For my birthday, my wife told me she’d gotten me a track day in a NASCAR on an oval. Woohoo, for a couple of reasons. First, I’d never driven a NASCAR. Second, I’d never driven on an oval. As much as Tammy would have you believe I’m an open wheel purist, I’m not. I love open wheel the best, but I will drive anything and have. I’ve driven open wheel, production cars, off road, so ovals and NASCAR are on the list—as are prototypes. Just sayin’.
This Sunday I went out to the short oval in Stockton. It was a typical track day with a briefing before going out on the track. I have to admit this was the first time I’d be on the track with headphones where a spotter would be constantly chatting to me, which seemed a little excessive until I realized the cars had no mirrors and you couldn’t see a damn thing out of the car front or rear. I did like the trust I had with the spotter. I moved when he told me and I had total faith he wasn’t talking me straight into another car.
Naturally, I had to be put in the “Little Guy” car and still needed a bolster cushion in order to reach the pedals. This created a problem. I was way too close to the steering wheel and everything was in my blind spot from gauges to the gear shifts (yes, there was two of them). So it wasn’t the most comfortable or enjoyable track moment, but it was all in good fun.
Going on the track, I was reminded of a few things:1. Racecars are virtually undrivable at slow speeds. It’s like driving a house brick without wheels.
2. I forgot how much pressure you have to put on the brake pedal when you don’t have servo assist. I almost slammed into the pace car.
Driving on an oval was interesting because it was somewhat counter intuitive to anything I’ve done before. The instructor told me use power on the straights and lift on the corner. Lift in the corners? You only lift when you're on the brakes. Lifting is cowardice. You balance the car in the corner with the power. That was surprisingly hardwired into my brain and I found myself on the gas in the bend. But I’ve been watching the power and brake telemetry for IndyCars on ovals and they lifted through the bends and what's good for them is good for me, so I gave it a try and it kind of made sense. And as much as this will sound weird, I felt like I was driving a go-kart. Anyway, my time in the car came to an end.
I have to say I had fun and would have liked longer in the car to have explored it more, but there's always another time. :-)