Last month I drove through the Texas country back roads past Justin, Texas to Texas Motor Speedway.
I was there for school....to learn how to drive at 150MPH.
Mike Starr, owner of Team Texas Driving School, was my chief instructor. He taught me the basics of handling, performance, and expectations of the race cars. After the session, I took a practice lap of the track.
Behind the wheel of a 2010 Sprint Cup car (I still call it 'Winston Cup'), it was cramped and tight. I don't recommend sealing the doors on your personal car...it was a challenge slipping thru the window! We got a push start from a four wheeler down pit row and I popped the clutch. The 700hp engine roared to life. I shifted up to third and rounded turn two on the apron. Out of turn two and on to back stretch, I slammed on the pedal and put four on the floor. The car accelerated quickly and I moved close to the wall. The letters on the wall few by T......E.....X..A.S! Faster and faster, then slowing for turn 3 and down close to the apron.
The ride was bouncy, but the car handled amazing, even on turns it steered left toward the apron. The track was tall and wide, if I didn't keep speed around the corners, I would drift down....almost like riding on a wall. Out of each turn, I accelerated and hugged the wall, which did not seem comfortable, but allowed the best line on the track for speed.
I am proficient in sports, research, writing, firearms, and other activities, but driving a real racecar was quite an experience...
humbling at that! I had to respect these cars - they are the real deal.
Turn four was a monster. The front straightaway has a small dog leg. As you round the corner, the driver must point the car in a fashion that appears to be headed directly to the front spectator wall. Turning slightly left to pass the start/finish line, then do a similar maneuver going into turn one. It's an optical illusion for the TV audience. In other words, the front straightaway is not really "straight!"
I completed 10 (1.5 mile) laps in the 2010 Haas Automation #39 Impala and took the checkered flag. I have a new found respect for NASCAR drivers, the skill, and endurance required to complete a race.
If you ever had a desire to jump behind the wheel of a real race car, it's a blast!
Dr. Daniels is focused on Aerospace & Defense, technology management and systems engineering.