and at stoplights with a level of exclusivity and prestige that can only come from the timeless British Defender form," said Bruce Riggs, COO, Twisted North America. "With color schemes reflecting the natural beauty of California, a removable soft top shape to fully live the elements, advanced electric powertrain engineering exclusive to Twisted, zero-emission power, practical battery range and luxuriously modern interior touches, the Twisted NAS-E is the ultimate expression of the American coastal lifestyle."

The model is the first hero vehicle of the Twisted Legacy collection. It will be sold in two trim levels: NAS-E and NAS-E Plus. The difference mainly comes down to the power allocation. The NAS-E will be powered by a Remy Borg-Warner motor delivering more than 280 pound-feet of torque and 214 brake horsepower. The NAS-E Plus sees its output upped to 309 pound-feet of torque and 320 brake horsepower.

Twisted NAS-E Malibu Photo courtesy of Twisted

Twisted says that the model has a 200-mile range from its 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

The SUVs have custom-valved dampers, six-piston front brakes, four-piston rear brakes, hard-use RS29 brake pads, and a traction control system. Four-wheel drive is standard. There are Sport, Eco, and Off-Road drive modes.

The model will be offered in three color options: Malibu, Yosemite, and Tahoe. They will make up the California Series of the models, a limited time 30-vehicle offering.

Twisted NAS-E Tahoe Photo courtesy of Twisted

The NAS-E comes with a good list of features: cream leather seats featuring Alston Alcantara inserts, a three-seat bench across the front row with detachable headrests, 4x tip ups located in the load area, Twisted Sport Wheels finished in silver, a Twisted Stage One front end, NAS roll cage, Bimini hood, an infotainment system, EV management system touch screen, raptored 'spray down' unique flooring, eight-channel audio system, rearview camera with wideview angle, GPS tracker, immobilizer, and air conditioning.

The NAS-E Plus builds on that to include a NAS brush bar, NAS side steps, roll-bar spotlights, NAS-E body stripe decal, and black side sills.

Twisted offers the model with a comprehensive 24-month/20,000-mile warranty. Extensions are available.

Twisted NAS-E Malibu Photo courtesy of Twisted

The Twisted NAS-E starts at $185,000 while the NAS-E Plus comes in at $210,000. Each has a lead time of approximately nine months and requires a fully refundable deposit to reserve. Limited test drives will be available early October 2020.

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Journalists gather around Jim Farley, then-Ford executive vice president and president of global markets, during the media days at the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has announced that Jim Farley will succeed Jim Hackett as the CEO of the company beginning October 1. Who is Jim Farley? AutomotiveMap takes a closer look at the man and his rise to the top of one of the most heralded automakers in the world.

The beginning

James D. “Jim" Farley Jr.'s history with Ford and the auto industry started long before he joined the company in 2007. The Argentina-born Farley's grandfather Emmet E. Tracy, was a worker at Ford in the company's early days, working at the company's Rouge River Plant beginning in 1914 when he was just 13 years old. Farley credits his grandfather for spurring his love of automobiles.

Jim Hackett Jim Farley CEO Outgoing CEO Jim Hackett and incoming CEO Jim Farley chart in front of an image of the employee card of Farley's grandfather, Emmet Tracy, an early Ford employee.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When he was 10 years old, Farley had a paper route in Connecticut that included a local Ferrari distributorship. He says that he would spend hours there chatting up the Italian mechanics.

Tracy would eventually leave the Ford plant to become a Ford dealer and own a Ford supplier plant. Farley worked at that plant one summer when he was 15. The summer before that, he says he spend working at a shop rebuilding car engines. He would eventually buy a '66 Ford Mustang with a blown engine, restoring it for himself, complete with a 289 V8.

Farley is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He earned a bachelor's degree In economics and computer science. Farley got his MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He put himself through school by working at a Santa Monica vehicle-restoration shop that was run by former Formula One champion Phil Hill - Hill & Vaughn on Second Street.

Jim Farley Ford 10 Millionth Mustang Ford (and Farley) celebrated the production of the 10 millionth Mustang at its Dearborn headquarters and its Flat Rock Assembly Plant, including flyovers from three WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter planes and Mustangs produced for more than five decades parading from Dearborn to Flat Rock.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Toyota years

He started his automaker career at Toyota, a move that he says some of his family members resented. However, it was Farley's grandfather who encouraged him saying. Farley told it to Automotive News like this: “He said, 'You should go to Toyota. It's the best car company for now. You can come back to Detroit.'"

