Today was gorgeous weather, perfect for the event after having rain and clouds the last two days! I was nervous and excited with anticipation as I drove to the Texas Motor Speedway early this morning to enjoy my Drive Experience. I have always wanted to do this...my entire life, but to actually be about to do it, created emotions that are hard to explain!
I arrived at the Texas Motor Speedway, checked/signed in, completed the waiver (I had already done the medical questionnaire and waiver online), turned over my drivers license, got my suit, badge, pager (like you get at restaurants expect this one was rectangle and it hangs around your neck) and then I was off for class. Evidently, I didn't get the complete paperwork from Living Social and so though I wasn't late, they like you there early, like an hour plus, so they had to "move me along" and we headed off to the classroom in short order. No big deal they said...I am thinking okay cool! The last thing I wanted to do was now miss out on my BIG experience. Traffic of course getting there was a nightmare and I knew it would be so I had left extra early...Good Thing! In the classroom, there were 3 other woman taking the course...at first I thought there was only one other gal, but there ended up being 3 of us! I wish I could have been inside some of those guys heads when they saw me walk in the room, because their faces were intriguing to watch! LOL!!! You could see these expressions, she is gonna drive? The class was VERY straight forward. They explained the car and that it was a 4 speed race car driven by previous professionals, what the steps were to getting buckled in/out, steering wheel on/off, how the ear buds work in your ear to have communication with your instructor that will be guiding you the entire way around the track, when to shift at what RPMs, how long to stay on the apron, when to get on the straightaway, how fast you were allowed to go (150-160mph as a driver vs 170-180mph in the ride along vs 190mph plus as a professional), how to handle the turns, when to decrease your speed on the checkered flag and put it back in neutral, how to brake, consequences of not following your instructors instructions, etc. They make it clear that if you do not follow the instructions of the instructor, they can and will remotely control your car! If you screw up in any form, they will pull the checkered flag on you and you will bring your car back into the pit. They also stressed to "trust the car". I related to what he meant by that because of what I had experienced on the Ride Along Experience, but later fully understood just how much you need to trust the car, because it will do what it was designed to do! Jessie, the class instructor, did a good job to cover every aspect and then open for Questions & Answers. Class was now completed and we were ready for the track!
We were now off to a final speech at the sidelines of the track...
|The Texas Motor Speedway Race Track|
Sebastian gave us a few repeated instructions and made us the offer to upgrade if we wanted to (I didn't upgrade because I felt the experience I was going to get at my special price was enough for me), and then we were given the opportunity to hang out until our turn. I stood by the gates and watched the drivers take off, how they handled the turns and flew down the straightaway. We were told if you ask "When is my turn?" you will be moved to the end of the line, quickly. When your pager goes off, you then get to head over to get your ear buds tested, a hair net covering piece (similar to the material made of the scrub shoes and hats in the hospital that you have to put on) and your helmet on, then you stand and wait in line. My nerves were good until this point. Seriously...some funny feelings started creeping in. Some crazy feelings. I started having thoughts like: "I can't believe I finally am getting to do this!"......."I sure wish some of my girlfriends were with me (particularly Roni or Jenn)!"......."Will it be scarier than I think?"......my heartbeat increased. Then I thought, "I am glad I am one of the last, I need the time to chill." This might sound crazy, but I then prayed: "Lord, please help me with my nerves, I want to do good, enjoy this experience, the last thing I want to do is screw up!" This helped!!! Believe me. Jessie walked by, evidently he saw my expression and said, "You okay?" I said, "Why do you ask?"...he said "I have seen 'the look'!"...I said, "Yes, I have wanted to do this my entire life, but I am nervous!" He asked "Do I need to be concerned?"...I said, "No, I don't think its like that." He confirmed I would do fine.
Still waiting in line, 6 guys in front of me and waiting my turn...
|I'm nervous...excited...I have wanted to do this my ENTIRE life!|
Both the two girls in the class were ahead of me and when they were done I asked each of them how it was. The first girl was hispanic and her reply made me feel she regretted how fast it went and was over. The second girl was black and her reply was it was awesome, you are going to love it!
