I Wanna Go Fast!
By Leah Bredemeyer | email@example.com
Our intrepid writer, Leah, is on a mission to scratch as many items off her bucket list as possible. From parachuting to spelunking, Leah has made significant progress in experincing more than most folks. Her most recent adventure on this quest was to quench her need for speed.
I’ve always had a problem keeping my speedometer at the legal speed. My lead foot always pushes down on the accelerator and tries to get me into trouble. If my car didn’t have cruise control, I would have many more speeding tickets – that’s for sure! Because of this love of speed, I jumped at the chance to ride with a professional driver in an authentic NASCAR stock car at the San Antonio Speedway track.
As I walked closer to the San Antonio Speedway track, the sound of revving engines started my blood pumping just a bit faster. The smell of burned rubber made me pick up the pace. In the past, I’ve watched races on amateur tracks, but I have never actually been in a car on the track. When I looked out across the track at the cars flying around the curves, I knew that today is going to be one heck of a ride.
As I was waiting with the other riders for my turn, I am surprisingly calm. I giggle at the kid sitting next to me and his nervous tick. His bouncing leg reminds me of a Wylie E. Coyote episode when he accidentally ingests earthquake pills. Of course his whole body wasn’t vibrating, but I swear that leg was trying it’s hardest to beat a hole into the pavement.
While the first rider was getting ready for her run, the rest of us were suiting up in our lovely red jumpsuits. I understand the need for protection, but those suits are not flattering. I felt like I was putting on footie pajamas, and no adult should be wearing those! I was also thankful that it was a slightly mild weather day, because those suits get hot!
Even though I had to patiently wait my turn, I was really glad I wasn’t first in line. The first person to go in our group was the only other girl. As the driver started the car (quite loud by the way) and took off onto the track, a saying that my track coach used to tell us popped into my head, “Go fast and turn left.” Since the SA Speedway is an oval track, this is exactly what the cars were doing. Fast is an understatement on a track. He was going at least 70 mph on the curves and around 120 mph on the straightaways.
As the driver sped around the track, the smile on my face grew wider and wider. Then the car spun out around the south corner and skidded to a stop. My smile faltered and my heart dropped. That is exactly why I wasn’t driving that day. I consider myself as a somewhat safe driver on the highway, but I know on a speedway, all bets would be off. Luckily no one else was on the track at that time, so the professional driver gunned off like nothing had happened. Oh hello, nerves. There you are.
One by one, each person before me got their turn in the passenger seat and finally my turn comes along. As I get strapped into the four-point harness, I check out my surroundings inside the car. Built for safety, but not comfort, the car is outfitted with a roll bar and the bare minimum of everything else. Besides the controls and gauges, there was no carpet, decorative accents or anything commercial at all. This car is for sure made for speed, and that’s it.
While my driver and I waited for there to be an opening for entry onto the track, I asked him what happened with the spin-out. He said he hadn’t spun-out in ages and thinks the track was the problem. He pointed out a spot right before the curve that was patched. He said that he must have hit it just right and it caused him to go out of control. I then told him if it happens during my ride, I probably won’t have control of what comes out of my mouth.
Finally, we get the green light and we’re off. I am instantly thrown back in my seat when he accelerates. Going 70 mph in a race car is completely different than 70 mph in my own car. For one, I felt every single bump we went over. I eventually got used to his acceleration on the straightaways and breaking for the curves, at which point I was very grateful for the harness. The more laps we went around, the bigger my smile got. I can’t remember how many laps we had gone around, when it happened – the spin-out.
I’m guessing we hit that patch of asphalt just right because all of a sudden we were spinning. I instantly brought my arms and legs up to my chest thinking if I make myself as small as possible it wouldn’t be as bad. As we were spinning I looked out the mesh “window” at the car behind that was coming straight at me. I don’t remember if I squealed or spoke any sailor words, but I just knew this was going to hurt. And then nothing happened. Everything was silent. My immediate thought was, “Thank GOD my Mom isn’t here watching this.” She would have had a heart attack! I slowly let my legs and arms drop and looked over to the driver. His word to me – “Whoops.” Whoops?!? I think I had finally started breathing again at this time. I am so grateful that the program (Rusty Wallace Racing Experience) had a spotter watching out for us. And I’m so thankful for good breaks.
After a few normal laps, we swung into the pit lane and my ride was over. Then I had the joy of getting out of the car, which was much harder than getting in. For those who don’t know, race car doors do not open. You get in and out through the window. With all the adrenaline going through my system and having my arms and legs feeling like jelly from the spin-out, I was barely able to haul myself out. Luckily I did, and I was tempted to kiss the ground, but decided that would probably hurt my driver’s feelings.
I’m sure I was a sight to see walking away from the car, because I’m pretty sure my eyes were as big as saucers, but I also had the biggest, goofiest grin on my face. It was really quite a ride. Somehow I made it across the track and back to my car, even on shaky legs. Once I settled into the safety of my comfortable car, I just sat there for a few beats, trying to get my heart rate back to a somewhat normal pace. Especially, because I had to call my Mom to let her know I survived.
All-in-all, the ride-along was one of the best adventures I’ve done in my life. I’m glad that I’m smart enough to realize that me getting behind the wheel of one of those cars isn’t a wise choice. I’m sure my lead foot would have had a field day, but then I would have had an even harder time driving normally after my experience. My cruise control really came in handy that day!