Thanks to the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, several members of the media experienced on Wednesday what it is like to ride at speeds that might merit an aircraft traffic citation as seen on curious roadway signs if such speeds did not occur on the confines of Talladega Superspeedway.
In many ways, the whole experience is similar to the experience of riding a challenging roller coaster for the first time if you throw in a double shot of espresso. It’s more thrilling than scary. However, like riding a roller coaster, you’re sort of terrified before the event and you have to wait in line, potentially exacerbating the tension.
The crew of instructors assists in getting you strapped into the ride—in this case, they make you look skyward to properly fasten your chin strap and once you’re loaded into the car they have to ensure your seat belt is fastened properly, as well as attaching a safety device around the neck area. The instructors work with an admirable mechanical precision. They have clearly done this many times before.
The driver asks, “This your first time?”
“Yeah,” I tell him.
“Me too,” he replies in a deadpan delivery.
I laugh at his clever way to defuse a potentially nerve-wracking situation.
Also similar to a roller coaster, this ride begins innocently enough and there is still some tension, at least for me. The driver, contrary to his earlier statement has probably done this countless times.
The driver, who I believe said his name was Lane—although it could have just as easily been Blaine or something completely different because it’s challenging to hear in the car and especially with the stuffy, white helmet on my head—asks me where I’m from.
I tell him across the state line very near Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“Oh, we’ll be there in about a month and half,” he and the instructor tell me excitedly.
To continue with the roller coaster analogy, once you make it over the edge of the first incline, or in this case out of pit row, the sheer speed of things is thrilling.
This isn’t going for a joy ride with your cousin Eddie in an old Mustang down the back roads. I’m just glad I’m not in the driver’s seat. We would be liable to crash into the white wall to our right, which is a tad too close during the first two laps in which we ride on the outside track, to feel completely at ease.
We spend the third lap on the inside track, which is much more comforting without a wall looming on one side. The last laps are a little more sporadic, a blend of inside and outside. A white car with red paint is in front of us on the very last lap, although we never get too close for tension to arise.
We decelerate incredibly quickly, although the driver is skillful enough to where without visuals, one wouldn’t know it. I’ve gotten three times sicker to my stomach through my own lousy braking.
The driver asks what I thought of the experience.
“It was fun,” I tell him, although I managed to sound like an adult and not a little kid.
I dismount head-first from the Aaron’s 99 car and am relieved to get the helmet off. Despite being an overcast day with reasonable temperatures in the high 70s, things got heated with the helmet, while also dressed in a black full body suit, and in a car going 170 mph.
Truth be told, I kind of wanted to be a little kid while we were driving around the track. I don’t think I hold any delusions of imitating Jeff Gordon, but I can definitely recommend the experience. Indeed, it was fun.