By on October 10, 2013

PIC1
It’s not every day you’re offered an opportunity to drive a 500 horsepower actual race used NASCAR, so you can imagine my excitement when my dad presented me with a gift card to the NASCAR Racing Experience for Christmas last year. After all the wrapping paper was put away, I realized I had the hardest decision of my whole life ahead of me.

 

The NASCAR Racing Experience gift card can also be used at the Mario Andretti Racing Experience, so I had to make a decision over what obscenely powerful racecar I wanted to drive. It would be too embarrassing to share with you how much time I spent making this decision over the next few months, but in the end I choose NASCAR. It came down to the fact that (according to their website) the Mario Andretti Racing Experience uses “Actual Indy-Styled Race Cars”, whereas the NASCAR Racing Experience uses “Real NASCAR Race Cars that were driven by NASCAR drivers.”

I’m sure the open wheeled cars are cool, but they are NOT Indycars and don’t even try to look like them. Knowing I would be driving an actual NASCAR seemed pretty cool to me. Plus, knowing my inexperience driving anything at high speeds, I figured I’d get behind the wheel of the open cockpit “Indy-styled” car and go no more than 40mph and while thinking that I was setting a record pace. I figured I could handle a NASCAR reasonably well, which of course would totally impress my wife (despite being married 9 years I still forget woman think different than men). So NASCAR it was.

PIC2

There are different packages available including a 5-minute and 8-minute drive, and ride along programs. I did the 8-minute drive, which runs $464 +tax and $35 driver fee (There are many discount codes out there, so be sure to look around before buying). To ride as a passenger in a two-seater NASCAR is $129.

The 8-minute drive is actually what they consider the ‘3-Hour Experience’. I had to arrive at 9:15am for my 10:00am experience. After signing in at the trailer and being told to put on my racing suit, I was given a pager and told to wait until 9:45 for the training session. The training session takes place in the track’s media center, which as a race fan, is a fun place to see in person.

PIC3

There were 45 drivers plus family and friends that were shown a 1/2 hour video explaining how to get out of the car in the case of wreck and what racing line we should take. The Bondurant Driving School THIS IS NOT. Unfortunately, when the video was done, we were told the racing line we were just taught about doesn’t actually apply here. We wouldn’t be driving “10 feet from the outside wall, driving between the dots painted on the track, and diving to the inside of each turn” as the video instructed. Instead, we were supposed to stay in the bottom 2 lanes of the track all the way around. That was disappointing. Also weird: the video opened with a shot of Dale Earnhardt Sr.- hardly comforting, as my nerves were increasing exponentially. The video ended with a thorough question and answer time (the instructors was very patient) before we were to head to the track for another meeting. We met a man there who for some reason told us exactly what we were just told in the media center. Then it was time to wait. And wait.

PIC4

By chance I happened to be the last person from my group called to the track at about 12:15pm. There I was given ear buds (which I got to keep!), a head sock, and my helmet. Then waited another 10 minutes.

PIC5

Apparently, we were assigned to cars based on our height and weight to most closely align with the NASCAR driver who the car was built for since the seats and steering wheels aren’t adjustable. I said a quick prayer that I didn’t end up with Tony Stewart’s ride.

PIC6

There were recognizable cars there including Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick’s Impalas, plus a few cars I’d never seen before. I was put in Carl Edwards #99 Ford Fusion (I’m 6’0, Edwards is 6’1”), except that this was one painted up with Magnaflow logos. When I asked about the car I was told it had Magnaflow on it because they provided the exhausts for the school in exchange for the logo on the car. If I’m honest with you readers, I was a little disappointed. I wanted to drive the Mountain Dew #88 (some say I look like Dale Jr) or the Lowes #48 or something that I could see on Sunday’s and tell my kids that I drove the car. As far as I can tell, there has never been a Magnaflow car. No big deal though, it was still Carl Edwards’ car, just repainted. At least I wouldn’t be wasting money on die-casts of the car for years to come. Most of the cars in use appear to be about 2-3 years old.

Once the previous driver returned the #99 to pit lane, I was walked out to the rear of the car. I noticed it had plenty of scratches and dents in the body, and the spoiler was actually cracked all the way through in one section. No time to dwell on the handling implications of that, because before I knew it they were helping me get in.

