Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Amazing Year- March

March- Driving an Indy Car at Charlotte Motor Speedway

All Suited Up!!
Driving an Indy car, or any race car for that matter, has never really been on my list to do, but the opportunity presented itself and who am I turn down an adventure like this?

This was a political fundraiser for a SC candidate that my dad's company was supporting. Originally my mom, dad, and brother were suppose to go drive Nascar cars but that was rained out and when they rescheduled it was a day the track was planning on having Indy cars rather than stock cars and my mother had a baby shower to go to so I decided to take her place. 

It was a very nice evening. My dad, brother, brother's girlfriend, and I drove to Charlotte that Saturday afternoon and went to one of my favorite places in the world, Dave and Busters!! After an hour or two of playing games and winning prizes, we drove over to Charlotte Motor Speedway.  

Speedway Club
View of the track from the Speedway Club 
After we arrived we were taken to the Speedway Club for dinner. If you are anything like me, you are probably underestimating how nice a dinner at a famous Nascar track really is. It was phenomenal. It was a very elegant dining room complete with a baby grand piano player, fine silver, and a great view of the track. Not to mention the food was delicious!! 

After dinner we were taken down to the track for our safety instructions. The 20 minute safety video can be summed up in one line: don't hit the white line or you will crash. We then went to get our fireproof racing suits and headphones. It was a chilly March evening so I was thankful for the additional warmth of the suit.

Waiting to Drive
The staff also gives you a pager, kind of like what you get at a restaurant when you are waiting on a table. While you are waiting you can watch others race around the track. It is quite an adrenaline rush watching everyone speeding around. 

When your buzzer goes off, they start to get you ready to drive. First they tape some earbud headphones into your ears. The headphones plug into the radio and they tape them in so that when you put your helmet on and move your head around in your helmet the headphones don't come out. 

Once you have your helmet on and they test your headphones to make sure you can hear them, you are ready to drive. Getting in an Indy car is about what it looks like, a tight fit. Once you get in it is a little more roomy but getting in is quite awkward and odd because the car is so low to the ground, you have to step over the side, and the initial hole at the top that you are getting in is an odd shape and kind of tight.  

Once you are in, a staff member puts in the steering wheel, hooks up your headphones and tests them again, and gives you some final instructions before you are told to go. 

Putting in the Steering Wheel
These are real Indy cars that have been modified so that amateur drivers do not have to worry about shifting and stuff while going over 100 mph. However, they are not modified that much for smaller people. They do what they can to make it easier for shorter people to drive but there is only so much they can do. So if you get in and still cannot reach the pedals they have some cushions for you to sit on. I do not remember but I think I had one cushion behind me. Other women driving had two or three. 

When it is your turn to go, a man speaks to you through your headphones and tells you when to go. If you notice in the picture below there is something behind my white car. That is a 4-wheeler that pushes you off. It pushes you part of the way down pit lane and then your engine really kicks in and you pull out onto the track. 

Ready to Drive!!
When you are on the track, the man talking to you through your headphones is your best friend. He tells you when to accelerate more or less, when to pass or when someone is going to pass you (yes, there are other cars on the track with you, usually 3 cars on the track at a time), and if you are on a good or bad line. They told us before we started we would make three laps but they either gave us extra laps or it seemed like a lot more than three. The first lap is when you are warming up and starting to get the feel for things and then after that you can go as fast as you can. 

I do not remember how fast I went exactly, although it is somewhere on the certificate that they give you, but it was between 150 and 155 mph. My brother went about 155 mph, his girlfriend went faster than me but not as fast as him, and my dad went 149.5 mph. 

Messing around in Winner's Circle
My poor dad was one of the last people to go. While he was sitting in his car waiting to go, someone else driving had spun out. It was not a big deal but when someone spins out, even if they do not hit anything, they have an ambulance there that they send out. The driver was fine and even kept driving. This made my dad a little nervous and more nervous when the staff member told him that it was later in the evening than they usually drive and the tires were cold which makes them not respond as well. Dad told them that he didn't have to drive but they told him he would be fine. Needless to say, he was quite cautious, even at 149.5 mph. 

All in all it was a great day and a great event. Driving home on the interstate at a slow 70 mph was a little interesting but we made it home with a great experience to share!

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