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I try on a stock car for size with Fast Track High Performance Driving School
Sept 21-22, 2001
I attended the Fast Track Racing, 2-day Basic Oval course at the Kentucky Speedway.

This school is ran by
Andy Hillenburg, who has raced in World of Outlaw Sprint cars,
NASCAR Busch and Winston Cup series.

He won the 1995 ARCA Championship.  He has raced in both the Daytona 500 and the
Indianapolis 500!   He hopes to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday soon.
Here is the entrance tunnel to the
Speedway's infield. These tunnels
are really these HUGE pipes that
they concreted around and then
paved a road through it. You can
drive a semi through them.
Fast Track hold classes at their
home base in Charlotte at the
Lowes Motor Speedway. They
also teach at Texas, Atlanta,
Bristol, Salem as well as the new
Kentucky Speedway.

The Kentucky track was built in
2000 and as of 2001, does not yet
have a Cup date. It is a rather flat
D-shaped 1.5 mile oval. Its corners
are banked at 14 degrees.
Contrast that with Charlotte which
is 25 degrees.
Fast Track Racing school uses
actual Winston Cup cars to teach in!
Some have a passenger seat added.

This 36 car was raced by Kenny
Schrader and is a full blown race car
and does not have a passenger seat.

These cars are loud, in great
condition and are capable of 160

Fast Track has about 24 cars, but
not all of their cars and people were
here in KY.
Instead of driving down on Friday, I decided to drive down early on Saturday.
I was excited and couldn't fall to sleep untill midnight. I had to get up at 3 a.m.
to get ready and drive to Kentucky. They are an hour ahead of our timezone.
The traffic was nil and I was able to go 85mph the whole way. I got there just in time.

There were about a dozen guys there to take the class - ranging in age from 30's - 50's.
Andy also had other trainers and mechanics there to help him.

Unlike the Bondurant Formula Ford class I'd taken, we didn't sit around listening to racing
theory, such as correcting over/under steer or heel/toe driving.

The first thing we did was walk the entire track while Andy pointed out things about the
course and the groove. He had an assistant doing laps the whole time we walked along
the apron and as he would touch on a certain subject, we would watch the guy zipping
around to see what Andy meant.  It was very well organized!
I concentrated on listening to everything he said. I didn't want to miss something that
would cause me to screw up. I'd feel pretty bad if I wrecked one of his cars!

Andy explained things beautifully and is a GREAT teacher!

It was good that I was paying attention, because everything he said, I needed to know.
There is so much information that must be transmitted to the student that he isn't going
over this stuff twice, but I liked the pace. He also throws in some humor and some anecdotes.

Besides learning the best line on the track, we examined the cars - how to enter, exit,
buckle up, what gauges to pay attention to, etc.
When we'd come back in to the
pits, the teachers would tell us
what we were doing wrong.

I kept getting faster, and I started
getting pushed out of the groove
between turns 1 and 2. I was the
only person to get yellow flagged
to slow down I think.
I was hoping to do 160 mph. I
realized later than I would have
needed to slow down for the corners
and speed up in the exits, but I was
just keeping the revs constant. I'll
have to work on that next time.

I could use some more practice for
sure, but I am happy with how I did.

One student mentioned it was much
easier to go fast at Charlotte
because of the banking, but he
said the banking looked pretty
imposing when you first tried it.

This was very cool as I would never
have thought about driving that fast
through turns, but I just put my faith
in Andy's cars. Also, the Winston
Cup cars are SO safe, with all the
roll bar cage all around you. I
actually felt unsafe once I was back
in my street car, with its airbags
and wimpy seatbelt.

I consider myself a very good driver,
and most of the other guys in the
class were very good too. All the
students who didn't show up in
trucks, showed up in performance
automobiles. I would not recommend
the two day course for a below
average driver. However they have
a variety of other classes you can
take. In fact while I was there, some
people would show up just to take a
fast lap with Andy.
At one point, I had to pull into the pits and then they went to work on it, jacking it way up
on one side to give me new rubber.

