First trip to the DSM Shootout? Read these tips!

So, you’ve heard all about The DSM Shootout, but have never been able to attended until now? Good for you! Go to The DSM Shootout. Learn more about The DSM Shootout here. If I could sum up The Shootout in one sentence, it would be this: The one time each year where the fastest and largest group of DSMs, EVOs and GTRs get together in what is one of the largest sport compact/import events that I know about.

Okay, more specifically, what is The Shootout? Well, it’s an entire weekend of checking out other people’s cars, hanging out, getting sunburn and racing. I’ve gone to this event since 1997 or 1998, it’s a little fuzzy, but it hasn’t changed very much since then, until this year. 2015 represents the largest number of changes I can recall happening to the Shootout. There are a number of new classes, more cars are now able to race, and more money is set to be paid out than ever before. The three days of racing, as opposed to a single day in the past, will certainly shake things up and allow for a lot more time at the track. This is good, except that DSMs aren’t exactly known for their legendary reliability, so we’ll see who makes it to Sunday! :-)

Friday consists of an open house at Buschur Racing in Wakeman, Ohio, which includes cars making dyno pulls all day. This happens until 5pm, and then Norwalk Raceway Park Summit Motorsports Park opens up at 6PM for a night of test and tune drag racing. There is also a qualifying pass for heads up classes Friday night at 9PM.

Saturday, SMP has Autocross starting at 9AM and Drag Racing test and tune starting at 3PM. Drag racing round 2 qualifying for happens at 7PM if you’re running a heads up class.

Sunday is the big day (for me, anyway.) Gates open at 9AM, final round of Qualifying is at 10AM, racing starts at 1:00PM. In years’ past, racing has typically wrapped up anywhere from 3-5:00PM, but it all depends on track conditions, car count, breakage and weather. So, racing ends when racing ends.

DSM Shootout Tips

If you’ve never been to The DSM Shootout, here are a few things to keep in mind. Even if you have been there before, you should probably read them anyway!.

  • Racers get an assigned pit space; While it’s outlined at some tracks and not others, it’s very common to have a pit space that’s roughly 20 feet wide by 40 feet long. The area behind someone else’s trailer is either their pit space or the pit road; The same goes for the area directly to the right of their trailer – it’s still their pit space. You arrived hours after the event started? You’re going to have to park out in the middle of nowhere; that’s how it works at every track everywhere. Don’t park behind someone’s trailer or directly next to it; it’s considered rude.
  • Pitting with your friends is cool, but if you want to pit with them, you should arrive to the track with them *or* have them save you a spot in order to all yourselves to find a spot together. Saving a single pit space for someone isn’t unheard of; that’s not a big deal. Encroach on others’ pit space because it’s next to your friend who happens to be pitting next to someone else is just rude. If you guys want to share a pit space, that’s fine, but don’t expect me to want to share my pit space with you, too.
  • Don’t walk in the middle of pit roads. I know it’s hot and you’re wandering, but you’re in a busy parking lot that’s also doubling as a return road and a road for racers to get to and from their pit space and the staging lanes. I know you’re a pedestrian and I don’t want to run you over, but I don’t have a horn, and you don’t seem to be hearing the car running an open exhaust slowly following behind you for the past 150 feet because you aren’t aware of your surroundings. Be considerate and move out of the way. If you think it’s hot out, you should try being buttoned up in an SFI-3-2A/15 fire suit inside of a race car with no HVAC. If that means nothing to you, go put on a snow suit on and go sit in your car without the A/C on in the 85 degree weather. It’s about the same thing. Another option would be to walk opposing traffic so that you can see the cars coming at you in order to be able to get out of the way when you see them coming toward you.
  • On the other side of this, drive slowly on the return roads and in the pits. If you’re a racer, this should be obvious. As I said before, you’re driving through a parking lot. This means 10 MPH or less is the only appropriate speed. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a race car, on a scooter, on a golf cart or your street car. You will get there, especially if the spectators/pedestrians are also aware of their surroundings.
  • Racers like to help other racers out, but don’t take advantage of the situation. I’ve had instances of people asking me for things: WD40, spark plugs, tools, brake/parts cleaner. I’d like to help people out, but in half the instances where I have, the other person has completely taken advantage of it. I once lent full can of brake cleaner out to a complete stranger at the DSM shootout as long as they brought it back. Not only did they not return it to me, but when I had a friend hunt them down, I found out they used the entire can on a broken transfer case that ended their day anyway and they just shrugged when he asked for it back, or some cash so that I could at least cover the cost of buying a new one. Seriously?! You couldn’t even throw me $5 and I’m the one who had the forethought to bring my own tools and supplies to the track. Cash or no supplies from now on; sorry. If you want to “borrow” a tool of mine, don’t be offended that I need your driver’s license. This helps me to ensure that I will get my stuff back in a prompt manner. I want to help you get to the next round, but not at my own hard expense.
  • If you’re partaking in after-racing stuff at hotels like hanging out, be mindful of other people. I know this is *THE SHOOTOUT*, but there are unwitting families who are visiting Cedar Point who happen to be staying at the same hotel you’re at. It already sucks for them having to shell out the ridiculously high rates for the only place they could find an available room, just like you. You know what’s worse? Having to deal with an asshole who feels like he needs to trash the hotel they’re staying at, while they’re there. Not sleeping because there are people jet skiing in the pool at the hotel, or because they’re doing burnouts on scooters outside your room. Sure, it’s funny to you. You and the people directly around you, but nobody else. You can have a good time and not be an asshole. I’ve seen it happen; I know it can be done.
  • Don’t drink and then go hotel-hopping. The local police have dealt with Shootout Weekend for about 20 years now; This weekend is no surprise to them. To help deal with the issue of outsiders trying to ruin their town for the weekend, on occasion they have been known to shut down 250 between the town of Milan and the town of Norwalk in order to set up sobriety checkpoints. Now sure, they are looking for people drinking and driving, but these checkpoints are also a very convenient way of crowd control to keep people from running around town all night. I don’t have first hand experience with this, but I have heard of people who knew of specific people who were arrested due to being intoxicated at these checkpoints. Also, waiting an hour or more at a sobriety checkpoint really kills part of an evening for you, so your best bet is to figure out where you want to be and plan on being there early. If you feel like you need to go to the other set of hotels, for example, then going earlier is probably better to avoid any sort of crowd control altogether.
  • If you do want to have a good time and have some shenanigans, I hear staying at the track is a great option. I haven’t personally done that, but setting up the track for camping leads to a self-contained event; rather than having people run around Norwalk and Milan and getting into trouble, they’re allowing you to have your shenanigans if you can confine yourself to the fenced area immediately surrounding the track. Responsible drinking isn’t a problem, and there’s not much better than waking up to the smell of race gas and the sound of race cars…
  • If The Shootout is your first time racing, There are many pages on the Internet with tips for what to do. Lapeer Dragway has a readme for beginners about how to drag race. Read it; it will give you an idea about what to expect.
  • Follow traffic laws. I know, it should be obvious, but it’s even more important in a place that has far more tourists in it than residents. Most people near Norwalk this weekend are either vacationing or going to a race, which means nobody is really familiar on the streets or knows what they’re doing. Be mindful of other people not knowing what’s going on. Also, read above about the local police – they know and are expecting you this weekend; they don’t need or want to put up with your crap, and handing you a ticket helps them with quotas.

If you follow these tips, it should make The DSM Shootout experience better for you and the DSM community as a whole. It will also make the locals happier.