Friday, March 2, 2007

I Missed the Track Record by...

Well it is official, I got the opportunity to do some laps on a Nextel Cup track in the #99 Carl Edwards Ford. Here are some thoughts:

1) The track record in a stock car at Atlanta is 28 seconds at 197 mph. Let me say it clearly, "that is fast!" 2) Fans are crazy about Nascar here, this lady took my picture and said she would cheer for me when I made the big-time. I have one fan on the East Coast and she is crazy. :) 3) Everybody should go for a ride with a pro. Bring a Depends though, cause you cannot imagine how intense the turns are. The instructors were going about 135-140 with us and it was nutty, I can't imagine going 197 mph! Seat comfort would be important at that point.

After some instruction in the classroom about track procedures, car controls and of course the if-you-crash-it's-bad speech we headed out to ride along with instructors. The first few laps we were casually going around, but then it changed. He got with it and we were flying. I was riding shotgun and the g-forces through the banking were intense for certain.

Then I got out and changed seats with the instructor. Here is what my instructor said, "I am only wearing a lap belt (there was a 5 point harness available), do not go faster than 3,000 rpm." The cars had a rev chip at 6,000 rpm, but I did not see that tick mark on the gauge. I did about 5 laps with the instructor and then he got out and sent me back out.

The first session I was learning the line on the track turning about 3,800 - 4,000 rpm. They had some paint marks on the track where they wanted drivers to put the car and I drove about 10 laps just getting some feel. Oh yeah, the flag man told me to slow down 3 times that session. :)

The second session I was able to pick it up some more (4,200-4,600 rpm) as the line was getting easier to see and feel. I was told 3 more times to slow down in that session, but this time they flagged me in to tell me personally before sending me out. :)

The final session was about 15 laps in the heat of the day and I was able to get some heat in the tires and get with it some more. I was only told to slow down 1 time. In reality they let me air it out a little more. I was turning 5,200 rpm down the straights and about 4,800 through the turns. I guess they only want students to go so fast, and hey I understand, that wall is large and not very far from the car at over 100 mph.

How fast did I go? Well let's just say I have a lot of work to set the track record at Atlanta. :) I will get my official times in a couple weeks, but on the final session I was fastest. I am estimating 45-50 second lap times and somewhere between 111 - 124 average lap speeds. Of course it is faster on the straights than through the corner.

All in all, my thought for the day is, "Seat time is King." In order to drive a race car a person has to drive a race car, at race car speeds and on race car tracks. There is no other way to get experience. At this point I have about 175 laps of experience. 140 of them , last year and '04, at Monroe on the 3/8's mile and 35 on the 1.544 mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.

They invited me back tomorrow to participate in the Advanced Course where they teach passing, drafting, line changing and other race procedures. :) I think that was nice, but buying two sets of practice tires for Monroe will teach me more. Roger and I may head up to Charlotte, NC to get a behind the scenes tour of a Nextel Cup race shop. I will check in a bit later.