Need for Speed....Satisfied!!


April 16-17

Thursday morning we continued our trek north (brrr) leaving the Charleston area around 9:30am. Wayne and Lynn had already departed earlier as they had a couple of long driving days ahead of them to get home by Friday evening.

After 225 miles, we arrived in Charlotte NC – the racing mecca for NASCAR and home for many of it’s premier drivers and team shops. We pulled into a Tom Johnson Camping Center which is just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway – a 1.5 mile track. It was a warm day with the temps in the 80’s, however this changed later in the day as the rain set in. Not a good sign for race cars! The following morning it continued to drizzle until around 10am. At that point we hiked over to the track to see if the “ride-a-long” would still go at 11:30.

Today, I was booked for a drive-a-long where I’m a passenger is strapped into 725 HP stock car, driven by a young man (Adam) 22-24 years old taking me around the track 3 times at 160 MPH (255 KPH). YES, I can’t wait. However we did for a couple of hours as they dried the track. This was OK, as it provided me with lots of time to speak with the “Petty Driving Experience” employees, drivers and get lots of track shots. This company was started by Richard Petty who is called “The King” for his dominance and presence in NASCAR.

Finally, the track was ready and so was I, so they strapped me into the car around 1:15pm. By 1:18 I was out of the car, after enjoying the rush of doing 1.5 mile laps in about 38 seconds! The banking on the turns is 24 deg (see pics) so when the driver heads into and out of those turns you want to make sure the car “sticks” to the track! And it did! The G forces and in car experience gives me an even greater appreciation of the skill, strength and endurance these drivers (and their pit crews) go through when competing at these levels during a 4 hour race. Add to that the high temps in the car when they are racing in warm temperatures, which is often. Oh, by the way, we did 160mph on the straightaways, whereas the pro’s during the race are doing 200 mph(320 kph) with 43 cars on the track. Stop and imagine rush hour at those speeds with cars all around you!

It was awesome, what a thrill!

After getting back to the RV for a quick lunch, I biked over to the Hendrick Motorsports Complex to tour some team shops and their museum. Rick Hendrick owns over 70 car dealerships and arguably is the top car owner in NASCAR. The complex is all encompassing as they make every thing in several different building – engines, chassis, bodies, seats, roll cages, tanks, etc.. I was able to tour the fabrication shops for the four teams (Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) It was a great tour.

All in all, the weather cooperated and I had a great day.

Off to the track
Off to the track

Pit row looking down at Turn 1 - 24 deg banking
Pit row looking down at Turn 1 – 24 deg banking

Looking the other way long pit row towards Turn 4
Looking the other way long pit row towards Turn 4

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Fitting the HANS device - protection for the neck
Fitting the HANS device – protection for the neck

Climbing in - no doors on these cars
Climbing in – no doors on these cars

Me at the Finish line - the crowd goes wild!!
Me at the Finish line – the crowd goes wild!!

Still in the lead
Still in the lead

The tunnel to exit the track
The tunnel to exit the track

Boy, those helmets are snug
Boy, those helmets are snug

Me in Victory Lane
Me in Victory Lane

Entering the Hendrick Motorsports Complex
Entering the Hendrick Motorsports Complex

Various cars being built for Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon
Various cars being built for Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon

In the shop building cars for Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In the shop building cars for Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The victory bell they push around the shop when the team wins a race
The victory bell they push around the shop when the team wins a race

One of Jeff Gordon's cars before he started in NASCAR 20+ years ago
One of Jeff Gordon’s cars before he started in NASCAR 20+ years ago

Dale Jr's 2014 Daytona 500 winning car
Dale Jr’s 2014 Daytona 500 winning car

Jimmie's 2013 Daytona 500 winning car
Jimmie’s 2013 Daytona 500 winning car

Tom Cruise equipment used in making Days of Thunder
Tom Cruise equipment used in making Days of Thunder

Tom Cruise helmet
Tom Cruise helmet

Car used in Days of Thunder
Car used in Days of Thunder

Training grounds for the team crews
Training grounds for the team crews