Behind The Wheel Essay, Research Paper
What It Feels Like Behind The Wheel by Richard Corliss
The article was out of a recent magazine regarding what it is like to drive a race
car in the Nascar circuit. The article goes further to explain what happens on a routine
race day for a known race car driver by the name of Derrike Cope. He attempts to give the
readers a picture of what it is like to make a living making left turns in heavy traffic at
dangerously high speeds, sometimes in excess of 200 m.p.h. Cope states, There is
nothing like sitting on a projectile going 190 m.p.h. on the brink of going out of control.
It s the sheer rush, touching every emotion you have.
On a typical race day, if you can call it that, Cope gets out of bed around 7, packs
his gear, and attends a sponsor hospitality event. In the big leagues, sponsor s money
determines the quality of the team and the equipment. The average cost for one year of
racing is about six million dollars! The pit crew bundles the racer into fire-retardant suits,
shoes, and gloves before mummifying him with five tight seat belts. For the first time of
the day Derrike is alone, listening to the rapid thumping of his heart beat inside of his ears,
feeling the throttle of the ultra-sophisticated car beneath his thin soled racing shoes.
The motors start and the cars begin to follow the pace car in a single file line. Once
the cars reach the green flag the pace car pulls into the pit and the other cars rev to 190
m.p.h. You are sitting right on top of the exhaust. There are vibrations all through your
rear end, up through your hands on the wheel. Strategy, both competitive and financial,
demands that you be near the front of the pack. The sponsors equate TV time with money,
Exposure is what it s all about. You have to create an opportunity where you can go up
front. , Cope states. Usually the smart spot in a race is second place behind someone
like Earnhardt, there s a lot of TV time up front near a star. At the pit stops, about every
50 laps, a 16 man pit crew gasses you up, changes your tires, and wipes the windshield,
while the driver swigs some water, all in a matter of seconds!
Fatigue is also a preciding factor, during a race, it is not uncommon to loose
anywhere from 3-11 pounds. The heat inside of the car is often around 140 F. The racers
pulse rate is at 85% of maximum, similar to marathon running. A helmet weighs around 3
lbs. But on a banked turn, pulling between 2.5Gs and 5Gs, it can be five times as heavy.
There are no time-outs, no bench, and no room for brain fades when the length of a
football field passes in a second.
In such extreme conditions cars behave unpredictably. The car becomes loose or
gets sideways, the nose or tail swerves in it s own direction. When metal merges and some
cars crash, the driver must find an exit. All you are looking for is an opening. You don t
have time to think. Smoke. There is just smoke. You are looking for a window, maybe just
a shadow. Sometimes all you will see is the front of your hood. It s very unnerving. ,
Cope says. In the last 10-20 laps the spotter and crew chief are guiding you. You are on
a kill, go for broke attitude. The last 5-10 laps, it is all you can do to handle. You are
driving your car on the ragged edge of disaster.