Alas, it is my turn. There was a guy for each of the 4 cars on the track to help each driver. Evidently the guy that was helping me thought I was too short or something, so they got a seat and back cushion and added it to the bucket seat. I asked him to take a picture of me by the car.
|It's officially my turn!|
He did and then I climbed in; climbing in with right foot first, left foot second, right shoulder and down under. He checked to make sure I could "reach" the pedals and operate them just fine. I could. He got me strapped in and evidently didn't like how close I was to the steering wheel (I am guessing on this because of his expression - by the way, you are incredibly close to the steering wheel anyways compared to a "normal" car), because he asked if I could go without the back cushion and I said whatever he thought I was fine with because I had never done this before. He unbuckled me and removed it, then I got re-buckled. When I say buckled, you have 5 straps on you to keep you locked in, similar to a kids car seat: strap between the legs, two over the lap, and buckles over both shoulders and arms. He double checked that I could reach the pedals and then took a picture of me ready hit the track in the race car (my new profile picture on Facebook)!!! :) Then the fence guard that gets put up for your "window" was put up and I now "officially ready to go"...
|me in my NASCAR ready to hit the track!|
I only had to wait a few minutes before it was my turn. The guy had me test the clutch and breaks one last time to make sure I could reach them adequately. I asked him if the clutch was finicky (meaning real touchy), he said no. Ladies and Gentlemen...then he started my engine!
Within just a minute or two, my personal instructor was talking to me in my ear. "Hey Misty, can you hear me?"..."Yes Sir!." "Okay, place it in first, and lets roll, slowly go forward." Well, I barely got to rolling and killed it. The crowd of onlookers laughed. I didn't have it in gear good enough, and it is nothing like the gear shift of my Honda Civic(s) that I have had...so it really was a simple thing, truly not funny, but it was okay. I knew (even if the crowd or my instructor didn't) I knew how to drive a stick and wasn't going to let their laughing ruin my experience and I knew they didn't know what happened, it was probably just a bunch of guys that didn't think I could drive this car! But that was okay, just you wait...yup, those were my thoughts! just you wait!!!
My instructor talked to me the first little bit non-stop. It in some ways was unnerving because you are trying to focus on getting thru pit lane, around the corner of the apron, the RPM gauge that is on the lower left, the fact that the speedometer is totally in a different position and more "in front" of you than you can used to on a typical vehicle, etc. Your right hand is close to the red button that you have to push each time you need to communicate back with the instructor, on top of the fact that you are doing something you have NEVER done before! Plus, remember, that you must pay very close attention to what the instructor is telling you because they are your eyes on the track to what is going on around you and behind you, all you really are doing is driving and focusing on what is in front of you. He told me to change gears every 3000 RPMs. I did. As instructed in class, he told me to be in 4th gear by the 2nd turn. I was. He told me to stay on the apron until he gave me clearance to move over. I did. Now that I was on the out on the race track driving a race car "all on my own", it was a funny feeling...but at the same time it was an Absolutely Incredibly Awesome Experience! I don't relate to RPMs vs MPH (I am sure there is some simple math conversion, but I know nothing of it) so I still don't know how fast I was going in the turns and I really didn't try to figure it out or focus on it. I was focused on staying the 5' away from the white line by the apron and 10' from the wall. I feel I was so focused on the first lap, just trying to get a "feel" for the car and the track, so much so, that you really don't enjoy or even feel the experience because you are so into the mechanical aspect of what you are doing. The instructor then told me that I could bring my speed up, so I did...I don't really know if it was as far as he said I could because I truly couldn't focus on the RPMs and drive, I brought it up to where I felt comfortable. You are so into it, turn one, two, three and four all start becoming just another turn, so it is really hard to know how many laps you have gone or how many you have left to go. Paying attention to my dashboard just wasn't going to happen. There probably was some gauge on there telling me something...but I saw only the track and that was my focus! They gauge you on how you are handling the car and allow you to go faster depending on various things. I now was into this lap! I simply wanted to have fun...really have fun...I wasn't out to break the record, though believe me, that would have been really fun!!! The instructor would tell you when someone was fixing to pass you on your right (the Ride Along Car and other drivers on the track). I got passed twice. He would tell you little things, make comments, check in and see how you were doing. It was more communication then I thought I would have and so it sort of took a little getting used to.
