by Ryan Isley
SPARTA, Kentucky – When someone from NASCAR walks through the media room and asks if anyone wants to take a pace car ride, the only right answer is “Hell yeah.” So that’s exactly what I said on Saturday afternoon at Kentucky Speedway.
They took us from the media center and through the garage area and finally led us down to pit road to await our ride. They loaded us three at a time into a Toyota Camry driven by former NASCAR driver Brett Bodine.
Bodine was fantastic as our “tour guide,” giving us the insight into a lap at the 1.5-mile track.
We started off slow, as pit road speed at Kentucky is just 45 miles per hour and you have to stay below the yellow line until you get to the back straightaway.
Once we were on the track, Bodine quickly got us up to speed (not race speed, as we didn’t have any safety equipment on, but we were moving at a pretty good clip). As we entered turn 3, Bodine told us that the 12-degree banking makes it a difficult turn.
“This is the toughest corner in NASCAR, turn 3 at Kentucky,” Bodine said. “It’s really easy to get in there too fast.”
As we exited turn 4, Bodine accelerated even more, to where you could feel yourself being pulled down by the force as we got to the front straightaway.
“The fastest part of the racetrack is the end of the front straightaway,” Bodine said
Well yeah, you could say that again.
While turn 3 has just 12 degrees of banking, the first two turns are a little steeper.
“Turns 1 and 2 have 18 degrees of banking,” Bodine said. “When you get into this corner, you can feel the extra grip the car has.”
Not only could you feel the grip, but you could hear the pieces of rubber that had already been laid down on the track coming up and hitting the undercarriage of the car. It was like driving on a freeway after they just finished laying asphalt and they didn’t clean up the little pebbles that were created.
Then it was time for our lap to come to an end with a simulated green flag entrance onto pit road. Bodine put his right hand in the air and explained how to begin the pit stop procedure.
“Coming out of turn 2 and into the back straightaway, you get ready to make a green flag pit stop,” Bodine said. “You make sure to signal to the competitors behind us.”
Bodine then took the car to the low part of the track to begin the entrance to pit road.
“Stay low once you get to the corners and come through turn 4,” Bodine said. “Remember that pit road speed is 45 and you have to be at 45 before the yellow line.”
To get to that 45 miles per hour, Bodine mashed the brakes and squealed the tires as NASCAR officials were standing right near the entrance to pit road for some reason. He avoided the officials and brought us to the pit box, where our ride was over.
So that was my trip around Kentucky Speedway on this hot Saturday afternoon.
And by the way, “Hell yeah” is definitely the right answer.