It’s every boy’s (and some girls') dream to become a racecar driver, but only a very small fraction of us actually get to put that on our job descriptions at some point in time. It used to be that the only way to become a racecar driver, even for just a day, was to dump thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours into a car, and take it out to the nearest racetrack where it stood a significant chance of getting totaled by the village idiot, who also happened to have the itch to go racing. Fortunately for you and your wallet, there’s now a far easier and much more cost-effective way to live out your childhood fantasy.
Drivers coming out of their instructions and safety seminar prior to going out on the track — Photo courtesy of D.J. Henson
The NASCAR Experience
This is where the NASCAR Racing Experience fills the void, and several dreams, at the same time. For just $365 you can drive a real NASCAR racecar, on a real NASCAR sanctioned track, with absolutely no training wheels of any kind. All you have to do is order one of the NASCAR Racing Experience packages via phone or online and choose a date and location for your reservation.
Other packages offered range from simple $130 five-minute ride-alongs, with professional drivers, all the way up to the $3,000 ultimate racing experience, which is a two-day event that consists of four eight-minute solo runs and two fifteen-minute multicar racing runs. However, the most popular is the $365 five-minute solo run.
The NASCAR Experience travels from track to track including locations such as Miami, Chicago, Fort Worth, Las Vegas, and many others. Once your reservation is made all you have to do is set aside time on your schedule to travel to the location you reserved on the day of the event. In the event that your day would be canceled due to weather, the Experience will contact you and you can reschedule at a later date or event change the location of your reservation if you so choose
Cars lined up to be used by the NASCAR Racing Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway — Photo courtesy of D.J. Henson
The racecars are one hundred percent authentic and have all been driven at one point in time by NASCAR stars, including champions Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and several others.
Who Can Drive
In order to drive one of the cars there are a few simple qualifications one must meet. The driver must be in good health and be at least 100 pounds in weight, but not over 300 pounds. The driver must also be taller than five feet, but not above six feet seven inches. The seats are fixed due to safety restrictions, so drivers are assigned to the car they will drive by their height to weight ratio.
The cars are also all equipped with manual transmissions, so be sure you know the basics of how to operate a stick shift vehicle. If you stall the car more than two times then you will be pulled out and given a ride along instead.
During the day of the event, be sure to arrive early and bring some drinks and snacks (this holds especially true for family and friends who come to watch). The entire standard event will last at least three hours for each driver, but overall time at the track is longer than that.
At the track entrance, an NRE official will sign you in and tell you where to park. Once parked, the NRE booth will be close by, and a show of your printed reservation receipt earns drivers a racing suit. The helmet comes later.
At the scheduled beginning time, all drivers are called to the track’s media center, where they sit through a forty minute safety and instructional seminar given by the director of that event. Make sure to pay close attention to the instructions as a serious infraction of one of the rules could cause your session to be cut short.Drivers coming out of their instructions and safety seminar prior to going out on the track — Photo courtesy of D.J. Henson
Once the instructions are over, it’s now just a matter of being fitted for a helmet and waiting for your turn to come up. Once your name is called, just follow your instructions and enjoy the experience. Photo courtesy of D.J. Henson
The Green Flag
You’ll have a designated spotter who will be giving you feedback the entire time pertaining to your lap times, approaching cars, and if you’re running off line. Other than that, you’re completely on your own in your own little world - living the dream you’ve had since you were just a kid. Cars lined up to be used by the NASCAR Racing Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway — Photo courtesy of D.J. Henson
After your session has ended, pull into the pits per your spotter’s instructions. A humorous warning: as you exit your car, your limbs will be wobbly from the adrenaline. Before you leave, turn in your helmet to the staff and go to the booth to hand in your firesuit and see your top speed.
At the end of the day, you will have an experience that you’ll remember and brag about for years, and you didn’t have to waste all those hours, dollars, or fight the previously mentioned village idiot who wrecked your car by doing things the old fashioned way. The pennies you spend in comparison are well worth the investment for this high speed memory. Just don’t get caught speeding on the way home. Photo courtesy of D.J. Henson