As a resident of the Coachella Valley, I’m always looking for fun day trips in and around the Palm Springs area. I had heard that there was a new raceway built out at Desert Center, CA, which is a very small town just 45 minutes east of where I live. I decided to go check it out, take a few photos of the track and report back to the DesertUSA readers about this exciting new desert attraction.
After doing a little research about Chuckwalla Valley Raceway (CVR), I contacted them to see what day would be best for a visit and I was able to schedule a tour at the CVR on one of their Lapping Days.
CVR is located on State Route 177, just a couple minutes north of the I-10 at Desert Center, CA. When I arrived at the raceway I was directed to the paddock, a staging area for the cars and drivers. While I heard a few cars start up and head out to the track, it was much quieter than I expected. A few screeches could be heard in the distance and the occasional roar of a car speeding along the track by the paddock was audible, but for the most part it was fairly quiet.
As I watched the drivers work on their cars and chat with their friends about their time on the track, I wondered what got them into racing cars? Was it the rush of going fast or the danger of driving at high speeds around a challenging course? Or both? I was about to find out!
Micky Grana, one of the owners of CVR, invited me to take a ride alongside him in a beautiful silver Corvette, which has the reputation of being the fastest car at the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, capable of speeds up to 150 miles-per-hour. After watching the cars race through the course I was ready to buckle-up and go for a ride.
As I slid on the tight-fitting helmet I felt a little short of air. It’s a feeling you have to get used to, especially if you’re a little claustrophobic. The good news is that I was able to flip up the shield, which gave me the fresh air I was going to need for this experience. I joked with Micky about having my Flip video cam and a plastic bag ready to go. He warned me there was indeed a potential for motion sickness, but I got into the car without a bag.
While the coasters at Magic Mountain make my palms sweat, three laps around the track at Chuckwalla had my adrenaline supercharged and my hands shaking like crazy. This made holding the mini video cam a bit of a challenge. During the first lap, I was acclimating to the car, and to the speed. The racecourse is 2.68 miles long with a really fun 10+ degree banked hairpin turn placed near the beginning of the track. As we drove into the first turn the tires screeched and we were literally sliding a bit into the turn. This happened on every curve, which is part of the racing dynamic. Once you realize this, you embrace it. Until you realize this, you feel totally out of control.
Mickey made sure I was okay after the first lap (no signs of me hurling anytime soon) and then he stepped it up a notch for the second lap. I think my adrenaline shot up at this point; I had more shake going on during the second lap than the first. It probably didn’t help my nerves when one of the cars in front of us slid off of the track onto the dirt, adding a little extra excitement to the ride. I just remembered to breathe and enjoy the ride, and the third lap was the charm. My hands calmed, I was able to hold the video camera more steadily, and I held it above the dashboard on the turns. It was a thrilling experience.
After we exited the track and returned to the trailer, Mickey said he only had the car going at about 70% of its potential. I can only imagine what it would be like with 30% more speed. We passed many of the cars that were lapping the track while we were out there — which gives some perspective as to the speed we were going.
Chatting with the other drivers, I learned that the value of the cars raced there ranges from $15,000 vehicles up to $200,000+. I saw Mustangs, a Lotus, Corvettes, Porsches, and several other types of high-performance cars. Some were street legal and some were not. They also race motorcycles there. In fact, Micky has raced motorcycles for 15 years and just started racing cars in April of this year. Of course I didn’t know that little detail when I got into the car.
I learned that these folks are amazing drivers and they have excellent safety standards. All of the members and staff I met were very friendly and made you feel right at home. If you are interested in checking out the racetrack or learning about how to drive racecars, please give the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway a call. They have all types of training programs, rental cars, and instructors who will make sure you have a safe and fun experience.
If you are one of those people who enjoy the rush you feel while riding the scariest rollercoaster at Magic Mountain or the thrill of extreme sports, you may be just the right candidate to get behind the wheel of a high-performance racecar to take a spin around the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.
After taking a ride in a lap car I have to recommend it. It was an experience I’ll never forget and that I would definitely do again. Add it to your bucket list. You won’t regret it!
While CVR is a Member Club (similar to being a member at a golf club), they are actively recruiting new students and drivers into their educational program and membership. They have a motorcycle school and a driving school. Custom programs can also be organized if you have a group that is interested in learning how to drive racecars or motorcycles. They even have a program for kids 14 years of age and up using their fleet of Go Karts.
(Video coming soon!)
For more information about the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway … http://www.chuckwallavalleyraceway.com/
Chuckwalla Valley Raceway
P.O. Box 307
Desert Center, CA 92239
25300 Rice Rd.
Desert Center, CA
Monday – Sunday
8am – 5pm