Role Reversal: My Racing Debut

There’s a new driver in the family… Just kidding! I did, however, make my racing debut in a midget at Bryce Townsend’s Open Wheel Experience. That was quite the way to end our trip in New Zealand! When I first came to NZ with Bryan four years ago, he asked if I wanted to drive a midget… I said yes, so he was going to talk to Bryce and set it all up. Well, I chickened out before he could even get it scheduled. This time around it was a Christmas present and it was sorted before we even got to NZ, so no backing out this time!

Me, Bryan, & Bryce Townsend

Me, Bryan, & Bryce Townsend

I was a little nervous when I woke up that morning and it was time to head to the track. I couldn’t act like it though… I’m tough! I can handle driving a racecar! It wasn’t so much the actual driving that I was nervous for, but I was really not sure what to expect when the midget got pushed off. I asked Bryan probably ten times that day, “So, what’s it feel like? Like what do you do when the push truck pushes you?”. I had all kinds of questions and things running through my mind, but Bryce and his team made me really comfortable and showed me everything I needed to know. When we first got to Patetonga Speedway, I took a few laps in the push truck with Bryce to get a feel for the track. On the backstretch there was a little bit of a ditch that ran parallel to the track and Bryce made note to tell me to avoid that! He showed me where he wanted me to run on the track – right in the middle (the safest place to avoid hitting anything).

Getting suited up!

Getting suited up!

After my laps in the truck it was time to get suited up and get behind the wheel! I have to say that I think I looked pretty good in that United Truck Parts firesuit! Bryan helped get me all geared up – suit, gloves, earplugs, and helmet, – and then they buckled me in! When Bryce pulled the seatbelts for the final time and walked away I thought, “Oh crap. What have I gotten myself into!?.” I felt the push truck start to push me then the next thing I knew I was on the gas!

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Two thumbs up!

Ok… “on the gas” might be a stretch. I spent most of my laps at a high idle, but I did hit the gas! I never hit anything and I never got out of control. I felt like I was flying – even if the video looks like I was driving in slow motion! Driving a midget was a really fun experience and totally different than I had imagined! Patetonga is a pretty big track with fairly long straightaways, but I felt like I was going in a really tight circle. I never felt like I was driving straight. I saw Bryce grab the checkered flag and I was relieved because my neck was starting to get tired from holding my head up! Well, he must have grabbed the flag a little too soon because I felt like I drove around that place for another 10 laps before he anyone waved it. My favorite little Kiwi, Cooper, finally waved the checkered flag for me! When I got done Coop told me he was upset because I forgot to hold the number one in the air after I won! (Bryan did it when he won the Chili Bowl and Cooper watches the video all the time!) I told him I wasn’t good enough for that yet, but maybe next time!

Cooper waving the checkered flag

Cooper waving the checkered flag!

When I pulled in I felt like a had just ran a marathon. My hands were shaky, my fingers hurt from squeezing the wheel so tight and my forearms were aching, but I had a smile so big that you could see it from under my helmet! I didn’t attempt a cagestand… I think I’ll leave that up to Bryan! And while we’re on the subject, I think I’ll let Bryan keep his job as driver too! He did make a pretty cute trophy boy, but I’ll leave the racing up to him. I’ll continue my “backseat driving” from the grandstands… I’m much better at that than actually driving anyways!

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Victory kiss from the trophy boy!

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