Respecting What a NASCAR Driver Has To Do, Via Kart Racing

Thanks to a kart racing experience, at high speed (60+MPH is fast on a ProKart with your butt 1″ above the ground), on a banked circle track last year, I can appreciate what a NASCAR driver has to do to be competitive & win.  I felt it appropriate to discuss my revelation now, since NASCAR’s inaugural race of the 2012 season, the Daytona 500, runs today.

2012 Daytona 500 - The Great American Race

If you are a frequent reader here, you know my previous opinion for NASCAR racing was not of the highest regard.  This post title is contrary to my previous point of view of NASCAR.

I now have an improved change of opinion about the NASCAR series & their respective drivers. That came about last Fall.  I shared with you the Chevy Volt & OTX (On Track Xperience) blogger/racer promo I participated in last October 2011.  Russ, the fastest of the three of us bloggers, wrote this nice piece about the Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient event.

I learned that to succeed on a banked circle track race, in a ProKart, you need to stay on the gas…whatever you do, never lift.  For me, that was very hard!  My tendency was toward self-preservation.  It was a very insecure feeling to to be tucking into the bottom apex of a corner, at speed, with the kart’s rear end consistently on the verge of spinning out.  I tried, but lack of confidence, fear, centrifugal force, driving on a lit up track at night, the 50 degree cold weather – all conspired against me.  Even with the assurances of my kart racer partner Jeff, with multiple seasons of league karting experience under his belt, I wasn’t sure I could do this.

Proper (& brave) NasKart bump draft racing with OTX at Thunderhill Raceway - Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient, by DrivingTheHeartland

Fast forward 2 weeks.  Through the goodwill of the winning racer of this event, Russ, I received & made use of tickets to see NASCAR racing at the Texas Motor Speedway (for 2 races & a hotel stay).  This was on Friday & Saturday, November 4th & 5th, just north of Dallas.  It was a long drive, almost 5 hours in Karlino, to get to the hotel & make my way to the track.  Ya gotta love Dallas’ constant challenge of highway construction, fooling you as Google Maps shows you the “right way”, regardless of the menacing lane switching detours.

My Texas Motor Speedway NASCAR Races tickets - Thank you Chevy/GM!

To make a long story short, I got to experience 2 NASCAR racing events:

  • NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing on Friday night
  • NASCAR Nationwide Series racing midday on Saturday

The Texas Motor Speedway complex is, in a word, vast!  Even before going into the track entrance gate (one of many), I was impressed by the sheer size of the facility & free parking.  I kinda felt out of my element, not wearing any gear that identified me as a NASCAR fan.  I was still proud to wear my AMSOIL colors, although AMSOIL is not all represented in NASCAR.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway - November 2011 - Panorama

Arriving late Saturday morning, I could see SO much more!

Texas Motor Speedway facade & parking lot, November 2011

NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway - November 2011 - Panorama

So, you ask, how does this huge track & NASCAR event have to do with my karting last year?  Although the comparison is weak, the ProKarts handling felt like the racing stance through that TMS track at speed.  It’s a very slight, but steady controlled drift, looking as if it’s ready to scoot out from under you at any minute & scarily head for the wall!  I realized then & there that the NASCAR racer’s job is to go fast, turn left (mostly), but keep it at the ragged edge of control.  I respect that!  In addition, I saw a lot of the PR activity the NASCAR racer has to go through for both their fans & their sponsors.

See the moving stance of the NASCAR racers at speed - it's a very slight, but steady controlled drift, at Texas Motor Speedway - November 2011

The spectacle of the “side show” around the phenomena know as NASCAR is also quite something, too!  The promotional aspect of the race is a well-oiled machine, offering hearing protection, special radios for the fans to follow the action throughout all the noise & other NASCAR-themed paraphernalia fans just cannot live without.

Hearing protection which made NASCAR watching almost bearable...NOT!

NASCAR race scanners & more - a good example of the NASCAR-specific technology for the race fan, at Texas Motor Speedway

Check out the pricing of the scanners, etc. from sales trailer of R.E. Racing Electronics!

Again, I offer my thanks to GM for inviting me to participate in the Chevy Fast & Fuel Efficient event last fall.  Thanks to them, I experienced part of the NASCAR world in person & gained an appreciation for it.

Racing Ready is always open to learning & forming new opinions.  Although I will have to say I’m still not really a fan (except at the NASCAR road races of Watkins Glen & Infineon Raceway), I now very much appreciate the skill, ability & risk involved in driving within the world of NASCAR.


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One thought on “Respecting What a NASCAR Driver Has To Do, Via Kart Racing”

  1. Howdy Dan!

    Like you, I’ve always preferred to watch racing that required drivers to turn both left AND right. But after we had the ProKart experience (courtesy of General Motors and On Track Xperience), I share your respect for oval track drivers. This includes not only the NASCAR series but also the oval events in an open-wheel series like IndyCar.

    I had once heard a driver describe the Indianapolis 500 as “800 different corners” (200 laps of the 2.5 mile oval) and I didn’t really understand until we raced the karts. You say “the comparison is weak,” but I think it is right on — just scale up power by ~40x, weight by ~20x, and speed by ~4x! Depending on the race traffic and where you find yourself (left to right) on the racing line, each corner is indeed different with every lap. And the penalty for lifting is always the same!

    So what should we conclude? Oval racing is just as interesting for the drivers — but some of us spectators prefer watching a race that includes some right turns!

    Keep the pedal to the metal and the shiny side up!


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