Aaron Shoe was looking for a unique challenge for himself and his 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution.
The longtime Autocrosser and SCCA competitor hadn’t participated in any national events since 2017, and he was looking for a different experience. “I found a lot of interesting events this year, and Autocross Week was one of them,” he said. “There wasn’t really any other event where you had to drive from race to race to compete at an Autocross. It was a unique event, but I felt it was pretty attainable for me to compete and do well.”
Shoe is correct that there wasn’t anything quite like Summit Racing Autocross Week on the schedule because the event is truly the first of its kind. The competition borrows concepts from popular drag-and-drive events like Hot Rod Drag Week and the Summit Racing Midwest Drags but is the first to apply them to Autocrossing instead of the quarter-mile.
“The concept of it being four days driving, two passes per track and the route stops—all that was basically cookie cutter,” said J. Heid, promoter and founder of Summit Racing Autocross Week and Summit Racing Midwest Drags. “But we thought, ‘Imagine how cool it would be if we had an event that was the same as Midwest Drags but for Autocross.‘ ”
Through the hard work of Heid, Summit Racing, and the Akron Sports Car Club, Summit Racing Autocross Week was born.
The inaugural event took place July 12-15 and challenged its participants to drive between three different tracks over four days. The participants kicked off the event at UMI Motorsports Park in Clearfield, PA, before heading to Pittsburgh International Raceway, Dragway 42 in West Salem, OH, and then back to UMI for the final day. There were seven classes total covering everything from vintage to late-model, naturally aspirated to boosted, and everything in between. Each driver’s best two Autocross times at each facility were recorded and then averaged at the end of the week to determine the class winners and overall champion.
But if you’re looking only at those results, you’re missing part of the goal of Autocross Week.
“This is a commitment of Summit Racing to invest into grassroots motorsports,” Heid said. “The appeal of it is for the enthusiast who wants to drive and really enjoys driving their car. It’s an experience with a racing component to it.”
It was the potential for a one-of-a-kind experience that attracted Shoe to the event in its inaugural year.
“This event was focused on experience instead of lots of rules focusing on what you can and cannot do,” he said. “It’s cool to be involved with the first time something is ever done, and there was the uniqueness with the endurance element.”
The key for the drivers was to figure out a strategy that would allow them to excel at the track while taking into consideration the endurance factor.
“As a drag racer, if you run 10.90 and you expected the car to run 10.90, there’s no point to hanging around,” said Jim Greenleaf, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports and Events Manager. “As an Autocrosser, though, you might feel you could’ve had a better corner there or you could’ve done better at this spot on the course. We didn’t know how many runs people would want to make. We learned they’d probably want to make four to six and then they’d probably want to get on the road because probably the biggest challenge to this event is the survival from track to track.”
The variety of configurations at each location also posed a challenge.
“There were really no changes to the car,” Shoe said. “It’s a mental approach to figure out the fastest way to get through each course. At UMI, the infield is very tight. At Dragway 42, there are long straights and slower elements before that. It all impacted our times and how you approach the course. Pitt Race had more slaloms that require a totally different mental approach.”
And then there are the elements of the event you might not think of initially.
“This event was a neat challenge figuring out how to cram everything into the car,” Shoe said. “I probably had 400 pounds worth of stuff and I had to practice how to pack it into the car!”
He also cited the lack of air conditioning as a big obstacle as he moved from stop to stop.
“It’s just a different game than sitting at a Saturday morning Autocross where you make your six passes and just go home,” Greenleaf said. “There’s just a different vibe.”
In the end, Shoe’s approach propelled him to the top spot as the event’s overall champion over runner up Justin Peachy. Class winners were:
- Boosted “B:” Aaron Shoe
- Classic “C” -1976-1996: Joseph Boyer
- Naturally Aspirated “NA:” Scott Baker
- Sport “S”- 1997 to present: Jeff Dobbins
- Super Sport “SS:” Zachary Sawyer
- Unlimited “U:” Justin Peachy
- Vintage “V”-1975 and older: Nicholas Barnett
Shoe is happy with the results, but Summit Racing Autocross Week was still about the total experience. “A lot of people had great stories about what they had to fix and overcome,” he said. “The commutes were awesome. We went through some cool towns. We rolled through some small towns and kids were out and like, Whoa, look at the cars!‘ ”
Greenleaf and Heid are looking for ways to make the experience next year even better after a successful inaugural run.
“As we’ve continued to get more involved with Autocross, this is something I had been thinking about for years,” Greenleaf said. “Obviously it’s following the (Hot Rod) Drag Week concept—there’s no secret here what this is about. The question was, ‘Can we do this for the Autocrosser and would they want to do it?‘ ”
In 2022, the answer was a resounding yes. The event drew participants from as far away as Canada and the United Kingdom and included classic muscle cars, late-models, full-size cars, trucks, and more.
“We were pleasantly surprised with the variety of cars,” Greenleaf said. “All the participants had a good time, and we learned a lot. We had rainstorms…we had traffic construction…I think we got everything thrown at us the first year. There’s always something to tweak so we’re getting feedback from the people that were involved in running the event as well as the participants.”
If you’re on the fence about trying an event like Autocross Week, this year’s winner has some advice.
“Don’t be afraid to try. One of the great things about an event like this is people helping other people. A lot of people hadn’t been Autocrossing much, but the Autocrossing community is all about helping people.”
Watch AutocrossWeek.com and SummitRacing.com for details on next year’s event.
Awesome event, I hope this trend continues. A couple of recommendations – #1 Maybe clean up or expand the car classes a little – #2 Please change the number plates, from a course workers perspective they were very difficult to read at speed.
Looks cool ! I would like as much info as I can get about this . I take it is auto cross only with no drag racing . Notice car pulling parts trailer. Are tire changes allowed ? How many miles between tracks and how much time to cover same ? I will compete in vintage with 69 Corvette
Hey Al, yeah–it’s a super fun event. For 2023, it looks like the event is based in/around the eastern Ohio/western Pennsylvania region, so figure about 150 to 200 miles between tracks. Most folks stay until the afternoon, so there’s time for driving/fixing/eating in the evening. See the official schedule here.
In regard to tires, here are the rules per 2023:
• All tires must be DOT-legal. 200 UPG, (Edit: Feb 19, Except Unlimited class)
• Tires must pass a tech inspection for compliance and safety.
• NO Kumho ACR Tires.
• The same wheels/tires used for competition must also be used for street driving.
• May bring one spare tire per size. If all four tires are same size, one tire. IF front and rear are different, then two tires.
• May change tire due to catastrophic event only and must report change to Competition Director.
You can get all the rules info here. Good luck and hope to see you out there!