But let me tell you, the feeling was different this time then when I did the Ride Along Experience, for two reasons. One, I had a basic understanding on how it would feel, a pull on your body as you head into the curve, the way the car totally handles the turn and doesn't flip and is totally smooth, you are in total control of the wheel, it has awesome traction, the impact as you pull out of the curve and gain speed to head down the side-away, the fast passed beating of your heart, the exhilarating fun that it feels!!! I have never experienced anything like it. Two, I was experiencing this experience now as the driver, which is the way I am in a car nearly 100% of the time! I don't relate to the shotgun/passenger side of the car since I typically drive alone...so it made the experience more "real" and "live" to me in a different way then the ride along experience did.
My Drive Experience actually changed for me when I got passed by the Ride Along Car...it took the experience to a whole new level! The Ride Along Car passed and was now right in front of me. I loved it!!! I now had something to gauge beyond just my vehicle out on the track (and four other drivers though I couldn't see them) and with that vehicle in front of me that I could try to keep up with someone...and my instructor was impressed..."Way to Go Misty!"......."You think you can get right up on his bumper? Go for it!"....well, I didn't really try to do that, but I tried to keep the pace we had between us and that I did! I increased my speed and felt the car do what they said it would do when it reaches "the chip" and so I leveled off at that speed, whatever "that" was. We had been instructed in class to shoot for 4995 RPMs. Then it was the last lap and time to bring it in. He told me at the next turn to take to the apron...well I thought that mean this turn so I did, a turn too soon and he was like, "No, not yet." ...so I got back on the track. He said "Nice job". I apologized and said "Sorry, I thought you meant now." I cruised on the apron allowing the car to decrease its speed on its own, pumping my brakes as they told me to do, headed down the last turn into pit lane and pulled into Lane #1, my lane. The last bit of communication between me and my instructor, he wasn't getting any of my replies. I am not sure what happened, if I didn't hit the button hard enough or long enough, but it worried him...but I was fine. It was a little bit disconcerting since I knew he was concerned, but I knew I was okay.
It was over, my 5 minutes went soooooOOOOOOOooooooo FAST, but it was an AWESOME experience! I would say it was all that I thought it would be in a racing experience!
The assistant undid my window, buckles and helped me out of the car. He asked me how it was and of course, I said "AWESOME!!! I have wanted to do this forever!" The second assistant took off my helmet. I then went and got my picture made. As I waited for my Driving Certificate and Picture, I reflected:
My experience with the NASCAR Racing Experience was Incredible!!! I absolutely Loved every second of it! Went WAAAYYYYYYYYYYY too fast (no pun intended)...
I got my paperwork...my official NASCAR Racing Experience Practice Certificate, my highest speed was clocked at 145.81mph!!! Wow! The gals at the service center said that that was pretty incredible for a FIRST Time Ever experience!!! One of them didn't think that she could do that well. She said that the highest someone usually gets is about 156mph. :) Not too bad for a 1st shot, huh? The guys wanted to know what my husband/boyfriend was going to say about my speed. It was funny, but I said "I don't have one, so nothing!" :) They laughed and Congratulated me. It was really quite a funny thing...(you might not think so, but you would have had to have been there, they were waiting on my every word for a response).
I have since been asked questions about my experience:
"Were you scared?"
Yes and no. I was scared in the sense that I had never done this before and wasn't totally prepared for the feeling of being behind the wheel driving an official Race Car, but not so scared that I couldn't or wouldn't do it!
"Was it what you thought it would be?"
Yes! Absolutely!!! and more so!
"Would you do it again?"
Yes, if I had a chance at 50% or more like I did this time, I would do it all over again. It was absolutely worth it.
I stopped and ate lunch at my favorite sushi restaurant on the way home (after doing a pickup at my clients office) and showed her the pictures of my experience. She said "Misty, I never would have dreamed that of you. It doesn't fit the picture of you!" Totally made me laugh.
I have always been a FAN of racing (even if I have never been to a race I have seen a few INDY500's on TV) and the idea of racing and going really fast was such a BLAST...a complete THRILL! It was the best $33.80 a minute I have EVER spent!!! :) There is nothing like the NASCAR Racing Experience!!! You will have to experience it yourself in order to understand...and relate...and enjoy! Believe me when I say...it is AWESOME! Just so you know, I hope God has a NASCAR Race Track in Heaven for me on Streets of Gold because I wanna RACE when I get to Heaven! Oh and this is totally going to be an event that I scrapbook and add to My Life Story! In the meantime, I will go have sweet dreams of 145.81mph!!!