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!
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).
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!
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!
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!