Well, the dirt eatin’, ears ringin’, heart poundin’ season opened last Friday. Yup, the 2008 season started at the local 3/8’s mile dirt track. As it happens, I share a stock car, ol’ 94, with another guy and we trade off driving. I gotta say, it’s more fun than humans should have.
This is our third year, and I have to tell you that stock car driving is one of those things that looks easy from the stands but really takes some getting used to when you are in the fast chair.
For starters, you can’t see. That’s probably the biggest difference between stock car racing and just going fast on the road. You have on a helmet, which may be tied to your seat, so you can’t turn your head. Instead of glass you have screen in the windshield and net in the side window, not bad when you get used to it but at first it’s hard to see through it. There are no mirrors, you kind of “use the force” to know somebody is coming up behind you, and come they do! You think you’re just flying, “wow mom look how fast I’m goin’,” and all of the sudden swoosh, a car passes you like you’re stopped.
All your instincts are wrong too. Suppose you’re on the freeway, and there is a car on each side of you but just say a fender length ahead of you. Now suppose the freeway narrows down to two lanes and the two cars begin to move into your lane. Well of course you’ll back off the gas and shift back behind them, defensive driving and all that… well not on the track, if you’re on a good line and headed into a corner, you push on the gas. It’s ok to rub a little and you can rub your way right past them because you’re on the fastest line through the turn, assuming you don’t all spin. And you haven’t lived until you’ve spun in the middle of a pack of cars.
Now since I share driving, I also share watching. You see a lot of interesting people in the stands. Of course there are the experts who have never been in a race, but they’re just boring. The amusing people are the ones, usually crew or family, who sit in the pit stands and try to give signals to their driver. Now I can tell you, in the car you don’t even SEE people in the stands, they are just something not to hit. There’s too much going on to see somebody waving their hands around off the track. The funniest though is when they try to signal the driver to pass, just what the hell do they think he’s doing out there. There is really only three things the driver is trying to do:
1. Pass the guy in front of him.
2. Don’t get passed by the guy behind him.
3. Don’t smash up the car, at least not real bad.
Pretty much in that order.
Now I would never tell them that their driver can’t see them, in fact I’ve advised them that they most certainly can be seen but they have to make the signals big, REALLY BIG! Heck, now it’s almost like watching one of those modern dance routines.