I'm lucky to live within easy driving distance of a few wonderful race tracks.
- Laguna Seca is nearby, but the facility's rental fee is a fortune. Essentially if you don't belong to an expensive porsche club, track days are few and far between. However Skip Barber has a deal worked out with the track and it can be cheaper to take their courses to get seat time. I've gone through a couple of their programs just to get a few days of lapping in on the track and even though you don't get to use your own car, they did provide race prepped spec miatas which are a hoot.
- Thunderhill raceway in Willows just added an amazing expansion called Thunderhill West. It is a mid speed and extremely technical track that adds variety to the original layout. Occasionally they combine this with the original loop to form a single 5+ mile course, but the trackdays for the combined course tend to be more expensive and the miata favors the smaller course anyways. Trackdays for thunderhill West can be as low as $100 bucks and the atmosphere in Willows is more welcoming than Laguna Seca imo.
I joined the Dixon's Kinsman Kart Club a few years ago because its hard to beat unlimited track access 7 days a week. Luckily Dixon is just an hour from home. The track is empty most weekdays and I can put in some serious hours of practice for free. The track might not look as fancy as Sonoma or some other NorCal courses, but it is brutally demanding. If you can drive fast at Dixon you can drive fast anywhere. It isn't an extremely high speed track (tops out at about 70mph with a TAG vs 100+mph at Sonoma) but it is constant work and requires skill and conditioning to drive fast. About 20 minutes of lapping and you feel like someone took a baseball bat to your rib cage, whereas you could drive all day at Sonoma and feel fine the next morning. Not to mention the club vibe is extremely laid back.
Finding legal drifting opportunities can be difficult. Luckily Thunderdrift puts on frequent skidpad and full course drift events. A lot of seat time and a low price make these great learning environments. I've grown a bit out of drifting, but the occasional day of hooning around can be a good way to roast old sets of tires when new rubber comes in.
A cabin in Arnold, Ca. means Calaveras and Big Trees Parks are just a short drive up the mountain. During the summer I try to make time for off-roading some friends. Abandoned logging roads can get gnarly enough to provide some fun in a stock wrangler, but Slick Rock is great if you're up there and looking for a more technical trail.