Knoxville Nationals Night 2: What it’s like to ride in a sprint car

If you’re wondering what it’s like to ride in a sprint car and rip the cushion around Knoxville Raceway, I took mental notes on a once-in-a-lifetime experience Thursday night.

Long story short, I hit the jackpot and got to be the passenger in a two-seat sprint car just before the heat races at the Knoxville Nationals. We ran three laps, and I can distinctly remember my thoughts on each one.

On Lap 1, I was thinking this: “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!!!”

On Lap 2, I was thinking this: “HOLY FUCKING SHIIIIIIIIIT!!!!!”

On Lap 3, I was thinking this: “I CAN’T BELIEVE PEOPLE DO THIS!!!!”

Sorry for the bad language, but those were my true, honest feelings while we were making the laps.

In fact, after the first two trips around the track, I realized I wasn’t even breathing. The stands were just a blur. Gravity was smashing me to the right side like a sumo wrestler was trying to squeeze into the seat.

They’d installed a fake wheel in my seat behind the driver — like how toddlers have a wheel in their car seat while mom drives them to preschool — and I noticed I was gripping it so hard, I could feel my pulse through my hands.

Honestly, all of that shocked me. I did not expect it was going to be that intense. I’ve been lucky enough to do some NASCAR ridealongs before, and those felt more like I was watching an in-car camera except with a sensation of speed. Those experiences were: “Yeah, that was really cool but pretty much what I thought it would feel like.”

But the sprint car was the opposite of how I thought it would be. Of course I knew it would be fast, but I thought the drivers sort of floated it into the turns and feathered the throttle while trying to manage the back end without spinning out.

Uh, no. Not in this case, anyway. The speed was up the whole time, and there was SO MUCH GRIP! The driver was wide open, and I was stunned how much we stuck to the tacky track. If we slid, I couldn’t really tell.

Anyway, I can’t even fathom being out there with other cars and no spotters with people trying to slide-job you while driving THAT all-out. Are you serious?

Anyone who races a sprint car, whether it’s a local track or in the World of Outlaws, I am now officially in awe of you. You people are insane, and I’m perfectly fine with my balls not being big enough to ever attempt something like that.

7 Replies to “Knoxville Nationals Night 2: What it’s like to ride in a sprint car”

  1. Sounds like you were having a blast, maybe just a bit scared? As a matter of fact, it sounds like you’re having the best year of your life.

  2. And now….the Dingus! Do yourself a favor and make it until last call at least once this week. In fact, you might want to call in sick for Sunday right now.

  3. Jeff, now you need to step up and try driving on of these amazing machines. The for me was learning how to mentally slow things down around you. Not an easy thing to do, but it worked for me.

  4. And now you’re hooked! Sprint car fan forever. Great explanation of your experience. Thanks for covering and exposing your followers to the Knoxville Nationals.

  5. My 36 yrs wrenching on these gave me the knowledge of a sprint car but strap into one is a scary event but thrilling also now i get to drive my own cars vintage style still most fun ever looks easy but not still my roots will always be in dirt

  6. We were there that car isn’t that fast you should get a ride in Hewitts 2 seater with Jack driving ????????

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