PIC7

At this point, I should share the two skills needed in order to participate in this experience: The ability to drive stick (which is never mentioned beforehand), and the ability to get your leg up about waist high. In my mind I pictured myself very Bo Duke like sliding into the car with cool oozing off me. Unfortunately, there is just no graceful way to get into a NASCAR: no doors, roll cage in the way, a giant helmet on, and me being very inflexible meant it was a tight fit.

PIC8

Inside, there’s the usual five-point harness, but no HANS device, just a foam collar for my neck. I had to remind myself at that point that Kentucky has the SAFER barriers, but it didn’t do much for my nerves. I was surprised at how relatively quiet the car sounded from inside the cabin. With the ear buds in and helmet on, it was much louder for the spectators than drivers. I was able to clearly hear my spotter that would be guiding me around. The rear view mirror provides much more of a view than you’d think. As you can see in the following picture, the front windshield was very scratched up right in my line of sight.

PIC9

The steering column sits right between the accelerator and brake pedals, meaning no heel-toe for me. Well that, and the fact that I’m not entirely sure what heel-toe is, and that you don’t actually shift once you are up to speed. Other than that though, I totally would have mastered it. For some reason it doesn’t seem the safest that you have to bend your whole leg up and move it under the steering column in order to brake. Just as I began to ponder the safety aspects of this setup, my spotter told me to go. I had to take this part seriously. Not only would my kids be judging my racing ability as I drove by right in front of them, but they said if you stall twice, you forfeit your chance to drive the car. So, ya know, no pressure.

In order to communicate with the spotter, there is a button on the steering wheel. I had it all planned in advance to quote Days of Thunder. Unfortunately I had no idea about the mental focus it was going to take to keep this rocket ship on the track. Everything I was told in advance about what speed to go is related to what rpm the engine should be at. Shift at 3,000 rpms, for the first lap keep it at 4,000, and then increase by 200 rpms each lap. The problem is that the entire length of travel of the gas pedal is less than an inch. It is very difficult to precisely control the throttle with so little travel, especially while wearing running shoes. Plus, the tachometer is mounted on the steering column, making it difficult to look down and see.

PIC10

As I got going I quickly realized there would be no way to focus enough to make jokes over the radio. I had to stay on the access road until the backstretch, which was very narrow and a challenge in itself, then got to merge onto the track. There are other cars on the track at the same time, and your spotter is there to keep you from coming into contact with them. I never actually came across another car but if I had, passing is only allowed on the straightaway. At the same time, there are also professional drivers taking ride along participants at 170 mph on the top 2 lanes. They passed me twice, but I didn’t even notice.

The cars are 4-speed manuals weighing 3,400 pounds. The gearshift throws are long (like in an old pickup), and the lever location gives no indication of what gear you are in. The shifts themselves are very heavy, unlike any passenger car I’ve ever driven. The power is on demand regardless of rpms. It powerful, but with the weight of the car you never feel like you’ll spin the tires when your floor it. Speaking of which, in the instructional video we were assured we could keep it floored and the car will stick in the corners. Try telling my brain that going into turn three for the first time. As much as I knew I could trust the tires, I couldn’t physically get my right foot to stay in the throttle for the first lap.  I stayed on the throttle and hit 156.4mph (the top speeds for the day were at 157mph). For me it took three laps before the fear began to go away and I really started enjoying it. For that reason, I do not recommend the 5-minute experience.

PIC11

The most shocking part of the whole experience is the sheer strength it takes to drive one of these machines. I was blown away by how difficult it was to hold the car on the bottom of the track at over 150 mph. It was scary to think that if for just a moment my hand slipped or I lost my grip I’d be into the wall. I imagine being forced to stay in the bottom 2 lanes added to the feeling. That was also about the time that I realized I had forgotten to ask who pays for the car if it gets damanged. At no point did the car feel like it would oversteer or understeer, it was just a bear to keep at the bottom of the track. Kentucky has 14 degrees of banking in the turns (compared to 24 degrees at Charlotte and 33 degrees in Talladega), short shoots are 8 degrees and front straight is 10 degrees).

