My first time in a late model stock car was also my first time on an oval and my first time in a racecar with more then 120HP! In the past few years the opportunities that I've had and most of the connections I've made have all been on the road racing side of racing. However, I've always wanted to run on an oval and last week I finally got this chance through the first Revolution Racing Late Model driving school.

The experience was amazing. It started with a long drive down from Northern Virginia to Charlotte on Monday evening straight after work, stopping at a hotel 2/3s of the way down for the night. In the morning I drove the rest of the way down to the Revolution Racing shop in Mooresville, where we did some laps on the iRacing simulators, then had an introductory session and a short quiz mainly on setting up cars. Having worked with setups a bit in iRacing and other sims and understanding the basics of vehicle dynamics, I didn't find the quiz too hard, although with road setups fresher in my mind, I mixed up a few things. Next we had a tour of the shop. The place was definitely impressive, quite a step up from our 10x30 public storage garage!

We left the shop to stop by Max Siegal's house, where most of us would be staying for the next few nights. This was the same house used to film the Changing Lanes TV show, and it really is Max Siegal's house. Pretty cool deal. We then headed to a local indoor kart track, Victory Lane Karting to do a race. The track was really interesting, the unique thing was it is a mix of polished and grippy concrete. Unfortunately I ended up in a kart with a flat tire for one session, but overall it was a fun.

The next day, we headed to Hickory Motor Speedway, a historic short track approximately 3/8 mile in length about an hour away from the house and the shop. As soon as we pulled in and I saw the cars and trailers, I knew this was the real deal. We weren't driving gutless 25 year old rustbuckets with holes in the floorboard. We weren't using 5 year old tires. We weren't paddocked in the dirt under a tree in the back corner of the woods. We were driving a real professionally maintained late model stock car!

First we got a drive around the track in a street car with Robert Huffman, a former track champion and truck series driver. The line at Hickory is actually pretty similar to a road racing line with what I'd consider a “late apex,” not like the turn in early and ride the bottom that I expected. The point to pick up the throttle was very late compared to a road course, as I expected and I knew that would take some getting used to.

I was definitely nervous my first time in the car. I had to borrow a helmet because I did not have a HANS device. I'd never run with a radio before. The seating position and the view out of the cockpit were all a bit different. I would be following Robert around the track for my first laps. The first few laps felt strange but I was just trying to get used to it. We picked up a bit of speed, although we were still going very slow. I started using a bit more throttle out of the turns. Out of turn 4 I decided to go to full throttle, and before I knew it, I got wheel spin and the car was coming around. I thought the car would just hook up and I was totally caught out. I did a lazy spin and locked in down, I totally thought I was going to clip the inside wall but instead I just missed it and came to a stop on the apron in turn 1. It was amazing how far I slid backwards going that slow! Fortunately everyone was really cool about it and I got back out in a few minutes. I continued following Robert but honestly it was not that easy to keep up with him even at such a leisurely pace. I was getting a feel for it but this was not gonna be a cake walk for sure.

In the afternoon, we went out for another run, this time without a pace car leading. I was much more aggressive warming up the tires this time and slowly worked up to speed. By the end of it I was going way faster then the pace laps in the morning. I didn't find it too difficult to figure out what I needed to do. I was able to find the line and feel how the car just felt good when you hit the line perfectly, almost like the car just hooked up on a rail. But I was still having trouble hitting my marks consistently and also still didn't really know the limit of how hard I could drive the car in on entry. Driving the late model at speed was a sensational feeling though. It was intense. The car accelerated faster then anything I had driven and had significantly more grip too. It felt like a real racecar, and honestly made the things I'd driven on a road course feel like child's play. It didn't really feel more difficult, but I have to admit, it was a bit intimidating lapping in this unfamiliar car on such a short, narrow track at speed with the banking and the walls everywhere.

The next day we would all have two 20 lap sessions. I was finally able to get comfortable with my seating in the car. The first day, I had some issues with the steering wheel and throttle positions that I didn't realize until I started driving. Fortunately the guys at Revolution Racing were very accommodating and patient with helping me get comfortable in the car. With those out of the way, I went out for my first session. It was very cold and as I was working up to speed, I rolled into the throttle coming off of turn 4 and I felt the car start to come around again! I kept hearing people say how they get to full throttle so quickly, but now I realize it's all relative. They have probably never driven the underpowered cars on a road course like I have. Anyway, this time I thought I could save it, but if I knew if I tried to and it didn't work, I would probably hit something. Instead I locked it down and came to a stop without hitting anything, but I'm sure it looked pretty stupid. I pulled back into the pits for a quick check and was back out soon. Fortunately I was able to put the spin behind me and get to work. I was focusing on carrying more speed in and driving in deeper. I was trying really hard to improve my lap times, and I was definitely driving harder. I was feeling the car push up the track in the center of the corner and then I was also having trouble keeping the car down on exit and felt the car get a bit loose on exit a few times. Other times I pushed up wide on exit and got into the dirty part of the track. My times were a bit better then the day before but still not that consistent.

Andy Santerre, who was coaching us on the radio, explained to me that I just needed to slow the car down with the brakes more and I was carrying too much speed in the center. I went out again and knew what I needed to do, but right as I was getting to speed they brought me in on the radio because there was a funeral going on near the track. It was kinda frustrating as I was ready to go but there was nothing I could do. After the delay I went back out and worked back up to speed. This time I slowed the car down more and just drove the car easier but hit my marks and my times were faster and very consistent for much of the session. I was really starting to put it all together and it as a great way to end the day.

Overall I was pretty happy with what I had accomplished considering my extreme lack of experience compared to most others at the school. The amount I learned was immense and I feel like I have a good grasp on what I need to do to improve. Over the past few days I haven't been able to stop thinking about it as it's been sinking in. I can honestly say this may be the coolest thing I've done in racing yet and it's definitely something I want to continue to pursue.