This Saturday I finally cashed in on my greatest birthday present to date - I went to Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte NC and drove a Winston Cup car (I mean NEXTEL CUP)! I can't begin to tell you how much fun I had and what a thrill it was. It wasn't thrilling in the "I was scared for my life" sort of way, but rather just to get a taste of what it was like to go that fast with that much horsepower under you was unreal.After reading this, feel free to check out the video I made of the experience.
The program was with The Richard Petty Driving Experience, and after some instruction I started out with a 3-lap ride-along, driven by one of the Petty instructors. I was able to get in the #8 Budweiser Chevy (just a nice bonus), and the acceleration in that thing was astounding. Going into the turns took your breath away as the g-forces pulled you up the track towards the wall, yet the car just stuck and went on around. I imagine that we went at least 165 miles an hour, and it was as smooth as can be. My legs were weak when I got out of the car, but 3 laps was nowhere near enough.
Soon it was time for my 8 laps driving, by myself (I thought that there was going to be an instructor in the car with me). They make it very easy for you - simply follow the pace car in front of you, staying right in their tracks. They pick the best line around the track, and as you show them that you can keep up, they will speed up. At first I was just amazed to be driving - it seemed surreal, and I had to remember that they wanted me up close to the pace car. As we got going faster and faster, all I could do was grin and yell for joy. It was not very hard to control the car - they are built to go fast and turn left, after all. But it was a thrill to go that fast, that near to being out of control, yet feel like the car would do whatever you want.
The image that sticks in my head the most is being in the middle of turn 3 - you just feel swallowed by the track because the banking is so high - you see pavement above and pavement below. (At the start of the day they took us around the track in a 15-passenger van, and at one point they stopped in the middle of a turn, and you just sort of hung there sideways).
As I got more comfortable, the speeds picked up, and it began to feel like I was really doing it. They had rules about when to get out of the throttle (there were cones on the track for when to give it gas and when to ease up in the turns), and the longer I went, the harder it was to hold off on mashing the gas until getting to the proper cone.The power that those cars have is unreal. In my car, you can be going fast and give it gas and it takes a little while to respond. There is no wait time with these. You hit it, the car GOES! After driving, I was tempted to think, "That's not so hard, what they do each Sunday." Then I remembered that their top speeds are more than 60 miles an hour faster, and they do it with 43 other cars all around them. Not that easy.
I noticed that a lot of the folks there had their friends/family/wives take a ride-along, and so I asked Diane if she wanted to take a ride-along. How often would we have this chance? So, after thinking a moment, she took me up on it, signed up, and soon was off for her own ride. I was glad that she was brave enough to try it, and she had a great time.Jacob was there, too, and unbelievably he slept through most of it! My friend Chris has a great blog post about taking his son to a race, and his contentment in noise is a picture of our opportunity to rest in Christ.
So, thank you to everyone who contributed towards this awesome gift. Special thanks to Diane and to Brian Walker, who organized the gift and who went with me to cheer me on. I hate to say it, but I think I need to do this again someday!