As a NASCAR fan, possibly the most annoying phrase in existence is “Why do you like NASCAR? It’s just people driving in circles…” which is followed by a dim-witted explanation of how anyone can drive in a circle at 200mph for several hours. Not every non-NASCAR fan feels that way, but needless to say, the majority of us have heard that commentary at least once in our life’s.
Even we as fans – I know I’m guilty of it – tend to undermine the difficulty of the sport at times. We have all screamed impossible demands at our drivers through the TV, only to be disappointed if they fail to adhere to them, because we forget how tough the demands are to fulfill.
On Saturday, I was vividly reminded of the difficulties of driving a race car. One can imagine how strenuous it is to drive, especially if they have seen a NASCAR race in person, but experiencing the force of a Cup car from the passenger seat is truly mind-blowing.
The NASCAR Racing Experience stopped by Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend, running their fleet of stock cars around the track with professionals – and amateurs – behind the wheel.
I participated in the ride-along experience, which consisted of four fast laps, and a predicted top-speed of 160mph. The driver, Kevin, got up to speed on the apron in turns one and two, and launched the car into three and four at an exhilarating speed, shifting my body from side-to-side. The down force on the car in the twenty-four degree banked turns left my body feeling discombobulated, and as if the weight of the world was pressing down on me.
Exiting the turns, the car felt as light as a feather as it wiggled towards the outside wall. The task of keeping the car straight was put in perspective for me, as well as the tedious wheel movements that are associated with it. But the lightness of the car was lost in a matter of seconds as we dove back into the turns, and the incredible down force returned.
Everything on the track, including the other cars, went by in a blur. The changes in pressure on the race car made me feel as if I had ridden a roller coaster a few too many times, minus the queasiness. Four laps went by in a flash, and though my mind craved more laps around the track, my body felt as if it had just been through 500 miles of action-packed racing.
After it was all said and done, the difficulties of NASCAR, or any professional racing for that matter, were reiterated in my mind in a whole new way. To have the endurance – and the talent – to keep that race car in line for hours-on-end is unfathomable. My body could barely stand four laps of that pressure, being swayed back and forth on the straightaways and the turns; but to add steering, shifting, accelerating, decelerating, and driving through traffic to that equation? I couldn’t even imagine it.
Needless to say, though I acknowledged the difficulties before, I have a whole new, and much more vivid, perspective on driving a race car… and I wish the people that claim NASCAR to be solely “driving in circles” could participate in the NASCAR Racing Experience. It would change their outlook on the sport entirely.
By Alanis King