Sunday, May 11, 2014

Driving Fast And BEST...WIFE...EVER!!!

Richard Petty Driving Experience

One of Lindsey's many talents is that of giving gifts to those around her.  This year, there were the usual delicious special meals and eating out and fun things, but for the big gift she outdid herself this year.

 I'm not at all a fan of NASCAR (though I'm much more favorably disposed toward it now!), but I do love thrill rides, roller coasters, and such, so she thought I might enjoy this.

She was oh so right!

It started with a briefing and some videos talking about how to follow the various markers on the track, when to speed up and slow down, and how to stay on target as we drove around the track for a fast and enjoyable ride.  Family and friends were able to share in the briefing with all of the drivers (there were about 25 in my group), so they got to see and learn everything we did.  These cars weren't the same ones used in the actual NASCAR races, but they were pretty close - any differences boiled down to making it easier/possible for untrained newbies like myself to drive them, like a much softer clutch.  Then they gave us uniforms and fitted us for helmets.

After the training videos and Q&A session, we put on our uniforms and went outside to take pictures (the confetti is left over from Jeff Gordon winning the 5-Hour Energy 400 last night).

Then we went down to the pit road area and waited for our turn to be called.  Family and friends were in the section right next to us, so they were very close for some good photo ops.  I was lucky enough to be the first driver called up, and was paired with a trainer named Bill Bruce.  We were connected to our trainer via our helmets and microphones throughout the drive, and despite the loud cars it was easy to communicate with him.  The trainers were experienced race care drivers who would guide us throughout our drive from the passenger seat.  They strapped the helmet and hans brace (the thingy that keeps your neck in place) onto me, and I slid into the car through the window.  It was surprisingly easy getting in, even for someone of my *ahem* size.  Getting out was another matter, and I'm not going to post that video for obvious reasons.  :)


After that, it was time to drive!  They waved us onto the track one at a time:

I got a total of 8 laps, but the first one was a warm-up lap where I got onto the track and got used to things, and the last one was a cool-down lap where we came back into the pit road, so only six laps really counted.  Here are a couple of the laps in the middle:

They gave us a printout of our stats afterward.  Here are my numbers:

Lap Time        AVG MPH        Top Speed
62:47            86.44              106
61:67            87.57              108
52:25            99.54              120
51:01            105.85            126
51:89            104.06            124
53:86            100.25            120

I had to slow down a bit on the last lap because we were catching up to the guy in front of me and Bill didn't want me to get too close.  Bummer.

I have no idea how 126mph compares with the other drivers, but I can assure you it felt much faster than it looks in those videos!  Those cars were 650hp beasts, and it seemed like even my top speed wasn't really pushing it all that hard.  I was only unnerved at one point, when I was decelerating into a turn after coming out of a fast straightaway - it felt like when you're cornering hard in a normal car, and you start to get that feeling like it might tip over.  But, Bill was apparently unconcerned, and it seems unlikely that at the relatively low speeds I was going that anything bad would have actually happened.  I think I did a very good job of staying between the markers on the track (I'm pretty sure I nailed all of them, actually) and was thus able to make up time on the guy in front of me.  It was a pretty surreal experience to come rocketing out of the turn into a long straightaway and move up close to the wall, just like you see in the movies.  Pure, unadulterated awesome sauce.

So, the nominations for Best Wife of the Year award can close now.  It's done, the voting is over, and the award can be given out now.

Best. Wife. Ever.

Fortunately, I wasn't the only one to get in on the fun:


It was a ton of fun, and I would absolutely do it again.  Loved it!!!

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