Turn one is particularly bumpy which rattled the nerves the first couple laps. It was also surprising to me that to go straight I had to actually steer right and hold it there. My hands were at about 11 and 5 on the wheel on the backstretch, and it was not a time to rest as it took strength to keep it there. Another interesting aspect of the drive is the difficulty I had keeping the car exactly where I wanted it on the course. With such a large heavy steering wheel I couldn’t get much feedback from it and definitely got closer to the yellow line than the 5-foot distance we were supposed to keep. Again, this is all over 8 minutes, so comfort would definitely come with practice.

During the 8-minute drive, the engine was limited to 5,000rpm (if you pay an additional $400 for another 8 minutes that is increased to 5,400). After hitting the limiter a couple times I learned that the fastest way around the track is to NOT keep it floored, but to attempt to keep the engine at around 4,900rpms… easier said than done with a tiny gas pedal and a tach you have to take your eyes off the road to see. I was so focused on keeping the car in the correct lanes that as much as I knew not to, I only stared about 20 feet in front of the car the whole run. With so much focus required to drive, there was no time to dwell on things that seemed so important just a few short minutes ago, like how limited the view is to either side, or how tight the helmet felt.

*PIC12
By the end I was so mentally exhausted that I had totally forgotten to “request a flyby” from the spotter. Maybe next time. When I came to a stop on pit road, a quick check of myself revealed all the internal organs resided in the spots they usually belonged, I hadn’t thrown up, but man was the left side of my neck and shoulders sore!

Being that this is The TRUTH About Cars, I feel obligated to tell you readers my gripes as well:

  1. -They advertise that the 3-hour experience includes “a drivers meeting, crew-chief training, education, instruction, in-car radio, personal spotter, and graduate certificate.” I have no idea who the crew-chief was or if there was one, and the education was very minimal. If they called this a “NASCAR Driving Experience” instead of “NASCAR Racing Experience”, I would feel better about it. There was just wasn’t any real racing instruction to speak of. Something they seem to pride themselves on compared to other schools is that they allow passing on the track. Although it’s technically true, it’s only in very limited situations. The certificate is just a sheet of paper with your name and top speed listed on regular paper. Better than nothing, but not really a “certificate”. Adding a Go-Pro in-car video will run you $80 and a plaque with you picture is $40.
  2. -As I mentioned before, they seem to keep a lot of information about the event secret. On their website there are 2 videos posted. One shows cars going side-by-side passing in the turns, which will get your car remotely shut down we were told. The other video shows current NASCAR drivers, seemingly implying they will be at the track instructing you.
  3. -Nowhere does it mention you need to know how to drive stick, you do. If you stall twice, you are done, no refund (but I believe they let you do a ride a long instead).
  4. -Using words like “education” and “training” imply it’s a racing school. This is a chance to drive a real NASCAR, but not learn how to race.
  5. -Bring your own food and drinks as their concession stand was well stocked with chips and water.
  6. -From the time I started to roll away until I came to a stop back on pit road was 7:42. Being honest, I had no recollection of time or the number of laps completed while driving, but when my mom showed me the stopwatch after I returned I was a little bummed. I know they have to crank a lot of people through there each day, but I felt like I was hosed out of a lap.

Bottom line, this is something every racing fan, or fan of plain old speed, should experience. My sore shoulder appreciated how light and nimble my Honda Odyssey felt on the way home. If you go, be sure to bring a friend or family along. Part of the experience is just being on pit road at a huge racetrack and seeing everything up close that you’ve seen on TV. Guests can wait with you in a shaded area and stand right along the fence as you drive. Plus you’re going to want them there to get some pictures of your once in a lifetime experience. Especially if you look as good as I do wearing a fire suit. I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty cool just wearing a racing suit for the first time.

PIC13
Driving that car really made me appreciate the skill and fitness level of NASCAR drivers. Feeling the strength it takes to control these cars, hearing the roar of the engine, and having your loved ones cheer you on as you white-knuckle a race car around a track creating memories you’ll have for the rest of your life is worth the price of admission. Well, as long as my dad is paying.

