I wanna go fast!

KC-6392As Eleanor Roosevelt told us in the opening of “Talladega Nights,” America is all about speed.

Me and Ricky Bobby, we’re believers in that mantra.

I found out earlier this year that Crystal had a conference in Kansas City. She was hoping that we could all go as a family and make a little vacation out of it.

Her previous conferences were in Orlando and San Diego, so somehow Kansas City didn’t have quite the same ring. That is, until I remembered that the Exotic Driving Experience had some drives available at the Kansas Speedway.

Hmmm. Maybe there’s one thing we can do in KC!

I was a little hesitant about spending the money, though. It’s not inexpensive to drive a car that costs considerably more than a house (a pretty nice house, at that), but due to family issues we really skipped over Father’s Day and my birthday this year. Crystal said we could just consider that my missed gifts.

So, here we go!

A quick visit to their web page showed that the Exotic Driving Experience had two rides in a Ferrari 430 Scuderia available for the day after we arrived. The Lamborghinis were booked up, and turns out a guy my height wearing a helmet won’t fit anyway.

Besides, Ferraris are the cars of my dreams. Never mind that poster of the Lamborghini Countach that graced my walls as a teen; I wanted to drive the red car that Michael Schumacher helped develop.

The night before the drive, I couldn’t sleep. I was too nervous that I wouldn’t hear my alarm and miss out on the drive. As a result, I showed up about an hour and a half before showtime.

No problem. I got to roam the garage and check out the entire fleet, which included two Lamborghini Gallardos, a Ferrari 458 Italia, a Porsche 997, and a Nissan GT-R, the one dubbed “Godzilla” by the motoring press. I was also able to check out the retired NASCAR stock cars used by the company’s other venture, the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Gearhead heaven.

So, anxiously waiting to climb in and go fast, myself and the other lucky people who had dinged their credit cards for a fast ride sat through the company’s safety briefing. We would be accompanied by one of the company’s drivers, who had a throttle control in their hand to cut power if we did anything stupid. They also would tell us our braking and shift point as well as pointing out the line on the track that we would be driving.

The track itself was a short road course built on the infield of the 1.5-mile oval that makes up the speedway. Its straightaways were short enough to keep us well away from the top speed of our supercars, but long enough to let us experience the rapid acceleration the cars were capable of as well as the way their massive brakes would haul us down from any speed in short order.

I watched the first group as they worked their way up to speed after a couple of laps. My name was called to drive in the second group, and I clumsily folded my 6’2″ frame into a car that was designed to envelope the driver rather than provide efficient ingress and egress to a driver of Sasquatch proportions.

I was introduced to my co-pilot Rob, a chipper guy with an awesome mustache and Dale Earnhardt shades. His first order of business was asking whether I wanted to do the shifting myself, which is accomplished in this car by paddle shifters behind the steering wheel rather than a traditional stick shift. I could also set it to shift automatically, but where’s the fun in that?

Rob then guided me down the pit road to the first turn, where we sat and waited for the go-ahead to hit the track.

After a few minutes of watching the other cars circulating, we were finally turned loose. We slowly navigated the first turn, and when Rob asked me to perform my first upshift, I executed it with precision. Which meant I ham-fisted the shifter and accidentally turned on the windshield wipers.

By then, my confidence was soaring.

We cautiously completed the first lap, with Rob explaining the shift and brake points, pointing out the orange cones which indicated the apex of each curve, and reminded me that the brakes were our friend for this trip.

I purchased the video package, which had a cockpit view and an outside view. In watching the video, I noticed that I began grinning at lap two and did not stop the entire time.

Rob kept pushing me to accelerate quicker and brake deeper. I guess I did okay, because at lap four, he said, “Getting a lot more comfortable, aren’t you?”

Man. The car cornered like nothing I had ever encountered. Even though we never got above 80, you still got a sense of how fast the car could go in a corner and how powerful the brakes were. In fact, I’m certain we could have driven the car in deeper and gone even faster in the corners; I don’t think we were anywhere near the edge of the envelope. But, finding that knife edge and going over has much steeper consequences than doing it in a Honda Fit.

In the Fit, you get to keep your house.

So, all too soon, it was over. Six laps and we were pulling in, but the permanent grin stuck with me for most of the day following. In fact, I kept reminding the girls that I drove a Ferrari that day.

They generally rolled their eyes, but when I threatened to tell a waitress at one of the restaurants where we ate, they put their feet down.

To see the drive in all its glory, check out this link: http://youtu.be/dcOZT8HaG9w?list=UU01C3t2DZ8aCn1m–5Aqusw

To book a drive of your own, you can go to their web site (http://www.exoticdriving.com/) and tell them Mike sent you. Ask for Rob, too; he made the drive a blast!IMG_6390


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