- June 23, 2016
I have never been a fan of NASCAR — or any form of automobile racing, for that matter. To be frank, cars — whether they’re fast or slow — bore me, and I know very little about them. (Am I supposed to pull over when the "check engine" light comes on?)
But when I got the opportunity to speed around the track at the Daytona International Speedway for a few hot laps, my interest was piqued.
I spoke at a media discussion panel to about 40 public relations professionals on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the speedway's media center. The discussion was agonizingly monotonous, and I already despise public speaking to begin with. (There’s a reason I’m in the print business.) Not to worry, though, I told myself. I was there for the hot laps. And eventually, my time came.
I’m not exactly sure what I was feeling when I hopped into the back of the silver Chevy Impala: excitement, nervousness, fascination and maybe a dash of dread?
The driver introduced himself as Chris. He seemed friendly enough, and he had a slight Southern drawl, so that was a bit relaxing. Not to mention, T. Swizzle’s “… Ready For It?” was gently playing on the speakers, so I guess that helped calm the ole nerves, too.
Like I said earlier: I’ve never been a fan of NASCAR. But as soon as our car peeled out and onto one of the most famous racing tracks in the entire world, I became inclined to reassess my opinions on automobile racing: Driving around the track gave me a whole new appreciation for the sport.
Firstly, we were speeding around at roughly 130 to 135 miles per hour. I’ve never gone that fast in a car before, and I can’t imagine the feeling of going much faster, especially being surrounded by dozens of other cars only inches apart.
Fun fact: The fastest speed ever recorded at the Daytona 500 was 210 mph by Bill Elliott in 1987. I can’t comprehend that.
In addition, the narrow width and steep angle of the track blew my mind.
The Daytona 500 is a 40-car field. How two cars could ever race around that track is beyond me. The fact that 40 can do so without constant fatality seems like a miracle. In addition, the angle of the track was so sharp, I could have sworn our car was perpendicular to the base of the track. It made me slightly dizzy.
I honestly don’t know how NASCAR drivers do it. Not only how they race, but how they even survive the conditions they drive in.
I used to think racing was all about driving in a circle really, really fast. What's so hard about that?
But after my experience at the speedway, it's clear racing is more than that.
NASCAR, you have my attention.