Friends, family, and those who run with scissors…
I just had to send you a note telling you I’ve just enjoyed the greatest thrill of my life.
No… Not the birth of my kids. No… Not getting married (get real). No… Not figuring out how to use my computer! I mean a man’s thrill. Not that bullshit women want to hear — all flowery and getting in touch with your feelings crap — I mean a MAN’S thrill.
Linda, my wife, along with some financial contributions from my Mom, stepdaughter and son-in-law, got me the grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreatest Christmas gift last year; one that fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams. I just didn't know how great it was until I did it — and I did it yesterday… in Las Vegas.
NO! It wasn't a hooker at the Mustang Ranch! And no, it wasn't hitting the big jackpot at the casinos, or getting Wayne Newton’s autograph. In fact, I left enough money IN Las Vegas that they can start building another casino. Wayne Newton’s singing career is secure for another year.
My wife enrolled me in the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Christmas. And yesterday — I did it! The adrenaline is still pumping this morning from the thrill of yesterday. I had to share this experience with you to let you know how it went, and maybe it is something you would like to do before leaving this earth — or getting so old they can’t wedge your fat, wrinkled, arthritic, bone-snapping, joint-creaking, varicose-veined, paper-skinned, Depends-wearing, worn out body in the car. But, just to give you hope, there were two guys in their 60’s yesterday who also competed, so maybe there’s still time for you.
My gift comprised of a chance to ride along with a professional driver and then try to imitate his efforts in a car, myself, for 8 laps called the Driving Experience. The school taught everything: from how to pick a driving line on the track to in-car instruction to how to pick up chicks after the race. Okay… That I already knew. We watched a video to begin with, and then were split into teams. My team, the old farts, looked potent, but not lethal. One teammate asked me where the turn signals were. A competitive spirit is endorsed right from the get-go. After the introduction, you feel like you want to kill the other team and eat their guts for dinner. Like the military boot camp mentality, except your car was your weapon and the ass end of your instructor’s car was the enemy. It almost sounds like a Top Gun thing but on the ground.
Anyway, my team looked weak. With gray hair so thin their hair appeared pink (it may have been skin) and more wrinkles then a Shar-Pei puppy, I knew I had to do well if we were to even have a chance at an unannounced prize for the winning team. The team with the highest average speed would be the winners. I looked at my other ten teammates, added up their estimated years on earth, and came up with a number close to 600. As I assessed the other teams I knew we were in for an ass-kicking. I thought my teammates were intimidating with their tattoos… until I saw they were actually varicose veins. The other teams had punk Generation X’ers that flipped the occasional bird to us, and I heard the sound of my teammates grinding their gums just waiting to take a big suck mark right out of their ass. I tried adding the number of teeth each teammate had in order to get an idea of the health of my troop. Unfortunately, some of my team had left their teeth at home for fear of losing them in Turn 2 — the G-Force corner that makes you piss your Depends.
So, we had our video, we had our motivational speech, we had our teams, now, we needed some uniforms. Amazing how most of my team members had to use all the extra Extra EXTRA Larges to cover their fat — I mean, “calorie enhanced” — bodies. I slid my svelte bod into mine and felt like I was ready to have Miss Winston come up to me and ask me to lay her right there. As I zipped up the suit, the mission became clear. I was here to strut my stuff and show these other cocky bastards just who they were dealing with. I think they had a clue just how dangerous I was, since no one would come close to me. Linda said it was because I was arrogant and obnoxious, but what the hell did she know? She was just a spectator in the gladiatorial battle to come. I told her to sit down and shut the hell up (under my breath) and started to get psyched.
THE RIDE ALONG
I had my choice of cars in which to ride, and, of course, I chose my favorite driver Jeff Gordon’s Dupont Chevy. Dale Earnhardt’s #3 was also available, but it wasn’t even a consideration for this kid (see, I even feel younger). As I watched these pros take a few warm up laps, I felt the butterflies in my stomach. Actually, it was a bad burrito I had for breakfast. I watched the two cars trade places on the track, dicing and slicing for position. The roar of unmuffled 650-horse engines screaming around the track sounded sweeter then hearing Clinton had finally left the White House.