Full disclosure: I paid for this experience myself. And by “I paid”, I mean to say, “My dad paid”. At no point did anyone from the NASCAR Racing Experience know I was going to write this article. I regret not telling them… maybe I wouldn’t have gone last if they’d known I was with www.thetruthaboutcars.com. Who am I kidding; they probably wouldn’t have let me drive at all.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

49 Comments on “Capsule Review: Ford Fusion NASCAR Racing Experience Edition...”


  • avatar
    gmichaelj

    “I regret not telling them… maybe I wouldn’t have gone last if they’d known I was with http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com. Who am I kidding; they probably wouldn’t have let me drive at all.”

    At some point they will have a digital picture of all the authors at schools, rental counters, manufacturer events, etc. Then all of you will be going last, if at all. :)

  • avatar
    jmo

    500 horsepower actual race used NASCAR

    Wait….what? 500bhp? So…if they don’t change the rules in 2023 NASCAR Fusions will have less BHP than “real” Fusions?

    How much faster is a NASCAR Fusion than say a 470bhp Chrysler 300 SRT8?

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    A few years ago I was gifted a day at the Andretti Racing Experience event you mentioned. My recollection was that speeds were in the 150 mph range as well, so you probably end up with a similar experience with either program.

    I don’t remember needing to shift when driving the car, but since I can drive a manual transmission perhaps this detail was unimportant enough to have been stored away in my brain. I do recall that the cockpit was quite cozy, so a larger person would have some difficulty.

    The forces required to turn the steering wheel at those speeds was surprising and gives you a real appreciation for the drivers who manage to precisely handle their cars for hours.

    I enjoyed it, but in the end I’m not sure it was worth the cost.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      What track did you do the Andretti Racing Experience at?

    • 0 avatar
      Varryl

      When I went, it was great except for the fact that passing was near to impossible under the conditions. Also, the engine was so loud I couldn’t hear my advisor’s voice in the mic, and I had to have him keep repeating everything he said.

      It was also an auto trans when I did it a few years ago, so no real shifting, and throttle right before limiter kicked in put you somewhere around 156-158 at which it is not really possible to spin out or even lose traction.

  • avatar

    Nice story!

    I did the Richard Petty Driving Experience a few years ago and had the same impressions. The stock car drove like a lowered ’77 F-150 with a bent frame–no power brakes, a transmission that shifted like an old Uhaul truck, and manual steering that was constantly turning left. But it was a blast! It left me with a new appreciation of NASCAR and converted me into a fan.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Thank you for not being condescending to the sport like so many automotive enthusiasts are, Matt. The skill required to pilot one of these technological dinosaurs around a track while enduring 120 degree cockpit temperatures for hours on end is considerable. The cars are heavy, the wheels are ridiculously small, and the controls are crude. While the whole NASCAR scene may not be one’s cup of tea, you have to appreciate the physical and mental capabilities these drivers have to possess to even compete. Yes, even Danica Patrick, too.

    Great piece, Matt!

  • avatar
    67dodgeman

    I’m sure someone who actually watches Nascar could say more, but I seem to recall that the suspension, tuning, and actual tire sizes are all staggered such that the car is stable in a (left?) turn at speed. Thus the car will absolutely not track straight in the stretches. You have to actively counter-steer against the suspension until the next turn.

    Also, long throw floor shifters were quite common in 1960’s era cars. Real trucks had 3-on-the-tree shifters.

    Finally, while it sounds fun, it also sounds damned expensive. But I guess enough people are willing to pay that they won’t lower the prices any.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      All good points. You can see it when you look at a NASCAR coming down the straight, it looks like they are in a constant drift, but really staggered wheels.

      I should have specified when I said “old truck” I meant like the 1990 manual transmission Ford Ranger I had to drive for work a few years back, haha.

      I agree on the price. I just did a quick search and found some 50% off groupon deals, so maybe not as bad as it sounds if most people are using those.

      • 0 avatar
        DubTee1480

        They tend to run sales around Christmas and Father’s Day too. I think you can access them through the website, the promoters for the company are on John Boy and Billy’s morning radio show around the holidays.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Personally I think one of the exotic car driving experiences would be a better use of $. I spent somewhere around the same amount of $ for 6 total laps (3 each) in a Murcielago and 458 Italia on an auto x course. I’m an admitted NASCAR hater, but to me that, being the first time I ever drove an Italian thoroughbred, was way more special and memorable. $419 will put you in a Ferrari 458 Italia on the infield road course at the Disney speedway (not sure for how long).

