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.