The best adventures and risks in life are the spontaneous ones, aren’t they?
I took one Wednesday at about 4 p.m., which is how I ended up in the backseat of a NASCAR pace car doing 130 miles per hour around the Daytona 500 track.
Just a typical Wednesday afternoon.
Let me back up a little. I was out at Daytona International Speedway on assignment for the newspaper; I write racing stories about as often as Sarah Palin admits she was wrong, but in this case my boss wanted me to go out and do some “non-racing” racing stories, and interview visiting guest celebrities Bubba the Love Sponge (he’s the offensive but popular radio DJ; apparently “Bubba The Love Sponge” is now his legal name, which leads me to wonder: When he makes a restaurant reservation and his table is called, do they say “Mr. Sponge, party of 2?” or “Mr. Love Sponge, Party of 2?” This is the kind of stuff I think about) and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski, who was super-nice but looks about 13 years old.
Anyway, so me and a bunch of other media folk ask our questions of them, watch Brad take Bubba (that’s him, above) around for a few laps, and then the Speedway folks ask if any media guys want to do a lap in the pace car with Brad.
My first thought? Nah. My second thought after watching other people do it? Definitely not. Those cars were going fast.
Finally, when my fellow scribe Godwin Kelly nudged me and said “Come on, it’s a life experience, when are you ever going to get to do this again?” I succumbed, and climbed into the back seat. (After first signing a waiver that said I won’t sue the Speedway if something, you know, bad happens to me.)
It was … exhilarating. And scary. And fun. And scary. Keselowski knows what he’s doing, of course, and driving on an empty track is like cake to him, since he usually is battling 35 other dudes.
Even in the back seat of the Dodge pace car, looking over and seeing the spedometer show 135 was pretty cool.
As he accelerated, it totally felt like I was on a roller-coaster ride. Blood was rushing to my head, and my neck got a little stiff, and I was sort of afraid to breathe. You really, really feel how fast you’re going.
Even more frightening were the turns. Keselowski was hugging right up against the wall (“I love torturing media folks!” he laughed maniacally) and if I looked to my right I saw there was very little room between us and the wall. I cannot imagine driving that on a regular basis like these guys do.
At one point Keselowski, who really seems like a good guy, heard a few of my “oh (bleep)’s from the backseat and turned around to look at me.
“Oh come on man, I haven’t even done anything crazy yet, like drive with no hands,” he said, then took his hands off the wheel for 3 seconds.
He’s quite a comedian.
Finally, after 4 laps he pulled us into pit road with some hard braking and tire screeching. I unbuckled, got out, and again felt like I’d just been on a scary ride at the amusement park.
Here’s the clip of us going round and round; and at the 3:10 mark, that’s me unleashing a swear word:
**You know, I really hate most Boston teams. Because as a New Yorker, you’re raised to hate them.
But until about 10 years ago, I did kind of feel sorry for them. Except for the Celtics, they never won anything. New York and L.A. and Chicago were always kicking their teams’ butts in the playoffs of the four major sports, and I even felt a few pangs of empathy for my many Beantown friends.
Now? Screw that. With the Bruins’ Game 7 win to clinch the Stanley Cup Wednesday night, Boston teams have now won seven championships since January, 2002.
The Patriots have three Super Bowls, the Red Sox two World Series titles, and the Celtics won one NBA title.
Happy to see the Bruins win Wednesday; they were the better team the whole series, and their goalie, Tim Thomas, is a phenomenal story. Guy played 10 years in the minors before getting a chance in the NHL.
But, yeah, Boston fans can’t bitch about anything for a long time.