Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shake and bake

The hardest part about driving back to the hotel after the Richard Petty Driving Experience this morning at Lowe's Motor Speedway was resisting the temptation to push my rented Pontiac GT into triple digits while weaving in and out of traffic.
Words really don't do justice to the feeling of racing around a 1.5-mile oval at speeds up to 165 miles-per-hour, but it was certainly one of the biggest thrills I've ever experienced. Of course, it was just as big a hit with the players and coaches, all of whom were taken for three all-to-quick laps in a NASCAR Sprint Cup style stock car by a professional driver. My car looked just like the one above.
Some highlights from a very fun day:
  • Watching the bigger players trying to get into and out of the cars. Race cars don't have doors. You enter and exit through an open window. 6-foot-8, 313-pound Dan Ryan and 6-foot-6, 338-pound Mike Hicks provided the most entertainment in this category. Ryan got his legs in just fine, then began to brag to his teammates about how nimble he was before he'd gotten the rest of his body into the car. He then proceeded to get stuck halfway to his seat with both arms above his head and sticking out of the car.

  • There were also jokes for the smaller players, namely Larry Taylor, the 5-foot-5 inch receiver who caught flak last week for being shorter than Gov. Jodi Rell when she visited practice. "LT can't do it!" cornerback Tyvon Branch yelled. "They don't have car seats in there!"

  • Cornerback Darius Butler liked it, but said the adrenaline rush wasn't quite as high as it was when he pulled off a Dominique Wilkins-esque windmill dunk in what was supposed to be a layup contest at halftime of the Bobcats-Wizards game last night.

  • Wake Forest players got their rides, then had lunch. UConn arrived later, ate first, then took their drives. Bad idea? Center Keith Gray, after exiting the car following his run, looked as if he might lose his pulled pork sandwich in a garbage can. Fortunately, no one ralphed. Or cried.

  • Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen made sure he was first in line to get a ride when it was UConn's turn. Others weren't quite as anxious. Desi Cullen and some others watched much of the rides from bleachers before the pack got up to get in line. "Are you finally going?" UConn radio man Joe D'Ambrosio asked as Cullen walked away. "I'm pretending I'm going to go," Cullen replied. I'm fairly sure the Kentucky Hammer got in a car, though at this time I can't confirm that.

  • Players were just as exited to get their free pictures, taken just before the drivers sped off for their laps. I got one too. The fear in my eyes is noticeable. I couldn't even muster the standard "thumbs up" pose. I was petrified. But the ride turned out to be much more enjoyable than the anticipation of the ride. I'd definitely do it again. As for my photo, well, I'd post it on the blog. But I don't have a scanner here in the hotel. Oh well.

  • Randy Edsall and his 16-year old son Corey took their rides at the same time. Edsall's car was the only one I witnessed pass another car all morning. At first, I thought he had passed Corey, but it turns out it was offensive coordinator Rob Ambrose's car. "I got passed in the pit lane," Ambrose said as he exited. "What was that all about?" Edsall claims he had nothing to do with it. He said they had a camera mounted in the car for his ride and it was done for visual effect. No one, by the way, was as amped up as Ambrose after the ride. He whooped it up like he had just won a Super Bowl. I think he's ready to climb Mount Everest in the offseason.

  • Edsall also captured the tire-changing contest, though Wake Forest Jim Grobe was a late scratch due to injury. Or so they said. One of Wake's assistants took Grobe's spot. Edsall was spotted doing some practice runs with the high-powered torque wrench.

There's a media session with players in about an hour downtown. I'll check in later.


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