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?
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.
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.
With helmet secure, I had to climb aboard. No car door, for obvious safety reasons.
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.