This week, we celebrated my husband Dennis’s birthday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway where he took part in a NASCAR Racing Experience. Joining us were our youngest son Joe and his wife Haley. To say we had a lot of fun is an understatement. It was an absolute blast!
In this video, you can watch some of the racing action. Dennis is in the 22 car that is going around the track. Joe is in the 39 car that is leaving pit road.
A “racing experience” provides the opportunity for the general public to experience what it’s like to drive an actual stock car around a race track. These are “retired” stock cars that were previously driven in actual races by professional drivers. Though the cars are no longer in the races, make no mistake — they still go fast. Up to 180 mph fast. Knowing that one of the professional drivers — like Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson — was once behind the wheel gives the experience a particular thrill. For my husband, driving the car was the next best thing to crossing the finish line and taking a drive down victory lane. He did not win a trophy, but they did send him home with a certificate. Just as good!
We headed for the Atlanta Motor Speedway bright and early on Saturday morning. It takes about two hours to get to Atlanta from our house in north Georgia, so we were on the road by 6:30 am. Dennis and our youngest son Joe were scheduled for a 9:00 am training class before getting out onto the track. We wanted to arrive in plenty of time, and we did.
The driving experience was not for me. I was happy to hold the camera and take plenty of photos and video. They allowed those of us who were “watchers” to sit or stand along pit road where we had a good view of the track. We were also allowed to sit-in on the training session, and I found that to be incredibly interesting. There is a lot more to driving a race car than you would think. Though I did not ride or drive, none of the thrill was lost on me. I truly enjoyed myself.
Because not everyone can climb into the driver’s seat, the NASCAR Racing Experience also provides optional ride-alongs. A ride-along allows you to sit in the passenger’s seat while a professional driver takes you around the track for several laps. My daughter-in-law Haley decided to do a ride-along. She was taken around the track several times at speeds reaching 160 mph. Haley told me later that the adrenaline rush made roller coaster rides and theme parks seem tame by comparison. She could barely contain her excitement.
The drivers are given suits to wear, and they are fitted with helmets that include head sets for communicating with their “spotters.” They are helped into the race cars by track assistants and are guided onto the track by the spotter. Once on the track, the spotter continues to talk them through each turn and tells them when to increase the speed. They can go as high as 5,000 rpm. My husband made it up to 4800 rpm and achieved a speed of 150 mph, just to give you an idea.
Yes, wrecks and spin-outs happen. We witnessed a spin-out just off of pit road by a driver who was making his way onto the track. There did not appear to be any injuries, and he no doubt came home with a story to tell. As did those of us who witnessed it. There are a lot of safety measures and equipment in place to protect drivers and passengers from serious injury. Despite the risk of accidents, we all felt very safe because of the organized manner of doing things as well as the professionalism and competence shown by the race track staff.
The entire experience, from beginning to end, took about 2 hours. We came home with some great memories, more than a few photographs, and some good stories to tell. What a fun day!
The NASCAR RACING EXPERIENCE hosts several events at different race tracks throughout the racing season. If you have a racing fan in the family, he/she will absolutely love it!
Until next time! ~ Susan