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Hmmm tough call. There is something special about driving a race used NASCAR. The only way to know for sure is if they offer to let me do their driving experience (for free – in exchange for a review of course!), then I could compare. ARE YOU LISTENING EXOTIC CAR DRIVING EXPERIENCE???

      Would it be different to you if this were an actual Indycar, Rally car, F1 (or whatever your favorite is)?

      • 0 avatar
        Varryl

        Rally car experience (without racing or schooling) ultimately might not be available for casuals, but it would be the most exiting for me.

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          Its in Florida, starting at $795 and increasing quite a bit from there:

          http://gorally.com/firm/pro-driving-schools/rally-driver-training/

          But I am betting it is real training and a real school. Someday I will go, its right near my house.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @Matt Fink – hard to answer your question. My two favorite forms of racing are F1 and Le Mans sports cars. Production exotics have the advantage of being special enough to pay good $ to drive for a short time period, while not being so over the top performance wise that I would feel like I couldn’t really experience anything near what the car had to offer after a short driving instruction like you were provided with. I would not feel comfortable taking an F1 car out without a lot of classroom instruction followed by seat time in lesser formula cars, progressively working my way up. I seriously doubt that I have the athletic ability or driving skill needed to get an F1 car around a track at all, so even if I could go drive Michael Schumachers Ferrari F2004 or Alan Mcnish’s Audi R10 on a racetrack tomorrow for $500, I probably wouldn’t do it.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Fink

          tjh8402 – Nice well thought out response, hard to argue with that logic. Of course if given the opportunity, I’d still (attempt to) drive an F1 car in a second. I think what was nice about the NASCAR was that you didn’t have to be afraid of the power, at least on an oval. Just get it into 4th gear and see if you have the strength to hold it in the turns.

  • avatar
    Varryl

    I’ve done both the Andretti racing experience and the Rusty Wallace NASCAR experience, and at the money level I bought in at you only shifted the NASCAR Impala into 4th and left it there.

    Since I was only 5’6″ I couldn’t reach the damn clutch pedal from my harness to depress it all the way, and I struggled to get it into 4th. Once there however the sky was the limit.

    The brakes had no feel whatsoever but it was really really enjoyable. They said statistically that people who go on a ridealong prior to actually going out there are faster, and that was the case for me.

    However, I couldn’t get a lap time or max speed value, although I estimate that it was around the 155+ mark.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    Next time google “MSD ignition” and learn where the rev limiter chip is mounted. You’ll most likely see it there in the cockpit. Damn thing just vibrated loose would be my story.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Haha, great idea. It may become obvious when I start passing the Ride A Long cars on the inside. Would have totally been worth it right up until the point where they remotely kill my engine.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Are you QUITE certain those HP figures are accurate??? Cars running on what was then called the Winston Cup circuit (today’s Sprint Cup) in the early ’80’s were dyno’ed at 600hp…today’s cars exceed 900 easily. I’d be surprised if the Busch Series cars of today (one tier below Sprint Cup in the NASCAR pecking order) have as little as 500hp.

    Also, RE: the “needs to drive stick” requirement…most people who follow NASCAR know that those cars still use three-pedal gearboxes (albeit with Cro magnon-designed 4-speeds…hell, they used carburetion up until the last year or so), so expecting to find a “track-used” NASCAR vehicle at any level equipped with an automatic (or even a dual clutch) transmission would not be realistic.

    But the description of the experience was well-related…people have said for as long as I can remember that race drivers aren’t athletes, and one look at Tony Stewart pretty much proves that, but there is defintiely an element of physical constitution needed to drive one of those things and a degree of mental toughness/nerves of steel to drive successfully that most sensible people go through their lives blissfully ignorant of possessing. As much grief as Danica gets in this circuit and others, I’m man enough to admit that she can drive circles around me any day of the week in any kind of car built on this planet by man, woman, or robot.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “in the early ’80′s were dyno’ed at 600hp…today’s cars exceed 900 easily.”

