SPARTA, Kentucky – It took Marty Brennaman 57 years and broken pact with God, but he finally returned to a NASCAR race on Saturday to be the honorary pace car driver. It’s safe to say that the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster will leave Kentucky Speedway with a new appreciation for the sport.
After being involved in the Andretti Racing experience and sitting in the passenger seat of a car that went upwards of 165 miles per hour, Brennaman’s eyes were opened to just what the drivers endure on the track.
“I rode along and the guy went up to about 165 miles per hour and I was scared to death to get in the car,” Brennaman said. “But then it was maybe the greatest adrenaline rush I have ever had to go that fast.”
It was then after the ride that Brennaman was asked how he liked it. When he replied that it was a great experience, the driver told him to imagine that multiplied by 40 cars on the track at the same time all trying to do whatever it takes to win.
“That’s never crossed my mind,” Brennaman said. “I have turned in and watched some NASCAR races here and there and never think about guys riding inches apart from each other or bumper-to-bumper. I really gained a different opinion and a renewed respect for the guys who do this for a living.”
While it was an experience that really showed Brennaman what NASCAR drivers go through, it is also something most race fans will never have a chance to do. And Brennaman thinks they just don’t understand the ins and outs of what life if like as a NASCAR driver.
“This is their way of life, this is what they are used to,” Brennaman said. “I don’t think a fan bothers to realize how precise everything is that they have to do in order to be successful and to get out of the car at the end of the race with their physical being intact. I am just amazed at what they do and the way they go about doing it.”
Brennaman may have a newfound respect and appreciation for the sport and its drivers, but that doesn’t mean he thinks they are right in the head.
“I think they’re all crazy,” Brennaman joked.
As for that pact Brennaman made with God?
“I went to the World 600 in Charlotte in 1967,” Brennaman said. “It was so loud that I made a pact with God that if he let me out of there, I would never go back and I haven’t.”
Until Saturday, that is. I am pretty sure God would understand.