In the late 1980s early 1990s there was a fierce competitive spirit in NASCAR racing among two drivers - Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt. It wasn't as popular of a sport as it is today, but I can recall my sister and I going to see our favorite drivers (in the #2 & #3 cars) race around the Pocono Raceway tri-oval (and also exhibit our own fierce competition to see which one of our favorites would finish out front). I remember thinking to myself, how cool it must be to ride that fast on 4 wheels down the front straight-a-way of the legendary track. So when I found out about the Cloud 9 Living's 3-lap Stock Car Ride Along at Pocono experience, I was immediately on board!
A few weeks prior to my experience, I received a race experience pack in the mail with all the details and my heart started pumping faster already. I was going to ride shotgun in a 600 horse power Sprint Cup style stock car around the same Pocono Raceway which some 20+ years ago seemed so impossible.
Super excited, we packed the bags, the tech and cameras and headed to Long Pond, PA. We made our way through the infamous infield through the tunnel under turn 2.
As a self-proclaimed "geek dad," the only bummer was that I couldn't bring any of my gadgets or technology equipment with me in the car around the track. I would have loved to take some video footage from my vantage point, but trust me, it was awesome. We checked in and I reluctantly surrendered my smartphone and FlipCam HD, kissed my family for good measure, suited-up in a fire suit and helmet, and in about 10 minutes, was ready to go.
When I got in the #8 car, the coordinator helped me into the car and as he was getting me all harnessed in, he introduced me to my professional driver, Bruce. Then he asked me who my favorite driver was, which I shared as Rusty Wallace in the #2. He then quickly followed up with, "Well, who's your favorite driver today?" I quickly answered, "Bruce!"
As I was getting strapped in the harness, neck roll and both attached to the seat, like any good New Yorker (just like taking a cab ride) I decided to chat a little and get Bruce's story. Bruce has been driving professionally for over 20 years. A transplant from Charlotte, NC, Bruce has been driving at Pocono for the last nine. That made me feel better (sort of) until he said, "if you feel sick, give me the sign and I'll slow down, otherwise, hang on and enjoy the ride."
We pulled forward to wait for the other cars to clear, and then, as the 3rd car in line, I could hear the others in front of us start to head out of the pits. Before I knew it, we were on our way! By the time we entered into turn 1, Bruce had already gotten us into 4th gear. Between turns 1 and 2, I could really feel us starting to really motor! You can feel the g-forces against you in the car as it sucks you back into the seat as the driver accelerates and maneuvers into and out of the 3 turns. It is much like an amusement park ride that provides centrifugal force, only with the the threat of you hitting the outside wall.
You can hear my 2 kids saying "Daddy" in the background as I race past the checkered flag at about 160 miles per hour...
There are only 6 cars on the track at the same time, 3 "ride-along" cars (the experience that I was graciously offered by Cloud 9 Living) and 3 "driver" cars (which is a separate available Cloud 9 Living experience). The "drivers" left pit road at the same time to the inside of the track, running much slower than we were. The cars and tires are looked over by the helpful crew after every 6 or so laps to ensure the safety of all of the participants and drivers.
A Cloud 9 Living experience certainly makes a great gift for someone who might be celebrating a milestone birthday, someone who loves racing or simply is a thrill-seeker yearning for a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
You could even enter Cloud 9 Living's "The 9 Days of Christmas Giveaway" for a chance to win one.
To find out more about my experience from my wife's perspective, please visit: http://gobigorgohomeblog.com/2488
Here are some photos from my experience, and a few videos as well:
Note: Cloud 9 Living did provide me with this experience at no cost.