      I thought NASCAR’s policy that they didn’t want them going faster. The goal is to be about the drivers, not the cars.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …..people have said for as long as I can remember that race drivers aren’t athletes, and one look at Tony Stewart pretty much proves that….

      Maybe you should look at Carl Edwards instead. It takes a lot to race for hours on end. Baseball this is not.

      • 0 avatar
        Cubista

        Hey, I never said that I thought they weren’t athletes. Add Mark Martin and Cale Yarborough to the list of drivers who would qualify as athletes regardless of occupation. Richard Petty too, before ulcers took about 60% of his stomach.

        RE: baseball “Lady, I ain’t an athlete…I’m a baseball player.”
        -John Kruk

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    Good question, I’m not sure actually but that is what I was told. Either the engines are de-tuned to that amount, or because the rev limiter was set at 5,000rpms maybe that was all we could get out of the engine.

    As far as driving stick, obviously I know these use 3 pedals (I drive stick), I just thought it should have been pointed out the people that are paying all that money but it’s not mentioned anywhere in advance. You’re probably correct though, it should be assumed.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I did the Derek Daly school in Las vegas in a small, open wheel car. It was way too fun and way too humbling. Why did the damn thing have an X shift patter instead of a H pattern?
    It confirmed my great fears: that racing is not nearly as simple as it looks, it IS that fun and that my decision to go to school and work normal jobs was for the best as I was not slated to be the next Mario Andretti.

  • avatar
    dartman

    I did the Petty driving experience at Disneyworld around 2001-2. I got to drive a blue #43 Pontiac. (woo-hoo!) The deal there was you were following a car and were told to stay as close as possible; if I he waved his hand, back off a bit. I was fastest of the day with an average around the 1 mile track of about 127. The car I drove was a manual transmission and in my opinion was the equivalent of scalpel compared to a pocket knife. (the pocket knife being a Supra, RX-7, 335i; 300zx twin turbo, Corvette for reference) The car was purpose built, you sat right up on the detachable wheel, which felt weird at first but natural once underway, all the controls were all light, including the clutch and non-power steering The transmission shifted like a Acura NSX , snick snick snick.
    I did a burn out out of the pits (mild-no complaints) and we drove within a foot or so of the wall. The leader had to wave his hands several times but picked up the pace after each. Awesome experience with pictures. The toughest part was getting in and out of the car- I am a big guy 6’4″ 250+ at the time. I was not in the best of shape but felt like I could drive for a while; not near as demanding as driving full on in a racing kart. It was an awesome experience. It sounds like some cars driven by others may have been poorly set-up either on purpose for safety reasons or just from inattention.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Anyone who thinks NASCAR is just rednecks turning left should observe the arrival or departure lanes of any major airport. If you think about it, it’a just doing a pit stop under green flag conditions.

    You must maintain a steady speed in two lanes, the outermost for passing. You must enter at a specific point, looking for your sign, you must turn in quickly, with cars going both in and out, drop off or pickup, and then pull back out with cars pulling in and out in front of you. You then need to move to the outside lane to exit back to the road.

    Having to go to the airport way to frequently, I can tell you, the folks who make fun of NASCAR as easy, can’t even handle dropping grandma off at the airport.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Those who ridicule NASCAR, or racing in general, are pretty ignorant…and I’m proof that not all race fans are rednecks, Republicans, or overweight.

    • 0 avatar
      old5.0

      Same thing with drag racing. “It’s just going in a straight line, how hard can it be?”

      I suppose that’s the difference between actual, knowledgeable fans and what college football folks refer to as “t-shirt fans.”

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Having bracket raced since 2005, I would say that most people don’t understand how much is involved in the first 60 feet of a true drag race.

        Between staging right, getting your RT consistent, let alone consistent and under .10, not bogging down or lighting them up, and getting the right 1-2 shift (the Grand Prix was no issue, the Holdenized G8 will light them up completely on the 1-2 shift and spin on the 2-3, controlling that can make a 4/10 and 5 MPH difference at the traps).

        The first full day I dragged, and most of that was just test and tune, I was mentally exhausted. I could not believe how much you had to consider, remember, and do in the 30 seconds before you stage, as you stage, and on launch.