This class is so cool. I don't see how you could get a closer feel for what the racers go through.
One instructor, Larry, told us that he can tell when he is running side by side with someone
because he can hear a hum or harmonic sound which is produced as their engine noises get into sync.
We got finished about 4:30.

I had brought a tent and my
camping gear. The area was
beautiful and the weather
excellent. I drove around for 2
hours looking for a campground,
but one was full and one not
good enough, and another

I ended up at the nearby
Speedway Motel where Andy
and the crew were staying.

It is only a year old and the
rooms included a full kitchen
and was just $59/night.
What with the bikers and the strip club patrons coming and going all night outside my hotel door,
I was happy I'd brought some earplugs. I slept soundly through the night. I arose early to an empty
parking lot littered with beer cans. Sure a big change from 6 hours ago.
Note: there are nice and less expensive hotels 12 miles down I-71 in Carrolton.

I stepped outside my room and saw this pretty view.
We got started back at the track about 8:30am.
Today we would begin learning how to run in packs, drafting and passing.
This time, I not only had to have confidence in my car,  but confidence in
the other's driving abilities.
One mistake and it would have been costly!

At first, we practiced running in a straight line and passing.
From there, we progressed to running side by side.
We'd go out and one instructor would be racing with us, driving the lead left car.
We tried to stay 3 feet away from the car next to us and one car length behind
the car in front of us. The instructor would slowly increase speed after each
successful lap.

I think they had us broken up by ability. Andy would assign each person a specific
car every time throughout the weekend. The guys with experience and who were
driving the fastest would be grouped together when we were practicing driving in packs.

You feel closer than you really are, we found from video tape.

Everyone was scared at one point when I and this other guy named Dan, were running
side by side through turn one about 6 inches apart at about 135 mph while also right
behind two cars. WHOA!
While being on the inside of this guy, when we'd hit the back straight, I had to push
him right up just a couple feet from the wall while not looking at where he was!
Also, the cars are kind of shifting around and it is intense!!

When you're running up near the wall, you need a couple feet for the air you're pushing
to get by you. Boy, I was sitting up straight and my senses were on red alert.
At the same time, you have to be confident and relaxed. I had to have absolute faith
in the guys around me. Luckily, nobody wrecked the whole weekend.

Most people had their friends and family with them both days who enjoyed watching
and filming the experience. I was there alone, but I got one lady to use my camera to
take some pictures while I was on track.

We also break for lunch each day. The only thing at the track is a jug of water.
There is a BP gas station across the street from the track that has good cheap food.
I talked to Andy during lunch. I got to talk to him about what it was like to start in the
Indy 500. I asked him about what Tony George is really like. I found out that every
driver who qualifies for the Indy 500 gets a big gold ring that has a large rectangular
green gem in the center (green flag!). It had Andy's name and qualifying speed engraved
on it too. He let me try it on. I would sure love to earn one of those!
I guess no matter how old I get, I'll always secretly wish I'll get an emergency call one
day from the Speedway offering me a chance to race in the 500. One thing I discovered,
Andy LOVES the green flag. I had assumed it would be the checkered flag, but the
checkered flag means it's over!

I told him about watching him at the 500 last year and how excited I was.  He told me I
should have contacted him and he would have put me on his pit crew!  ARG!  I had wanted
to call him, but I figured he had a lot going on and I didn't want to bother him.
The Fast Track Racing School
staff were scattered about and
on the radio with each other.

Andy would pace up and down out
in the middle of the front straight
like a general conducting a battle.

Here I am in the #21 car crossing
the finish line as Andy watches us.
You can't see them, but there are
two guys up in the flag stand.

We finished up about 4 pm and we
got certificates for attending the
I headed home and as usual when
I go to the Kentucky Speedway,
I took the scenic route home.
Kentucky and Southern Indiana is  
beautiful. I love these excursions
to the hilly south. I would like to
move down that way.
Andy was one of my best friends
in high school.  Back then, while I
was racing BMX bikes, he was
racing quarter midgets.  When he
turned 17, he got a new $25,000
750 hp sprint car.

I'll never forget going to his
garage to see it for the first time.  
It was so cool I couldn't believe

His dad and uncle would help him
at the races.  Sometimes I would
help at the garage or the track.
Throughout the two days, I got to
drive most of the cars. They have
Fords, Dodges, Chevy's and

The tires are racing slicks.

