Anticipation, Terror, and Joy: My time with The Richard Petty Driving Experience

Each week 43 drivers put on their firesuits, shoes, and helmets and prepare to get down to business. But, as I was trying to cram my larger than average melon into a helmet, the only thing I could think was, "are these guys nuts?"

For days I had been anticipating having the opportunity to sit inside a stock car and go for the ride of a lifetime. I'd said my prayers, counted my blessings, and nearly talked myself out of it a dozen times. I might write about guys traveling at 200 miles an hour, but could I do it? Would I be able to climb through the window and into the seat? Would the fear be evident in my voice? Would I scream like a little girl or cry like a baby? Who the heck cared? I was getting the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for nearly two decades and I wasn't about to let those butterflies in my stomach win.

Climbing into the car was a lot easier than I imagined it would be. Sure it was a tight fit, but you don't want to feel like you're going to go rattling around inside the cockpit, do you? Jason, the driver introduced himself while I was being strapped in, and before I knew it the engine was roaring to life underneath my body.

There's something about the sound of a racing engine. Its primal quality is hard to describe. The way it makes your body vibrate and the way the sound reverberates off the surroundings is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. For my ears it's pure joy and no matter how many times I've heard it, the reaction is still the same. People ask why I follow this sport, the sound of an engine is just one of the many reasons why.

After getting the all clear, Jason steered the car down pit lane and onto the banks of Turn 1. Even though we weren't fully up to speed at that point, I was struck by how fast the wall was going by and how it was almost impossible to move my head to see the tachometer. Call me crazy, but I wanted to know how fast we were going! The surroundings flew by and when we hit the turns it felt like my stomach was trying to escape through my back and in that moment it all became clear. I understood why Carl Edwards has abs of steel, because if he didn't g-forces would be a nightmare. I understood just how important it is to have a spotter and crew chief, because everything happens so fast and your field of vision is so small. I understood the mental focus it takes to drive a racecar for a living and how often there's not time to think, you just react.

As I felt the adrenaline running through my veins and the joy overtook the fear I once had, I realized that being a NASCAR driver has to be one of the most incredible jobs on the planet. The men and women who do this for a living are beyond blessed. Yes, there are risks involved, but if a day at the office meant I got to strap into a 3,400 pound lightning bolt each weekend, nothing would stop me.

Below you will find the video of my trip around the track with Jason, a man whose face I never saw, but who gave me an experience I will never forget.

I'd like to thank The Richard Petty Driving Experience and Marcus Smith, President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway for giving the Media Tour Rookies this opportunity.

A NASCAR fan for nearly 20 years, Katy Lindamood is the founder of Skirts and Scuffs. While most teenagers were drooling over the latest teen heart throb, Katy was perched on the couch crunching numbers and taking notes on what was going on in the world of racing. Today Katy leads a team of more than two dozen female writers and photographers with the goal of giving female fans a voice and debunking the stereotypes she's dealt with since the age of 12. Katy can be contacted via Twitter or email.

Anticipation, Terror, and Joy: My time with The Richard Petty Driving Experience Anticipation, Terror, and Joy: My time with The Richard Petty Driving Experience Reviewed by Katy Lindamood on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 Rating: 5