Almost everyone knows the purported Native American saying, “Before I judge a man, let me first walk a mile in his moccasins.”
Well, last week I had the opportunity to ride some laps through the Richard Petty Driving Experience. It was part of my last year’s Christmas gift. I didn’t drive but did the “ride-along”. Actually, I felt it important to attempt to experience some of what it’s like to be on the track if I’m going to talk and teach about NASCAR. It was, indeed, an enlightening experience.
The experience overall was rather authentic. Donned a firesuit (although I’m not sure about the “fire” part), helmet, and HANS device. Climbed through the window (passenger side!), got strapped in (reminded me of “Apollo 13” with Tom Hanks when the astronauts were strapped in by the technicians who really pulled hard on the belts). I turned to my driver, introduced myself, and said, “Pocono, 500 miles, no way!”
The acceleration was about as expected, as was the roar of the car. However, since we didn’t pass anyone, I didn’t have a real sense of speed, although I was told we turned around 120 mph. What caught my attention was the “G” forces going into and coming out of the turns (this was at Richmond Int’l Raceway, a ¾ mile track that has a good banking to it).
Additionally, I was struck by how confined I was — and my seat was designed to accommodate a variety of body shapes and sizes. I recognized quickly that a driver cannot be claustrophobic and be a racer in one of these cars. And then the thought really sank in that being in that driver’s seat for 400 or 500 laps or miles must put a tremendous stress on one both physically and mentally.
And thus I offer you this observation. The next time you’re quick to say, “Dumb move, Stupid!” keep in mind what has been happening to “Stupid” and what physical and mental stress that driver has been under. The pop phrase is “red mist.” Well, if Kurt or Tony or – name the driver you love to bash — experiences “red mist,” drive a mile in his firesuit.
And, finally, I would strongly recommend you consider any of the driving experiences that might come your way. It’s AWESOME, as those of you who have done this experience knows. I’m saving my coins so I can do my “rookie experience.”
Keep in touch.