        In the Grand Prix:

        1) Start car
        2) Traction control – OFF
        3) Heat on full – set to floor – confirm AC compressor off
        4) Driver window up
        5) Shift to first gear
        6) Go around the water box – do not drive through
        7) Brake, gas to 3K RPM, release brake – spin front tires
        8) Reverse to line up
        9) Shift to 3rd gear
        10) One last confirmation, everything off, holy ass crackers I’m roasting already
        11) Creep up to staging lights
        12) The Grand Prix was “slow” so I deep staged, so both set of staging lights on
        13) 1.8K RPM, brake to floor
        14) Focus on the tree, all about the tree, can’t take your eye off the tree for a millisecond – don’t watch the lights for the car next to me, just watch my lights – MY lights
        15) On last amber light foot off brake, roll throttle quickly to wide open, but don’t mash it (less you spin)
        16) Watch for red light as you roll out of the start box – phew – no red light
        17) Foot into it all the way – don’t let up until AFTER you’ve crossed the traps (real common mistake is to release at the line – which can cost you

        On paper – sound simple – it’s not.

        I didn’t even cover worrying about proper tire pressure. Removing the driver side headlight for better air flow into the engine (no seriously, on the Grand Prix and other GM W-bodies it is an instant, provable 2/10 to 3/10 of a second due to the ram air effect, the stock CAI intake is located directly behind the driver side headlight. Bags of ice on the valve covers between heats and on the throttle bottle (no seriously again, and others who ice down the supercharger, also good for 2/10 to 3/10 of a second by fooling the sensors into thinking the ambient air was colder). Then you push your car through staging lest you ruin the effect of icing down everything.

        Then as the cool down time gets shorter, you get less benefit from the ice.

        I could turn a 15.4 in a Gen III 200 HP 3.8L Grand Prix (no supercharger, just the base motor) with the headlight off and things iced down. If I had to do hot laps, I could run as slow as 16.2. Amazing how much impact heat had on overall performance. Made doing my dial ins a real adventure as things move faster with continued eliminations.

        In more powerful cars, the whole keeping straight down the course thing is harder than people think (never had enough HP for that issue).

        I love the mental challenge – but it is WAY harder than what 99% of people think – even those who follow motorsports.

        Ditto for even autocross – which can be more technical than an F1 used road course, or simple lapping. All of which I have found mentally exhausting (and HPD lapping physically tiring too).

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Fink

          Maybe it’s a dumb question, but why do you start in 3rd?

          • 0 avatar
            racebeer

            It’s an auto tranny, so he was moving the selector to 3rd so the shifts would be automatic. He isn’t actually “starting” in 3rd gear. 1st on the burnout keeps the tranny from shifting during that endeavour, so unless you want to manually shift the auto during the run, move it back to 3rd and let her rip.

          • 0 avatar
            Matt Fink

            racebeer – Thanks for clearing that up!

    • 0 avatar
      old5.0

      Same thing with drag racing. “It’s just going in a straight line, how hard can it be?”

      I suppose that’s the difference between actual, knowledgeable fans and what college football folks refer to as “t-shirt fans.”

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      NASCAR is bad-ass. However, I still can’t get over the fact that the cars look like soap bars on wheels and the cup has only have two road courses on the calendar. It would have been great if they used production based body panels (like in Australian V8SC) and added a few street and road courses.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Nascar is a very tough sport. But I still don’t really like watching car racing. It’s one of the sports that better to do then watch. Like the opposite of MMA or football.. (though its still dangerous of course but people aren’t trying to actively kill you).

  • avatar
    ex007

    Like others, I did the Petty experience at Chicagoland. What amazed me was the banking and how small the track actually is. I watch NASCAR regularly and, despite having driven at the track, can’t imagine 43 cars racing on that track.

    While the Petty experience was a lot of fun, it was disappointing that they wouldn’t let you go faster without paying for additional laps. We had a group of 10-12 and our top speeds were all bunched around 140. Having driven my own Porsche on the autobahn at 160+, I could have gone significantly faster. But they force you to buy another set of laps to experience higher speeds. Still, it was a great experience and recommend it highly.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States