I race, mostly amateur, about 12 events a year, usually a single-seater, on road courses. I’m also a totally incompetent auto mechanic. I have ample funds. And I’m not married. So your motivation for lapping the US is probably different from mine. Just remember: There Are No Rules. You can go in clueless and still survive. And sufficient cash can fill in the gaps.
Since I have always provided the vehicle, I always get to make the car rules. These have evolved from my first 1 Lap in 1998. The person driving is in charge, except for the following few exceptions. Each driving stint is one gas tank, unless the passenger permits a second. If the driver is hallucinating (from exhaustion), he must stop, and inform the passenger. The driver may not arbitrarily decide to “test the nitrous on the interstate”. Since there will undoubtedly be speeding by some of the participants, even if you don’t, you may be assumed guilty by association. Join AAA and bring bail money. Cash can sometimes open cell doors. Bring plenty, and a credit card. Checks are useless. Travelers checks are for weenies.
Most of my recommendations assume you (1) you don’t have a roll cage, (2) you have OEM seats, and (3) you have plenty of room in your car. I try to provide enough reasoning so you can make your own priorities appropriate to your car space. The fact that you have to load and unload the car at least once a day shouldn’t be a deterrent to taking as much crap as you want to. You should try to bring anything you think might be useful (as long as there’s room). Reading material, including but not limited to men’s magazines, is useful for killing time during the day at the track. Pack your stuff (except clothes) into plastic storage bins, available at Staples, Wal-Mart, etc. They’re waterproof, and most come with snap-locking lids. (With less cargo space, use soft-sided duffel bags instead of plastic boxes.) You need to bring a suitcase/bag for your clothes, in case you need to bail out and fly home. Leave some room for stuff you’ll acquire on the trip. Have an empty smaller plastic box for all the loose shit in the car: radar detector, dg’s, change, etc. Bring 2 tarps, one for the bottom, one for the top. And don't forget the duct tape!
You will need to be able to sleep in the car. The front passenger seat needs to be reclinable, and somewhat comfortable. Bring a pillow. Bring an air freshener. You’ll need it. You’ll want to sleep during the day, at the track. Bring an air mattress; you can get one with a compressor attached and a car plug-in. Bring earplugs. Bring 1 sleeping bag.
Don’t wear out the event tires by using them before. Figure out how much you need to over-inflate the tires for optimal handling on track. Bring a pressure gauge. Get 5 event tires; mount the spare.
Your codriver needs to be competent, not trustworthy. A stranger with driving experience, especially at speed, is a far better codriver than a friend with average driving skills, at least as far as being able to sleep with him at the wheel. Your codriver needs to be flexible and easy-going; and so do you. You will get irritable days 3-5, from lack of sleep. Dealing with unpleasant surprises (flat tire, mindless cellphone SUV traffic, belligerent semi drivers) makes it worse. Some ways to deal with the exhaustion depression are (1) if Brock can do it....,(2) some richer or more famous or more egotistical other participants feel just as bad as you do, if not worse.
You won’t finish as high as you expect to. But by the end of the week, most of us become members of the 1 Lap family, instead of individual competitors. My first year, we had one car to beat for 1st in class. We went from hoping they’d break down, to stopping to help when they did. (And they killed us in class.) Still, we got a trophy for 2nd. Don’t decide you won’t do well until its obvious, probably by day 3. And by then, you won’t care as much.
Do not over-prepare (unless you like that sort of thing). If your car space is really tight, drag a trailer or get a roofrack. Don’t practice packing and unpacking; its not a timed event. If you want to pretend it’s a rally, and calibrate your speedometer, and use the milage in the route book, go ahead. Its not necessary. I don’t do it. On the other hand, it probably relieves some of the mind-numbing boredom generated by interstate travel. This is probably the worst way to experience the scenic splendor of the USA, trapped in a car with limited room and a smelly guy, driving mostly at night, and usually exhausted. On the other hand, you get to experience new tracks, watch some unusual racetrack driving, see some very unusual racecars, and drive amidst them, and sometimes meet minor celebrities. Some entrants even BBQ, or seek out erotic entertainment. Save your energy for generating notoriety, don’t waste it “smelling the roses”.
sunblock; lotion for after you forget to use the sunblock; Swiss Army knife or similar multi-utensiled device; a brimmed hat; dark glasses; a coffee mug (although you might get one free at registration, and otherwise they’re widely available at truckstops); a flashlight; a camera; an umbrella; equipment for applying decals (bucket, soap, squeegy thingys, an exacto knife) and beautifying the car (sponges, car wax, rags); an alarm clock; a helmet (make sure its legal); vitamins; antacids; aspirin...