Right on, chknhwk! HPDE should be the norm, not the exception IMO! Although HPDE wasn't really a concept when I took driver's ed., our instructors did allow the more advanced students do things like spin-outs and panic stops to get the feel for how cars behave at and beyond their limits. (This was long before electronic controls; not even ABS.) Although not a lot of my teenage peers could successfully use something like opposite lock steering, or resist the urge to panic and continue to drive the car when something exceptional happened, those of us who did had a real edge.
Good "bang for the buck" advice too! IME, mods that were the best bang for the buck in one model year can be a lot of wasted effort in other model years. That's one of the reasons why I only buy cars with plenty of aftermarket parts support, and a large enthusiast community for that exact make and model.
As an example, one model of car that was well known to respond well to swapping in full length tubular headers to replace the factory "shorty" headers was the biggest bang for the buck mod. But the same model with the new style motors went back to cast iron "log" manifolds. Thanks to the collective experience of the community, I didn't waste my time and money on headers (that were a tough install for a lot less gains than before) and spent my money on a 3.73 final drive (giving more grunt to the smaller displacement motors) and a computer tune. I never would have figured that out on my own!
If you have a speed shop with a chassis dyno
nearby, that's the best way to do a computer tune (something you'll want to do on any EFI motor), and a great way to measure just how efficacious other mods really are.