Fathers Day present yields laps at the Milwaukee Mile
By Bert Lehman
When it comes to buying me presents — whether for Christmas, my birthday or Fathers Day — my wife knows she can’t go wrong if she buys me something racing related.
So when she and my daughter bought me three laps at the Milwaukee Mile in a two-seater Stock Car for Father’s Day last year, I was more than happy. I mean I love racing, but I know that my place in the racing world is covering racing, not driving a race car.
In the past I’ve dabbled in go-kart racing and ice racing. I even raced in a celebrity/media race at Shawano Speedway back in the 1990s. I got to race the Hobby Stock car normally driven by Mark Mitchell. I finished second in that race, and it felt like I was going pretty fast. I watched the video afterwards, though. No, I was not going very fast. But it was a blast none the less.
There is nothing like actually racing to get an actual feel of what our local heroes experience every week. It gives you the feel of how important hand, eye, and foot coordination is. It shows you how limited your vision is as to what is beside or behind you. But when your lack of experience doesn’t allow for the car to reach its maximum capacity, you don’t get the total feel of the speeds involved.
Getting a ride in a two-seater race car helps you experience the speeds involves.
This wasn’t the first ride I have received in a in a two-seater race car. It was probably about 10 years ago that I received a ride in a two-seater dirt Late Model at Shawano Speedway. The driver of the car for that ride was Shawano Speedway 7-time track champion M.J. McBride.
Even though the ride was awhile ago, I still remember it vividly.
When I received my gift of laps at the Milwaukee Mile, part of my excitement was due to the fact I would experience racing on asphalt. I was also excited about getting some laps on a mile track with increased speeds.
After getting rained out twice last year, once after we drove all the way to Milwaukee, I finally got to get my laps in at the Milwaukee Mile on June 29. My ride-along was part of the Rusty Wallace Experience, which travels to different race tracks throughout the country, giving fans the racing experience of a lifetime.
I was a little nervous as my wife Danielle and I made the 2-3 hour trip to Milwaukee. We arrived at the Milwaukee Mile and proceeded to the registration trailer. After registering, I proceeded to pick out a driver suit as well as a helmet. I then waited for my turn to climb into a race car for my full speed ride.
It was finally my turn. With confidence, I climbed into the race car. Safety workers helped hook up the HANS Device, and strapped me in.
As we made our way down pit lane on our way to the race track, I knew this was going to be a fun experience. We picked up speed as we got closer to the track. Once on the track, it was hammer down time.
When we got to turn three and started going through the turn I was surprised by how much my body was forced to the right side of the race seat. Once through turns three and four it was back on the throttle as we sped down the frontstretch, with the car just inches from the outside wall. It was back on the brakes as we approached turn one. On the edge, we tip-toed through turns one and two, and then were back on the throttle on the backstretch, once again inches from the outside wall.
That’s the way it went for the rest of my laps.
Prior to the ride-along, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After it was over, I had a new appreciation for the skill level of those who race. My ride-along was for only a few laps, and there were only a couple of other cars on the track. It got me to thinking about what it would be like to do that lap after lap, constantly hitting your marks each lap, all the while there are cars around you.
It was a fun experience, and I’d encourage any race fan to try it for themselves if they ever have the opportunity.
(This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Full Throttle Magazine.)