I’m mere hours away from riding around a 1.5-mile super speedway at nearly race speed.
Yes, I know, according to just about everyone I’ve talked to I’m supposed to be jumping for joy at the chance to get a ride along with the Richard Petty Driving experience Thursday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
It’s the same thing from pretty much everybody, ‘You cover racing, you’re supposed to want to do this.’
Thursday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, as part of the Meineke Car Care Bowl festivities, players and coaches from both the UConn and Wake Forest football teams will get their chance at riding shotgun in a Nextel Cup car for 3 laps around Lowe’s Motor Speedway, as will media covering both teams.
OK, honest truth, I am excited, though I’ll probably have a little more trepidation about the whole thing than most at the track on Thursday.
And let’s just drop this whole, ‘You cover racing so you’re supposed to want to do this more than anything,’ philosophy.
One time I covered Olympic level gymnastics for The Courant and trust this, though I know people would likely pay to see it, I’ve never had a desire to do any kind of twirly’s on the bars. And I know my floor exercise just isn’t what it was 20 years ago. And hey, I’ve covered bull riding too, at its highest level, never meant I wanted to jump on top of one of those things though.
I’ve covered auto racing for more than 10 years at the Courant and I’ve never had a burning desire to get behind the wheel of a racecar, much less ride in the passenger seat of one. The closest I’ve ever come is racing in a Legends Car media event one night at Stafford Motor Speedway. Yeah, Legends Car, tiny racecar, motorcycle engine, a couple steps up from the Vernon Golf Land go-karts.
Now I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but honk, honk. Let’s just say I smoked me some Kevin Nathan in a big way that night, I think by about half a lap in the 10-lap race. We won’t talk about how Tony Stewart passed me like I was standing still in the next race a few minutes afterward. For the record, Tony told me before the race to get out of his way out there, I didn’t listen, and for that I got the enjoyment of a 360 degree spin toward the wall. Lesson learned that night, if Tony Stewart tells you to get out of his way in the meaningless exhibition race, just get out of his way.
And yeah, that whole passenger thing, not big on my scale of enjoyable modes of transportation. I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to that. Not a big fan of not being behind the wheel. Let’s just say I don’t like riding shotgun in a golf cart and I won’t go on a cruise because I’m not steering the boat.
I guess I was pretty much fine with it until last week when my best friend, who just happens also to be a guy who has covered auto racing for years, told me he probably wouldn’t do it. Yes, it led to the discussion of what we’ve seen at the racetrack over the years together. We’re not going to go there because this is a family blog and we’re not trying to turn this into a big downer, but I think there’s a little something different in your head when you’ve witnessed firsthand just how dangerous racing can be.
I’m no thrill seeker, never have been and I don’t think I ever will be. Bungee jumping? Idiotic. Hang gliding? Ah, sorry, I don’t have wings which means therefore I was not built to fly. Parachuting? Don’t even get me started on hoping a really big blanket can stop you from going splat.
But I’m going to do it Thursday. I know there would be more than a few people that would never let me live it down if I didn’t. Maybe I’ll walk away with a whole new appreciation for the sport I’ve covered for so long. I just really want to walk away period.
Shawn Courchesne, 8:42 p.m.