me and nascar #99

After this past weekend, I can officially check something off of my lifetime to-do list: push a NASCAR well over 100 on a regulation track. Holy crap, was that fun.

The story is this: as a celebration of my brother-in-law John’s 30th birthday, my sister planned an elaborate trip for eight of us to go to Atlanta and have a blast. The plan was for us to fly down on Friday, get up early Saturday morning and make our way to the Atlanta Motor Speedway to spend a few hours with the NASCARs, bolt off to a Braves game, enjoy dinner at a good steakhouse, and then fly back Sunday. Throughout the week beforehand, a not-insignificant number of emails flew back and forth between the eight of us, some frothing with excitement at the NASCAR opportunity and others hesitantly expressing amazement that it’s even legal for schmucks like us to be put behind the wheel of 750-horsepower beasts of cars. (Of course, there was also one or two that mocked the New Yorker of the group who never bothered to get a driver’s license, or to learn how to drive for that matter, and thus had to be excluded from the NASCAR part of the weekend.)

nascar dashboard warning

Due to some roadwork (and the fact that the Atlanta Motor Speedway isn’t anywhere near Atlanta!), we ended up being about 20 minutes late getting to the racing school, and walked into a room of about 50 people who were all there to drive the cars. There was a half-hour lecture, a quick fitting for our racing suits and helmets, and then we were all given a van tour of the track (during which we learned that not only were there taped-down marks on the track to help us find the best course, but that the actual NASCAR drivers prefer having the marks on the track during races to help them out too!). After that, we were all put into cars with instructors riding shotgun to give us four-lap lessons; we made no friends by, after being late, then being the first people pulled out onto the track. (It turns out that my sister had amazingly arranged with them to help get us to the Braves game on time!) That session was when I learned the following things: (a) NASCARs have toggle switches instead of ignition keys, are louder than you think by an order of magnitude, and don’t have speedometers; (b) the only time that a NASCAR is out of fourth gear is when it’s accelerating up pit row; and (c) instructors aren’t scared to grab the wheel with one hand and redirect the car at 80 miles and hour, all while flicking the ash off of their cigarettes with their other hand.

all of us with dale jr's car

After waiting for the other students to run through their training sessions with the instructors, we were given the go-ahead to climb into our cars sans instructors and pull out onto the track. During the training, we were asked to keep the cars around 3,000 RPM (which ended up translating into around 70 or 75 miles an hour); once out on the track solo, there weren’t any limits to what we could do. I went out with my older brother, my brother-in-law, and his older brother, and it quickly became clear that with youth came stupidity. John and I gunned it right from the start, pushing the cars hard on the straightaways and only slightly less hard in the turns — by the end of our 15 laps, we both ended up lapping our older brothers one or two times. It was a total blast, through and through.

There were four cameras in every car, so once we were all done, we went to the media trailer to buy the DVDs with the footage of our races — just to learn that my sister had again taken care of everything, having arranged for the DVDs to be shipped overnight to their New York apartment so she could distribute them to everyone herself. (In the mean time, I have a few pictures of the outing up on Flickr.) We rushed back into Atlanta and enjoyed a Braves victory, relaxed at our hotel for a little bit, ate a fabulous steak dinner, slapped each other around at ESPN Zone for a little bit, and crashed hard. All in all, it was an awesome mini-vacation, and I’m itching to figure out how I can work another trip to Speedtech racing school into the next few years!


I must say, It sounds like you have a damm cool sister :-)

• Posted by: Paul on Aug 18, 2005, 4:19 PM

So unbelievably cool. I trust that your Boston driving skills came in handy! Any time you want to go to the F1 racetrack in Braintree, let me know.

• Posted by: Steve on Aug 18, 2005, 5:08 PM

Very awesome…..
Tell me that No Ah does not look like more like a “Jockey” in his blue suit than a race car driver! What do those suits do anyway? Keep the piss from spoiling the interiors as the rear end spins out at 125 on the far turn!

• Posted by: Pedro on Aug 18, 2005, 7:58 PM

yo me empezao a aficionado a los nascars y son muy rapidos y me gustan mucho.

• Posted by: fran on Aug 23, 2005, 7:40 AM
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