OSWEGO — On Sunday, I had the luxury of taking the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience at Oswego Speedway.

For those who don’t know what the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience is, it’s the largest driving school organization in the country. It is named after the NASCAR Hall of Famer and champion. When you become a part of the experience, you can either drive or ride along in the slew of racecars offered during the event.

From NASCAR Super Late Models to Nationwide Cup-style racecars, the possibilities are endless. The types of racetracks included in the experience are super speedways, speedways, short tracks, bullring tracks, and Canadian tracks.

With Oswego Speedway being a short track, I had the chance to climb into a Super Late Model. Despite not getting the chance to take on a bigger NASCAR racecar, the late model was still really cool.

Mind you, while driving to the speedway I had every intention of driving one of the cars. However, once I went through the process of signing up and writing in my information, I chickened out and decided to just do the ride-along.

There was a slight potential liability setback to my interest in driving. If you decided to drive one of the cars, they highly recommended purchasing a day’s worth of insurance. Even with the insurance, the slightest scratch or dent to a car could cost up to $1,000.

Without insurance, damages would cost a hefty $15,000. Needless to say, that scared me a bit.

Nonetheless, I went forward with a ride-along. I was part of the first class of the day, which included a handful of other people.

Before driving started, each of us had to sit through 45 minutes of instruction. It included how to put your helmet and tracksuit on, how to drive a car, the proper way to drive around the track, and safety procedures.

Evan though I wasn’t driving one of the cars, I found the talk to be interesting when you consider how much professional drivers go through to ensure safety on the racetrack.

Once the talk was over, it was time to ride. Following a quick tuneup and a few laps around the track, the cars were ready to go.

I started out by putting on my tracksuit. Let me tell you, getting in one of those suits on is a task. You have to start by putting your legs through holes at the bottom of the suit then you have to “stretch” the suit to go over your shoulder and wrap around your arms.

All zipped up, I began the tedious process of climbing into the passenger seat of one of the cars. With me being a fairly big guy, it took some time to get all of myself through the open window and into the seat.

First, you hold on to one of the bars on the side of the window then you slowly lift your left leg into the car. Once you’re in position, you slide the rest of your body into the car.

The seat was a bit snug, but I made it work. Once I was all strapped in, I put the “sock” on my head and proceeded to snap on my helmet as well.

Following all of this, the professional driver put the pedal to the metal.

There was a chance for us to go about 170 miles per hour, but with other cars on the track and the track being just five-eighths of a mile, we had to go a little less than that.

The driver said we would be speeding between 130-140 mph.

He wasn’t kidding.

I have never gone that fast in a car before, and once I did, it was incredible. Going that fast with all of the horsepower coming from the engine, I can completely understand the adrenaline rush drivers get when they speed around the track.

One thing I didn’t expect were the exhaust fumes that built up after driving around a bit. Even with a helmet on, the fumes from the car can sting your eyes and make you feel like you’re swallowing it. With that being said, I learned to adjust and still enjoy the ride.

Still, I don’t know how professional drivers can handle obstacles like the fumes.

We went 13 laps around the track, and every lap was better than the previous one. Going that fast is a rarity for most people, but professional drivers get to enjoy that every day.

Now I’ll be the first to tell you, all my life I have never understood the hype behind NASCAR and racing as a whole. I don’t dislike racing, I’ve just never drew immediate interest in following it race-by-race.

However, after what I experienced in a racecar this past weekend, I have a gained a ton of respect for drivers and fans, especially the drivers and their pit crews.

The work that professional drivers and crews go through with tuneups, wearing the proper safety attire, and making sure everything is tip-top shape is mind-blowing. It takes a lot of time and effort for everything to be cleared and good to go.

My hat is off to all of the NASCAR drivers and racers alike. I couldn’t keep up with half of the stuff they do every time to prepare to race.

If I ever the get another opportunity to try out the experience, maybe I’ll build up the courage to drive one of the cars. That might ignite a deeper appreciation for racing.

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