What does somebody who
unintentionally puts racing stripes on cars because she can’t
parallel park (I was born without that gene) know from NASCAR?
Not enough to fill even a little bit of a stock car gas tank.
Listen to me; you’d never know less than a week ago I wasn’t
even sure what a stock car was.
I had a five-speed Mazda Miata convertible forever that they
practically had to pry me out of after I traded it in; I loved
it that much. Does that count?
At Pocono Raceway
Sure, I knew some of the names: Earnhardt. Andretti. Petty. And
my sister lives near the Charlotte Motor Speedway. More often
than not, that thunder I’d hear during a visit had nothing to do
with the weather.
A gazillion fans couldn’t be wrong. So I decided to head to
Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania to find out what the deal was.
I’d done some homework so I wouldn’t make
a complete donkey out of myself. I confess I watched a trailer
Nights, the Ballad of Ricky Bobby,
but wasn’t keen on seeing the whole movie even though it had
Sacha Baron Cohen in it. (A little bit of Will Ferrell is too
Its over-the-top spoof boiled down the differences between
NASCAR and Formula One to their most-basic: Do you have beer or
champagne tastes, and would you rather hang out with down-home
But seriously, it’s things like car design and engineering, race
course and race length that separate the two.
NASCAR vehicles, or stock cars, look like
your average Ford, Chevy or Toyota on the outside, with race-car
insides. Formula One cars are sleek, and according to anF1
more in common with jet fighters. Whoa.
There are many more technicalities I’m not qualified to get
into, so I won’t even try.
Pocono has a nifty attraction for
to drive a real stock car like
the big guys. But since I’m not big, it was suggested I do a
ride-along. That was fine with me.
I did sit in on the safety class. Very serious stuff, as it
should be when the lives of so many visitors are on the line.When it was my ticket to ride,
I was happy to put on the neat racing gear, but why did I need
it as a passenger? Because it was fireproof. Ow-kaythen.
With helmet secure, I had to climb aboard. No car door, for
obvious safety reasons.
Ground Control to Major Tom …
It was a relief to find out my driver was Steve Fox, chief
instructor at Pocono’s Stock Car Racing Experience, and a
seasoned pro. I was just about holding my breath, trying to will
myself not to get carsick (a little late for that).It was like taking the Concorde
to the grocery store. I couldn’t stop giggling. The ride was
surprisingly smooth; the turns weren’t as jarring as I feared
they’d be. Three laps; more than seven miles. At 150 miles an
hour. I know these cars are capable of much more, but that was
home, I was still
high from the experience, but stuck to the speed limit.
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