Making like a big wheel at NASCAR

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 for Talladega 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 much, IMO.)

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 or snooty?

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 an F1 website, have 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 thrill-seekers: the chance 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-kay then.

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 Poconos 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 about my speed limit.

Driving home, I was still high from the experience, but stuck to the speed limit.

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4 Responses to Making like a big wheel at NASCAR

  1. Laura, you are a wild one or a wild cat???? Or just wild. I love this. I’d be so scared I’d be the one hiding under the seat. Looks like so much fun. I love the pics and the writing is great.

  2. Ha, you guys are so funny. Glad you liked.

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