What to do for hubby’s big FIVE-O birthday? It had to be bucket list worthy. Nothing was coming to mind. The Plan: Conduct a poll with the guys at work. The Result: The #1 bucket-list gift for a man is the NASCAR Racing Experience. Sure, I can see the appeal.
Drive a REAL race car…at HIGH speed…on a REAL race track…and you can PASS other cars!
And the clincher – it was half price (with a Living Social offer from one of the guys). Sounded like a great idea but I had one problem. I had never heard James talk about NASCAR so I wasn’t sure he would like it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to struggle with the choice for long. The very next day his sister called offering free tickets to the Coca-Cola All Star Race. What perfect timing! I brought up the race topic “innocently” (me. innocent. yeah right). He jumped on the invitation. Decision made.
READY… SET… We drove the 1.5 hours the Charlotte Motor Speedway. With little time to spare, James rushed to check in. Surrendering his driver’s license in exchange for a jump-suit, he scurried to join the group for mandatory training. A video explained key details about the race car and the track. A crew member emphasized key safety points, answered questions, and gave a sales pitch on available upgrades. We were reluctant to upgrade drive time at first but the pitch was convincing. The extra time was added after the driver was “settled in” at top speeds…a more exciting 3 minutes. When James glanced at me, I could see the struggle in his eyes. I didn’t want him to miss out on enhancing the bucket list opportunity so I mouthed the words “Go For It!” A decision we did NOT regret. There was no set order to drive because the cars are sized for a specific height. A large class meant plenty of time to talk and pose for pictures in front of the race car parked inside the barrier.
ACTION… At last… “James Sweet” rang out over the speaker. A buckler secured James get set inside the car. A huge “thank you” goes out to these brave, trusting souls. The buckler is at jeopardy of being whisked away on “a scary little ride” if the clutch is not fully engaged when the car is started.
- Microphones taped in ears…Check!
- Sized for helmet (includes sanitary paper liner)…Check!
- Two-way communication verified…Check!
- Seat belts secured, steering wheel and safety net attached…Check and Check!
- Start your engine…CHECK!
Time to Rock-N-Roll! I attempted to take pictures of James as he rocketed past pit row as a 153 mph blur!
At the end of his drive, he exited pit row with a HUGE grin on his face!
Newsflash… James rarely shows his teeth for photos. So take a look at those pearly whites and tell me whether this was…
THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER!
James attempted to share his experience with me as he exchanged the jump-suit for his driver’s license, a certificate of his top speed, and a novelty license. He was so excited that he could barely get the words out fast enough. Here’s the summary: Track SOOOO smooth. Car glides effortlessly. Feel G-Force in the curves. Then he slowed momentarily to share what I had hoped to hear…
It’s like a DREAM when there’s no cars in front of you! Feels like you’re just floating around the track… coasting along in the sunshine. What a GREAT time!
TAKE TWO… We returned this year for another driving experience. There was no question that James would purchase the 8 minute drive. But this time, he also splurged for the “Go Pro” video option. A camera mounted in the car recorded what James saw as he sped around the track. We noticed a few changes to the process. A pager was a welcomed addition the standard gear. It meant no straining to hear James’ name over the rumble of the engines. On the down side, I was disappointed that access to take photos beside a race car was limited to people who bought the photo package upgrade. The class was much smaller the second time AND it was the last experience at the end of a hot day. That meant everything went FAST! We barely got from the training room to pit row before James’ pager started flashing. Great for timing…not so much for getting pictures of him in the driving clothes and helmet. Once again I snapped pictures as he blew past…this time at a top speed of 156.27! James was glowing – he completed 8 laps, passed three cars, and couldn’t wait to share the “Go Pro” video! To keep him from bursting at the seams, we watched the raw footage on our iPad before leaving Concord. I have to say, the “Go Pro” upgrade was absolutely worth every penny! As a surprise to him, I combined still photos with music and drive highlights to create this video. I can’t tell you how many times he has re-lived the experience when sharing it with family and friends!
All in all…One SWEET Experience! Our next trip…driving the Formula One car (Mario Andretti Racing Experience). Who knows…I may even take the wheel.
Until next time…remember to follow your muse.