#29 Drive a Race Car!
What an incredible day I just had the opportunity to live through! Made even more incredible by the four days of hell preceding it. So in true Amtrekker fashion I’m going to go ahead and pretend all of the bad stuff involving trying to get where I am now didn’t happen and we’ll just focus on all the awesome.
Huron, SD is amazing. And they seem to love Amtrekkers.
When it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Huron in time for a practice session Friday night Karl (the guy that got the ball rolling on this little adventure) drove three hours each way to come pick me up in Willmar, MN (Which the residents will have you know is pronounced wilmer, one syllable. Not will-mar…like it’s spelled.) and MADE SURE I got where I needed to be to get familiar with the car I was supposed to drive.
After we pulled into the fairgrounds where the raceway is located we were quickly surrounded by a small audience mostly made up of people associated with the racing team that was allowing me to borrow their car. Mike owned the car and Michael, his son, is the regular driver (who is in first place in his class) while the pit crew is made up of Jason, Stevie and Jamie.
Michael showed me how to get into the car, buckle up and get things started (Don’t laugh, it was complicated. Well…different.) and then I took a couple spins around the parking lot area of the speedway because the dirt track had gotten too much rain that day. Even that was a ton of fun. Although having “so many” people watching took some getting used to. (Which I learned to get over really quickly today.)
The next day brought with it some geocaching (always nice to get one of those out of the way) with Karl and a trip to the local fireworks purveyor that resulted in, “Oh! You’re the Amtrekker! Take whatever you want up to ten dollars or so!” Again, I LOVE Huron, SD.
Eventually the time came to show up at the track for the big show. (Which quickly turned out to be much bigger than I ever could have expected!) Brad, the camera man from the day before, had made up some INCREDIBLE cards to hand out after the race car driving and everything seemed to be in order and ready to rock.
I got to squeeze in a couple slow laps around the track to get a feel for what it was going to be like to drive on dirt but it was still intimidating to know that the first time I was actually going to try to drive fast would be in front of THOUSANDS of race fans.
Shortly before the moment of truth I realized I didn’t actually know what I was doing. Asking everyone for advice seemed to be fruitless. Most everyone said something along the lines of, “It’s like driving a car.” And in fact: The best piece of advice I got all night was, “Drive fast, and turn left.” That seemed logical enough.
When the time came I jumped in the car, too excited to care that I didn’t know what I was doing. (Not only a recipe for disaster but also pretty typical in my world.) Lined up at the edge of the track I leaned over to Michael, the car’s regular driver, and screamed through my helmet over the roar of the engine.
“Is there ANYTHING else I should know?”
*Blank stare* “Just go have fun.”
“How far down do I push the throttle on the straight-aways?” I screamed right before I was given the flag.
*Puzzled look* “All the way!”
Oh! That sounds simple enough.
I had one lap around the track before I was given the green flag (The cue to “start the race” after coming around turn four.) and pushed the pedal down as far as it would go. Needless to say that worked out well until I started approaching the next turn and almost peed myself. Michael had given me a quick rundown earlier but I had never taken a turn approaching anything that fast on the dirt track.
It was a blast!
I can’t even describe what an intense feeling it was be that focused while driving a car by yourself in front of thousands of onlookers. In fact…I was so focused I forgot to keep my eye on the flagmen and before I knew it they were waving the checkered flag!
And as intense and incredible as that was it mostly served to make me jealous of the guys that get to actually go out there and compete. Man! That must be the rush to end all rushes. No wonder they go out there every weekend for one of the world’s most expensive hobbies.
I passed beneath the checked flag and took one more “victory lap” before coming in under the flag and in front of the grandstand. As I’m slowly pulling up I see through my helmet that Orville, the guy in charge at the speedway (who, by the way, put a TON of effort into setting this thing up), is holding a GIANT trophy.
I laughed to myself and thought, “That’s an awesome prop! Way to be thinkin’ guys!”
I jumped out of the car and the crowd started cheering. I go to shake Orville’s hand and I hear him say something along the lines of, “You may have to ship it. I don’t think it’ll fit in your pack.” Just as the announcer starts asking me questions I glance down and notice the plaque on this waist high trophy reads “Dakota State Fair Speedway; Amtrekker – 1st Lap” I’m sure the adrenaline helped the process along but I started laughing hysterically while trying to focus on the announcers questions.
(Wow this is a long post. And there was EVEN more!)
After I took the car back to the pit a guy on a 4-wheeler pulled up and said, “They want to know if you’d be willing to go back out front and say hi to some folks.”
Little did I know that meant: spend the next half hour in an ever constricting circle of people asking me to autograph shirts, hats, programs, scraps of paper and a never ending supply of those cards Brad had made up! It was totally surreal! (Slash awesome)
So that was my weekend in a nutshell. I’m sure the video will be awesome. (Thanks again, to Karl and Meagan for hanging out, filming and generally being great people.) I can’t wait to cruise through the footage. Things have been going a mile a minute all week though so I’m still going to have to find a way to get that kiteboarding video up.
And here’s the most important thing…I LOVE Huron, SD. It was hell getting here but it was one hell of a ride once I made it.
P.S. LOTS of pictures are on their way.
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