The two cars came down pit road and stopped in front of me and the other arrogant bastard. As I sauntered toward the Number 24 car, I mouthed the words “kiss my ass” to the other passenger. I really felt sorry he had to ride in that piece of Earnhardt shit… Yeah, right!!! HAH! I climbed in the car and strapped in. I had to be careful with the straps between my legs, since by now I had this giant woody harder then blue steel. The cars fired up, and the vibrations and sound came right through the thinly padded seat that was now hugging me tighter then a virgin lover. The two cars lined up and all at once, the rpm’s came up and the clutch was out. I knew I’d found God when all I kept yelling was “Jesus!” as we headed into the first corner from the low angle of Pit Road.
I said to myself, “SELF! We are going to hit the wall in the first turn and I am NOT going to get my money’s worth.” I thought, “Damn! I am going to get blamed for this wreck somehow.”
All of a sudden, the car turns left and I swear my liver’s flipped over my intestines. When these two body parts flip over in a horse, it usually means certain death – or sticking a tube up their ass to untwist them. We come out of Turn 2 and are headed down the backstretch. We are in front when all of a sudden, that black Number 3 bastard comes under and alongside, cutting down in front of us going into Turn 3, thus pushing us up toward the wall to pinch off our line through the apex. I screamed to my driver, “Put that motherfucker in the grass infield!!” We are inches away from his bumper as we exit Turn 4 and head down the main straight past the flagman. We are side-by-side as we re-enter Turn 1… Now let’s see who backs off! I'm screaming at my driver to nail that damn throttle (note: NOT “gas pedal”) to the floor and the hell with the consequences. I soon realize he hasn’t heard a word I’m saying, since he was wearing earplugs and an earpiece for the in-car radio.
Out of Turn 2 and down the backstretch again, and once again that sonofabitch Number 3 pulls alongside; this time, with its driver on my side of our car. I was trying hard to gather up enough spit to hock one across the ten-inch distance that separates us, but my mouth is so dry, my gum is now like scalded hot cheese from a pizza stuck to the roof of my mouth, and the only moisture I could muster is the piss in my pants.
This time, my driver holds his line, and now we are hugging the bottom white line. The G’s I feel cut into my shoulders and waist, giving me some sense of what sadists and masochists must experience. Linda and I may need to try this soon. We exit Turn 4 and sure enough, that black sock-sucker is trying to pass us up high. Next thing I know, the prick cuts down for Turn 1 and damn near rips our front-end off. I see my driver’s feet jump hard on the brakes and the clutch as we lose valuable miles per hour due to this asinine driving courtesy of our opponent.
Alright, you onyx piece of shit…
Out of Turn 2, we head for our final corner. If I had a gun, I would’ve put it to my driver’s head and told him to let that sonofashit know we are back here and use that damn chrome horn on his ass as he enters Turn 3, and drive him up the bank where all I can see is the side of #3 smacking the wall. We are at the apex of Turn 3 and now entering 4. HAH!!! The Number 3 starts to slide high out of 4, since he’s probably overheated his tires trying to keep up with us. The #3 can't hold the bottom line, and now my driver (with my hands around his throat shaking his head furiously) sees the opening I want him to go for, and, with less then six-inches to spare, we slide alongside under the Number 3. The sound is deafening… The engines, the tires — my driver gasping for oxygen — my screaming obscenities at the other car…
We are neck-and-neck… Side-by-side. The finish line is just ahead. I want to reach over and yank on the steering wheel so bad to put that pain-in-the-ass beside us into the wall once and for all, but I’m too busy leaning forward trying to give us every advantage.
The finish line flashes under the car as I look across at the two retards slapping high fives in the car like they had won. BULLSHIT! We won!!!!!!!!!!! I looked at my driver and said with all the certainty I could, “WE Fuckin’ WON!!” He looked at me like I was some postal worker at Christmas who had just unwrapped an automatic weapon. I said if we didn’t win, “I WILL kill you in this freaking car and drape your dead carcass over the front fender like a rednecked hunter with a trophy White Tail.”
We are now on pit road, almost to a complete stop as the drivers kill their engines. All the fans can hear now is me screaming at the top of my lungs, “WE FUCKIN’ WON!” I’m looking for Linda to verify this as she just sits there, pretending not to even know me. I unbuckle the harness and now I’m crawling out of the window, looking to go kick some wannabe Earnhardt ass in the pits when the announcement is made.
And the winner is — it grew as quiet as when E. F. Hutton speaks — the winner is…
THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE
No… Not now. You’ll just have to wait for the second part of
the experience: the REAL experience! Next time, my impatient
fans and friends… Tune in next time.
Robert Strayer, 01-27-01