Don't want to spend the time to build a track and you have a decent budget, then below are some track manufacturers to consider.
Before getting into the track manufacturers, when buying a track, certainly price is a consideration, but there are some other things to keep in mind.
- Type of Track Used at the Next Level - Some organizations have district, regional, council, state and even national races, so it is important to know what type of track they use before you buy a track for a local race. You may put your racers at a disadvantage at the next level if your track is not similar. Differences in track material, length, and type of lane guides can make a big difference in a car's performance. A car that had its design optimized for racing on the local track may end up running poorly on a different type of track.
- Number of Lanes - Most tracks are 4 lanes, followed by 3 lane tracks. Cost is a big factor, as the more lanes you get, the more expensive the track. But also, with more lanes your race will take longer since you have more cars to stage at the start line and retrieve from the finish line. Some manufacturers offer tracks that are expandable, so if your group is small, you can start out with fewer lanes and then add on later. Though, when you do add on, you will likely need to replace some of the joining parts in addition to buying the extra lanes.
- Lane Guides - Tracks have either center or edge guides to keep cars in their lane. With the center guides, the car straddles the guide. Any low hanging weights may cause a problem with this type of lane guide, so you will need to have a underbody clearance check in your rules. With edge guides, low hanging weights are not an issue, but they may not be as effective in keeping a car in its lane. If you want to be able to use your track at an upper level race, having an edge guide track may be a problem since the vast majority of tracks are center guide.
- Length - Tracks start at 32 ft in length and go up from there, usually in 7 or 8 ft increments. A longer track will be more expensive, of course, but it may be necessary to get a longer track due to how fast the track surface is to run on. Generally, on aluminum and plastic tracks, you need more length (around 40 to 42 ft at a minimum). The cars run faster and need more distance to slow down, so they are not crashing to a stop or going off the end of the track. However, you don't want to get too long of a track; otherwise, the slowest cars likely will not finish at all. You also need to make sure the room you will hold the race will be able to accommodate the track's length.
- Durability - You will see all sorts of claims on durability and demonstrations like kids standing on a track section and even motor homes and big tractors rolling over track sections. Does this really tell you how well the track will handle someone dropping something heavy on the track (a more likely scenario)? No. In that scenario, wood can be more easily repaired. With aluminum, you may be able to bang out a dent but it may require you to buy a replacement piece. With plastic, it is less likely to get damaged in such a scenario, but if it does, you'd have to replace that piece. Wooden tracks can last 20 years or more, as long as they care cared for and sealed with polyurethane or similar type of finish.
- Start Gate - When using a timer, for timing consistency, it is important that the start gate be one that requires as little human interaction as possible. It should snap open with with the release of some lever or catch. The speed of the gate opening should not depend on the operator; otherwise, cars may be restricted in their start by a slow opening gate yet the timer has already started.
- Stop Section - A good stop section will stop the car without damaging it. I do not recommend stop sections that "trap" the cars or use foam to slow them, as these are much more likely to knock things off a car or even change the wheel alignment. Stop sections that slow the cars via "belly rubbing" are better choices.
- Storage - A track is a big investment, so it is important that you can protect the track during storage. Some tracks can be stored in their shipping boxes. With other tracks you may need to build a storage crate for them. A track is far more likely to be damaged or have pieces get lost if not stored and transported inside a crate or box. Tracks should be stored where they are not being exposed to sunlight, moisture or extremes in temperature (especially so for the wooden tracks).
- Transport - Tracks generally come in 7 or 8 ft lengths. The 7 ft sections are easier to load into a mini-van or truck with a short bed. Though, I have been able to get our 8 ft sections, in the storage crate, into my wife's mini-van but it is tight. The aluminum tracks can be quite heavy to move in a storage crate, so it helps to get a mover's dolly to roll them around.
- Aluminum: The fastest track surface around, but also the most expensive. Many clubs and packs that go this route are able to rent out their track to other groups to help recover some of the cost. Since it is a very fast surface, you may need to more than 32 feet of length. This is to allow sufficient time for the cars to slow down, so they do not crash to a stop at the finish line. With such a long track, you will need a large room to conduct your race.
- BestTrack - More than just a fast aluminum track surface, it is a complete "all aluminum" track system. Comes in varying lengths.
- Micro Wizard - They offer a very nice aluminum "Freedom Series" track. Their curve section is not actually bent but is flexible enough to curve like a plywood curved section would, so it stores very compactly. Comes in varying lengths. They also have an anodized option, which I think is worth the extra money, as it makes the aluminum surface harder and less prone to scratching and dinging.
- The "Challenger" Pinewood Derby Track - Uses aluminum extruded plating sections to make the track surface, but it still requires you to build a support structure for it, which adds even more to the total cost. If you go by their Challenger plans, the track will be over 53 feet long. The aluminum plating sections are also available through Scoutstuff.org.
- Plastic / Plastic Laminate: The next fastest track surface. Generally, a less expensive alternative to aluminum.
- Derby Magic - A PVC plastic track surface. Has a neat wiring conduit molded into the track. The hard stop at the end of the track is a concern, though.
- SuperTimer Track - An extruded plastic track surface that promises to be pretty fast and durable. However, the support structure being made up of what looks like sprinkler pipe looks chintzy. The stop section is not very gentle on the cars.
- Indy Products Track - Straight incline track with a laminated surface, built on a steel frame and with a flip up start gate. Comes pre-finished.
- Plywood: Maybe not the fastest surface, but if you apply a good smooth polyurethane finish it can still be a very good track with years of racing ahead. This is generally the cheaper option when compared to aluminum or plastic tracks. Since wooden tracks require finishing, you will want to factor in the time and extra cost to finish it.
- Royal Racers - They offer two plywood track designs. One is the typical center guide design and the other is a edge guide design. Their tracks come unfinished.