I heard if you get these cars in the
grass, they'll spin at just 20 mph.
At first they were telling me I was cutting into turn 1 too soon, but what ended up being my
main problem was that I was driving too fast into the turn. When I was driving at slower RPM's,
I was lapping at a constant speed. As I increased my speed, I needed to begin rolling out of
the throttle before turns. Alas, I was concentrating on the groove and had my right foot on autopilot.
KY is pretty flat, so the corners were not much help in keeping me low. I wanted to hit the apex
of the turn low against the bottom of the track, but I was drifting several lanes higher. The cars have
understeer dialed in and I just couldn't wrestle the thing down.

Some guy timed me and I was going 145 mph. I feel I was one of the fastest guys there.
Several of the drivers had taken the class multiple times. One BMW driver was real slow and he
probably never got over 100. He didn't return the next day.
This track is out in the middle of nowhere and this hotel had a gas station and a restaurant.
I ate dinner at the restaurant, then got a room and took a shower.

The parking lot around the hotel had started filling up.  As I looked out my window, I noticed this sign:
This place also had a strip club!
A strip club?! Out here in the
boondocks?!  The entire north side
of Indianapolis doesn't have one!
I eventually ventured over to check it
out. They charge a $10 cover, but let
me in free since I stayed at the hotel.

I expected a couple homely girls, but
there were dozens of hotties running
around!   It was a pretty wild place.

Later, I played some pinball in the
restaurant and then went to bed. I was
After successfully running in a pact, we would excitedly discuss it with the
other students who ran with us. This really gives you a taste of what Nascar
racing is about!  I was thankful for the talent of the guys I was running with.
Now, that its over, My calves are sore and my left pectoral muscle (from the seatbelt)

If you are interested in taking a driving class, please visit the
Fast Track Web site.
You WON'T regret it. Also, if you are the wife of a race fan, you can't buy your special guy a better
present. Be forewarned, this is rather expensive, after all, you have the crew having to spend the
weekend miles from home, they have to bring all the cars and equipment, renting out the track
(which Atlanta is $6000 a day for one car!) and then they have to deal with insurance companies
to boot. I checked out all the other schools and I think Fast Track has them beat in bang for the
buck. Also, the other students I talked to that had been to other schools liked this one the best.
Their level of friendliness and professionalism surpassed my expectations.

There is a red light pointed right at you that comes on if you are overheating, which means
you have to shutdown immediately.

There is a white light that comes on when you are in first gear.
We gauge our speed with Tachs, not with a speedometer.

We also had to learn how to enter and exit the pits, how to signal on the track and what
the flags mean. When we get in the cars by ourselves, we don't have radios and their only
way of communicating with us is via the flagman who is up in the flag stand by the start/finish line.

After the walk around, we then got in our own vehicles, with a trainer in our passenger seat,
and we got to drive around the track about 70 mph. He would help us work on learning the groove.

After that, we did the same thing, except in a 2-seat race car and kept our cars around
3,300 RPM in 4th gear (which is faster than 70). The main focus of day one was learning to drive
SMOOTH and drive the LARGEST ARC possible in the SMALLEST AMOUNT OF SPACE.

They strap you into these cars VERY tight using a 5-point harness.

The visibility is not nearly as good as my car and you don't have side mirrors of course.
You sit down lower and can't see down the front of the race car.
Also, these stock cars do not have the tight responsive steering and brakes as my sports car.
This make driving them more of a challenge. However, once you get up to a high speed,
the great ground effects sucks the car down and that inspires confidence.
The racer's sitcky slicks are better tires. They have more power and torque than my street car.
The fastest I've been before in my car was 130 mph, and that was in a straight line.
I was to go faster than that in a turn this weekend.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving the cars by ourselves.
They kept us spaced out, with about 3 cars on the track at a time.
We students rotated - we'd go out and do about 8 laps and then come in and take a break
while someone else took over the car.
After a few laps at a specific RPM, we would bump up the speed by 2-300 RPM.