After driving through the under track tunnel and into the infield we began our morning with a 9 o’clock check-in. We were part of the 10 A.M. group which included about fifty drivers; there were three females in our group, Sara, me and another lady. We received our one piece fire suits, audio headsets, pagers and
5 x 7 photo vouchers. After dressing in our fire suits we stood in pit row and watched in anticipation as other drivers prepared for their turn to drive until it was time for our 9:30 A.M. photo shoot with the NASCAR Experience car.
After finishing photos we half undressed from our fire suits (it was hot, record breaking temperatures for September in Charlotte) and we were escorted to the garage for our driver’s meeting. The hour long meeting started with an informative video presentation followed with an over view and question/answer session with a crew chief. We learned about track terminology…apron, turns, rpms, back stretch, spotter and more importantly we also learned about safety.
After our meeting we headed back to pit row and waited for our pager to go off signaling it was our turn to get ready to drive. Cars were assigned to us by driver size since the car seats were made for specific drivers. (Everyone that follows NASCAR knows that Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are not the same body size.)
In the helmet area we were fitted with our helmets and used our headsets to be connected with our spotter for our in-car communications. Our headsets were taped into our ears before we were fitted for our helmets and the headsets were checked to make sure they were functioning correctly, our only source of communication with our spotter since we were alone in our cars.
There were ten cars on the 1 ½ mile oval track as we raced, eight driver experience cars and two ride-along cars. I was the last of our group (husband, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend) to drive. I was assigned the #07 Clint Bowyer Jack Daniels car.
I walked to my car, had a neck collar put on and climbed through the window before my steering wheel was put on and my window net was put up. Then I was off, shifting every 2500 rpm’s before exiting pit row in fourth gear. We were instructed to stay on the apron until we hit the back stretch or for some until completing a full lap. My spotter had me on the track by turn three. There was no lead or pace car, I was on my own.
My top speed was 148.77 miles per hour, which is very close to the 150 miles per hour top speed allowed by the restrictors on the cars. The riding along cars (a different NASCAR experience) top speed is 180 miles per hour but they were driven by professional drivers. At one point while I was driving my spotter said to me “Stay low, stay low, the #18 Kyle Busch car is going to pass you.” It wasn’t Kyle Busch driving but it was his car. The five minute time limit only allowed me four laps before I got my “checkered flag”; to drive more laps a more expensive driving package would have had to be purchased.
The NASCAR driving experience is a total adrenalin rush, you can feel a G force against you as you round the turns. I can now see how the drivers loving the feeling of being behind the wheel on race day. Since I will never blast off into space or be behind the controls of a jet airplane it was probably the fastest I will ever go legally. It is as real as it gets!! Upon completion we received a certificate of completion, an honorary racing license and our photo.
It was definitely a “Bucket List” “Things to do before you die” activity and a memory we will talk about often!!