Hang in there with me this month. This blog is a bit lengthier than usual but I promise the lesson is well worth it.
This blog is about another adventure mentioned in the previous blog called “What if FEAR Doesn’t Have to be Your Identity? How to REWIRE Your Biggest Fears.” My adventure was said to be “The high speed plus trusting the directions of a stranger whom she had never met…..” The adventure was driving a NASCAR.
I often get the question, “What made you want to drive a race car?” I found that the opportunity and the high speed sounded exciting. Before I finalized the adventure, I reached out to a few friends to see if any were interested in driving a NASCAR with me. One girlfriend decided to join me so I booked the adventure for us both to drive a NASCAR for five minutes at the Phoenix Race Way.
It was finally the day for the NASCAR adventure. I wasn’t sure how to prepare for it other than to show up and be open. So that is what I did.
I arrived at the track and met up with my girl friend and her boyfriend. Then track personnel gave us our outfits for the day and took our picture. Next, my girlfriend and I went to the mandatory driving school. This is where things started to get interesting.
At driving school, we learned some of the company’s history, the process, and the rules for the adventure. Here is what I remember:
- We are going to drive a real NASCAR that has actually been driven in races. Now the car is retired from racing.
- I will be in the car all by myself with someone in my ear telling me what to do. This was a surprise to me since I was expecting someone to be in the car with me.
- If I stall getting out of pit row three times, I will have to do a ride-along instead of driving the car
- There will be several cars on the track all at the same time
- If at any point, I am not following directions, they will shut the car off
When we were done with driving school, I realized it had been over ten years since I had driven a stick- shift vehicle. The adventure I want to have is to DRIVE, not to do a ride-along in a NASCAR. To help my odds of not stalling on pit row, I found the teacher of driving school and asked for a quick refresher on how to drive a stick. As he was finishing up what he was doing, my girlfriend walked by and asked what I was doing, so I told her and she decided to stay with me for the refresher. The teacher graciously gave us a refresher inside one of the NASCARs. As he was doing so, another woman walked by and joined our refresher class.
Now it was time to stand in line to get our helmets to drive a NASCAR. This part took FOREVER! But while I was waiting, my excitement was building as I watched other people getting into and out of their cars. There were a few cars that stalled on pit row, but not one whose driver had joined our refresher class. I viewed this as a success! I also noticed: the sound and smell of the cars was amazing to experience up close and personal!
Next, it was my turn to get into a car. I climbed in the window of a car that had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the painting design (remember the cartoon characters and action figures that were turtles). Suddenly I was being strapped into a five-point harness and a man attached the steering wheel. Just before he left, he let me know someone would say my name and that would be the voice that would talk me through this adventure. As I was waiting to hear my name, I looked around the car like I do when I get into a rental car. I quickly noticed:
- I couldn’t move anything but my head, arms, and legs
- I could barely reach the pedals
- There are no rear or side mirrors
- The seat was really uncomfortable
- There was no handle on the stick shift for letters, it was just a stick
Then I heard, “car number 18” . . . . . then a pause . . . . . then “car number 18.” I didn’t see anyone or hear my name as previously instructed, so I said, “I’m Tanya in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle car — is that who you want to talk to?” There was a pause and he said, “yes, Mama.”
He reminded me that I must do exactly as he says or he will shut the car off; it was for my own safety. I acknowledged that I understood.
The first task as a team was to start the car. I felt the rumble of the NASCAR, it felt different than anything I had been in before. The next team task: move the car by putting it into first gear. I almost wet myself with excitement as I quickly shifted into second gear, like it was just yesterday when I’d last driven a stick-shift.
Now we are out of pit row and he keeps me in the bottom lane and he tells me how fast to drive. Then he says to move up to your right, NOW. My first instinct is to look in my non-existing mirrors and shift my body to see if it was safe, but I couldn’t move my body. I was trapped in this car at the mercy of a complete stranger. So I just did what he told me to do.
I am holding my lane position when he says to slow down, then to slow down even more. Now he tells me to move up to my right, NOW. So I do. I continue to do as I am told. Eventually, I’m told to move down to the bottom lane then he directs me towards pit row. My five minutes on the track are suddenly over!
I was still excited as I parked the NASCAR and took my foot off the brake. Then the crew took off the netted window, removed the steering wheel, and unstrapped me from the five-point harness. I climbed out of the window. The time had gone by so fast, I wish I would have paid for the extra minute on the track.
In the office an employee gave me my certification which documented my top speed: it was just under 100 miles per hour. I was so bummed! I asked if that was a normal speed for someone’s first time. They said it was normal for this track because the straight-a-ways are short. For top speeds, I should go to a larger track in another city.
I found my girlfriend and her boyfriend. We decided to go to breakfast together, so we could relive and share our experiences in detail. We both agreed this adventure proved to be more than we could possibly have hoped for.
Here is what I learned from this adventure:
- Asking for a refresher on how to drive a stick was not easy for me. All that went through my head was the shame of being a girl by asking a guy to give me a refresher on how to drive a stick- shift. But the thought of not fully experiencing this adventure of driving a NASCAR was far more important to me than a social stereotype and shame story I had created. So I asked the man. His response, and the actions of the other women who joined the class, validated the importance of asking for what you want.
- When my life was in the hands of a stranger, I was amazed at how quickly I trusted him. This part of the adventure was a surprise to me. I was impressed by how aware I was of being vulnerable and by my ability to be flexible in the situation.
- I didn’t realize how dependent race car drivers are on their team. I have a new appreciation for the sport.
- I didn’t feel like I was going very fast at all. I recognized that the right tools for the right job make it easy.
- I would definitely drive a NASCAR again.
This adventure made me evaluate my process of trusting people. Was my process overly complex because I didn’t trust myself? Was I erring on the side of over-protecting myself, even though I might be pushing people away? Did this experience make me more willing to ask questions, even if I might appear somewhat stupid or vulnerable? Are there certain times in life when the situation requires me to trust someone else very quickly if I want to get through it?
How about YOU? What does YOUR process of trust look like? What changes can YOU make to stay safe yet enjoy what life has to offer?