Racetake.com = Motorsports News & Interviews


Fast Take   Compiled by Dwight Drum
Web work by Larsen & Drum    Images by Drum

NASCAR: See Speed, Feel Speed?

“When the car next to you is doing 180 miles an hour, it looks like we're both going zero.” Brendan Gaughan.

Much is said about the need for speed in motorsports and certainly professional drivers, especially top performers, have an unusual drive to go fast and win. But what does that speed feel like and do hi-def cameras really capture most of the experience for TV viewers?

It’s logical to state that feeling the G-forces common to every racecar on every racetrack cannot be duplicated on the couch or in the stands. It’s apparent too that although speeding racecars are certainly fast, top speeds often appear to be slower. It’s just reasonable to believe that feeling high-bank speed pull on a body and comprehending high speed eludes even hi-def cameras.

Drivers agree.

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman has an engineering degree and is known for concise thinking, but even he struggled to define the feel of speed to fans.

“It’s tough,” Newman said. “I guess the sense of speed from 140 miles per hour on up you don’t feel a change. The sense of closeness, it’s no different than being on the interstate. What you really have to put in perspective is being on the edge. I would expect anybody that’s been to war or anything like that knows what it’s like to be on edge and knows what it’s like to be close, knows what it’s like to have a shell whistle past your head or something like that. You have to know that edge. That’s what separates what we do at 180 miles per hour with the people that are running 105 miles per hour at a local short track. It’s everything to the next degree, to the highest degree.”

NASCAR driver Erik Darnell when asked about feeling the speed admitted no easy explanation is available.

“It's hard to tell what we really feel in the car,” Darnell said. “You will obviously not be able to see just by looking through a camera, and unless you've done one of the ride along programs or something like that where you actually get the sensation of speed, to really know what we're feeling, it's kind of hard to describe. I mean, if you're out there and you're going fast and you're running up front, you're about on the edge of wrecking every lap.

Funny Car drag racer John Force had words about the experience of just being at a race that a camera can’t relay.

“It’s hard to explain,” Force said. “You can watch it on TV. Even as great a job as TV does and what they capture of the racing and what it’s all about. Until you have felt the ground shake underneath you. Until you’ve seen 8000 horse power and smelled Nitromethane. Until you’ve seen a car at over 330 (mph) down that racetrack side-by-side. At the end of the day there’s nothing like being there and experiencing side-by-side racing.”

NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan played basketball in college at Georgetown University and has a vivid view of the work load for racecar drivers.

“You can never really convey speed,” Gaughan said. “It's tough to be able to give you that rush of speed through a camera. When the car next to you is doing 180 miles an hour, it looks like we're both going zero. So it's very difficult for us to be able to convey that speed through the cameras.

“The biggest thing though, which is what NASCAR drivers get asked a lot, are we athletes? We can't convey the physical factors that for on in our sport. In Daytona, it was ambient temperature on my seat, we put a sticker on the side of the seat that basically tells you how hot things get, my seat was 160 degrees ambient temperature. That's how hot the conditions are in these racecars.

“The stress factors that go along with the heat and the speed that you're doing, beating and banging, it's really difficult to convey to these people all the stressors that go along in our sport. We may be sitting in a chair all day, but there's a lot of stress factors that go in it.”

According to crew guys at Richard Petty Driving Experience a common comment for first time ride-along participants when they get out of a race car after hot laps is, “I had no idea it was like that.” They are totally swept away by the g-forces they feel in a fast race car as it nearly kisses the wall at every turn.

One can’t really feel what a driver feels in a race car unless one has been a race car driver, but participating in a ride-along or driving a race car is readily available at various schools across the USA.

If there are racetracks nearby there are probably racing schools near too. Tampa area residents can get a ride in or drive a stock car, sports car or open-wheel car in Florida at Daytona International Speedway, Homestead - Miami Speedway, Walt Disney World Speedway or Sebring International Raceway. High speed drag racing is available at Gainesville Raceway.

One can feel the speed even if having the need for speed isn’t going to be a part of any life plan.


Richard Petty Driving Experience
Phone: 1-800-BE-PETTY (1-800-237-3889)

Jeff Gordon Racing School
Phone: (1-877-463-7223)

Mario Andretti Racing Experience
Phone 1-877-Race-Lap (1-877-722-3527)

Skip Barber Racing School
Phone: 1-866-932-1949

Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure
Phone: 1-888-Go-Race-1 (1-888-467-2231)

Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School

Doug Foley’s Drag Racing School

Disclaimer: NASCAR® is a registered trademark owned and controlled by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. Sprint Cup is a registered trademark. The operators of this site are not affiliated with, endorsed by, or sponsored by the NASCAR organization. The Official NASCAR® website is NASCAR ONLINE® at: www.nascar.com.