Unlike a lot of my friends I have never really been a big race car fan, not because I don't find it fascinating, but probably just because I have so many other interests or hobbies. Last year in November I wrote an editorial about my local friends who traveled to the Las Vegas Speedway and drove race cars through the Richard Petty Driving Experience. In the column I made reference to big boys acting like little boys.
I have no idea what I meant by that statement, especially now, after returning from Vegas and having experienced driving over 120 miles an hour on a race track. There were 16 of us from Price that participated in a once-of-a-lifetime thrill.
The driving experience had nothing to do with big boys or little boys because there were a few women enjoying the event too. In fact one lady from Price was one of the fastest drivers on Saturday.
The entire event went like clockwork. Most of us were rookies with only five of our group participating before. The process began with a young lady trying to size us up for our race suits. We all wore matching blue and red coveralls that made us look like mechanics working for an airline company. It is sometimes as hard to fit a slender person as it is someone heavier and finally we found one that I didn't swim around in.
Following a short video we were divided into teams and then the hard part began. I have a tendency to get nervous when I am introduced to a lot of new material all at once and when the young man pointed out all the features of the race car, I was trying desperately to remember every detail. There were way too many switches and lights and I realized I had better understand everything now because when I am cruising the race track at 130 miles an hour it is a little too late to wonder what that switch was for or why they were waiving the green flag at me. Even though there was a lot to remember I just kept going over it and over it in my head and somehow, it stuck.
Reality set in as I climbed into the drivers seat through the window, buckled up, tested the clutch and gave my helmet one quick adjustment. It was like they had put me in front of a small airplane and seconds later would be expected to drive it without any guidance. The space in the small seat was tight and the noise outside loud, but once they fired up the engine the entire outside world went blank. I forgot everything for a split second and as the lead car pulled away I put the race car in first gear, stepped on the gas and I was gone. I remember my teammates telling me to "stay on the gas and drive it like I stole it"
Before I realized it I was racing down the back stretch trying desperately to catch the lead car. At first the corners were tough for me, but the second I got through the corner I floored it until I passed the flag men. I forgot to look up the first lap like I was suppose to and check out the flags which was our only communication.
It was the flagmen who told me to speed up or stay in the lead car tracks. I did speed up a couple times and got too close to the instructor, but he waved his hand and I simply rolled my toe off the gas and backed up a couple car lengths.
Eight laps went by really fast and I was almost unaware of them. I concentrated on holding my line and increasing my speed. This was tricky because there is no speedometer, only a tachometer. I don't think I took a breath until the fourth lap.
Needless to say I had the time of my life. I realized a long time ago that I only live once and its these little perks in life that bring on the most smiles.