And so he did. Farley joined Toyota in 1990 as part of the company's strategic planning department. He moved through marketing and product positions in the U.S. and Europe eventually serving as the man responsible for the successful launch and rollout of the Scion brand.

He went on to hold roles including group vice president of Toyota Division marketing and was responsible for all Toyota Division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, incentives and internet activities. He also was the group vice president and general manager of Lexus, responsible for all sales, marketing and customer satisfaction activities.

Toyota Scion tC Jim Farley, working in his then-role as Scion vice president, poses with the new tC Sports Coupe at the North American International Auto Show January 5, 2004 in Detroit, Michigan.Photo by Getty Images

Farley did make it back to Detroit during those days, every January as the North American International Auto Show kicked off. It was during that annual pilgrimage that Farley would visit his grandparents' graves. “"I wipe off the snow, if it's snowing, and I talk about my life," Farley said, before pausing and turning his head to the side. "I'm going to get really emotional — son of a b----, I'm not supposed to do that as an executive — anyway, it's the real deal for me. It's not about money," Automotive News reported in 2007.

The switch to Ford

Farley and his wife Lia are the parents of three children. The couple adopted a baby girl in 2007 before Lia gave birth to their son. When he took his first job with Ford as marketing chief in 2007, it was on the heels of a difficult time for the family that had seen his wife spend the last three months of her pregnancy in the hospital as Farley, with the help of neighbors, took care of their daughter and finalized his deal with Ford, Automotive News reported at the time.

While Farley got up and running at Ford, he would travel back home to California on the weekends to be with his family before finally settling them all in Michigan once his daughter's adoption was finalized. Even in 2007, his commitment to Ford was strong, saying at the time, "I'm going to be there forever. I didn't trade in my life in Santa Monica to move around every two years. I'm a car guy. There's only two car companies I really like, and I'm on the second one."

Jim Farley 2013 New York Auto Show Jim Farley, serving in his then-role as Ford executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln, discusses the consumer trends and demographic shifts that are reshaping the U.S. auto industry at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Big moves at Ford

After two years on the job at Ford, Farley was appointed group vice president, global marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America. He had added responsibility for Ford's operations in Canada, Mexico and South America in September 2009.

In August 2010 when Farley was appointed to lead global marketing sales and service, it marked the first time Ford had a single global leader for Marketing, Sales & Service. He had the added role of he senior global leader for Lincoln from December 2012 to August 2014. It was during his time as executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales & Service at Lincoln where the brand began its turnaround, setting the course for the company to decliner the types of vehicles it is offering today. He also lead Lincoln's introduction to China.

Lincoln Aviator Launch 2018 New York Auto Show During the New York International Auto Show in 2018, Jim Farley speaks in front of the just-revealed Lincoln Avaitor.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

From 2015 to 2017, Farley served as executive vice president and president, Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa. His tenure included milestones of record profitability, record margins, and increased sales.

In use 2017 he was named Executive Vice President and president, Global Markets, for Ford Motor Company. Company CEO Jim Hackett tapped Farley to be the president of New Businesses, Technology and Strategy in April 2019. In that role, he was tasked with helping the company determine how to capitalize on powerful forces reshaping the industry – such as software platforms, connectivity, AI, automation and new forms of propulsion.

Jim Farley Ken Block LAAS Fiesta launch Jim Farley, then-Group Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company with Action sports superstar, Ken Block after he drove his Gymkhana Ford Fiesta at Universal Studios on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show.Photo by Sam VarnHagen, courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In February of this year, Farley was named chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company, taking over for Joe Hinrichs and solidifying his position as the next CEO of the company. In a press conference on August 3, 2020, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said that the board talked about looking at external candidates for CEO, but they never actually did because Farley was the obvious choice.

What type of person is Farley? A story in the Detroit Free Press earlier this year said this of him:

“Jim Farley is the guy who prefers to be dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, spending time in a garage wrenching on classic Mustangs and vintage motorcycles. He respects men and women who have oil-stained clothes, busted knuckles and grease under their nails. He appreciates people who do engine and body work themselves.“

He's not a Man who spends his time chatting with old pals at the country club over a game of golf. To achieve relaxation, he races his 1965 Ford GT40 around tracks far and near.

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