Racing Matt Kenseth: Driving a NASCAR Is Like Shoving Scorpions Down Your Pants
I would be taking on a group of bloggers and NASCAR superstar Matt Kenseth of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford on in a time-trial battle, because a live battle with all of the writers on the track would've ended with millions of dollars worth of high octane chaos, like most of my go-karting races at the shore in Ocean City New Jersey. God, those are fun.
They had me watch a few instructional videos on how not to die, but I was too busy fighting off the adrenaline that comes with the fact that I'll be in sole control of a race car that, if driven through certain regions of the world, could give the illusion that their maker has returned.
Thirty-four hundred pounds of the American Dream.
Unfortunately, I never really figured out how to drive stick because I never ran into the opportunity to drive a car that wasn't automatic, as my family is in love with midsize Chevy sedans from the early '90s to late 2000s.
So basically, the cars I drive are slow and mostly reliable, though I always stayed away from my dad's 1992 Chevy Lumina that eventually got T-Boned by a Jaguar when my dad was trying to make a blind left turn.
As we stepped into our racing suits, took a million pictures to prove to everyone back home we are as cool as we're bragging about, and went out onto the infield of Las Vegas International Speedway, my emotions turned to terror and then numbness as I realized the fate that I had sealed for myself.
I'd have to drive a NASCAR around a NASCAR track and try not to embarrass myself in front of all these people. All while trying to go super fast so I could talk smack to my friends and fellow bloggers on the trip.
I had put myself in front of an impossible buffet and now I had to eat it all, all while hurtling through time and space in Matt Kenseth's race car. Whoa nelly.
As I neared closer and closer to my personal independence day, I tried to make small talk with Matt, who was just hanging out by the bleachers near a few heating lamps. For some reason it gets cold in Las Vegas and I'm not sure why.
I think I asked him something along the lines of, "Do you ever get nervous anymore when you're doing insane things like driving a NASCAR with 51 hot-blooded Americans at 190 MPH? And when's the last time you actually felt the emotion of 'nervous.'"
He answered, "No! Never!" to the first part and, "I'm sure I've gotten nervous once or twice over the past few years." Which I thought was a pretty badass answer.
As my kingdom come came nearer and nearer, I decided to go into the world of Zen, and try and sit on the benches thinking of nothing.
I was trying to force myself to think of nothing when all of a sudden my name was called, they shoved me in a race car and pushed my car off, and all of a sudden I was following a professional race car around the track as he led me around all of the lines a real racer would do.
Though I was supposed to follow right behind his wheels like a car following another car on the highway, he was squeezing his car a bit too high into the wall for my liking so I stayed low, far away from the evil wall of my nightmares.
If you crash a NASCAR into a wall during an event like this, your name will be synonymous for embarrassment for decades to come, and I can't have that again. Elementary through high school was tough enough.
So I stayed about ten feet from the wall when the lead driver was about three, and that's how I liked it.
Nervousness soon took hold of every fiber of my being as I realized that every twist of the wheel, which wasn't automatic (as far as I could tell) would lead me to a different point on the track.
This ain't Mario Kart anymore, brother. This is real life! There are consequences!
My hands were shaking like a couple of lobsters with Parkinson's disease and my mind was going a thousand beats a second, and I was barely driving the race car because I was thinking of everything else, like, "Do you think the everyone is noticing how much I'm swerving right now!?" (They weren't).
I decided the best course of action would be to start singing the song stuck in my head while I was waiting around the bench area trying to think of nothing: "Eye of the Tiger." So I donned the dual personality of Rocky driving a race car and the lead singer of "Survivor" and belted out as much of the song as I could remember. I made up the rest.
That seemed to help, as I soon found myself blazing around the track like it was nothing while also hitting the sweet, sweet high notes that come with singing such an awesome song. I even dared inch my car closer to the wall for one of the sweeps around the straightaway, but then I thought better of it and concentrated on my singing.
Eventually, the 10 laps flew by like a soft summer breeze and I was blabbing around the infield, showing everybody how much my hands were shaking from adrenaline. They'd keep shaking for about four more hours after that. I don't think I can get excited anymore, by the way.
All of the bloggers were buzzing around the infield, bragging about how fast they thought they were going to be. There was one of my buds, Justin Korkidis, who kept crowing about how he thought he got a "top-three" time and a bunch of stuff like that. He ended up seventh, and was even beat by two girls, my friends Tracy Pendergast from "The Man, The Legend" and Kaitlyn Vincie from "Hot For NASCAR."
I finished at a top speed of 132 miles per hour, which put me in third place amongst the rest of the bloggers. I probably would have driven faster if I wasn't singing "Eye of the Tiger," or maybe I would've driven slower. Only the wind knows.
I thought we were all going pretty fast until Matt Kenseth stepped into his car to destroy all of our times. All I remember from his first pass of the infield was a harrowing wall of dirt and smoke that billowed from the back of his vehicle as it dusted our pride, as we were all bragging about how the adrenaline had taken hold and we were transformed into "The Intimidator" for those 10 laps.
I don't know how he got that thing to go so fast. I swear I was pushing the pedal all the way down. Maybe there' a special racing gene that gives professional NASCAR drivers a knack for angles or something. I'll continue my investigation. I think he went around the track at 170 miles per hour, if I'm not mistaken. That guy's pretty good.
We meandered back to a beautiful lounge area in the middle of the speedway, where we all got to sit back and kick it with Kenseth as we bombarded him with questions about his fantasy football team that he sets up with members of his racing team (buy in is $100 and it's $5 for every waiver claim, because these dudes are the big leagues) and whether or not he had ever met Aaron Rodgers. Real hard-hitting stuff.
Then the rest of the group came in for a group interview and I didn't get to ask him goofy questions about speeding tickets anymore. (He hasn't gotten one in a long time, and the last time he was pulled over was because he had windows that were too tinted in his Lincoln Continental. It was foggy and the officer tried to convince Matt he was over the speed limit, but Matt noticed the cop was following and made sure to stay under the limit because he knew the cop was on him. The cop eventually realized he had pulled over Matt Kenseth and let him go).
It was still really fun. He's a great dude who loves his privacy and hates public speaking. He had just done a speech at the NASCAR awards banquet the night before and he said it was probably the most terrifying thing he does every year. Reba McIntyre was hosting, how do you beat her!?
Driving that NASCAR and flying to Vegas for the first time was one of the best experiences of my life. I'll be making sure to tell my grandchildren about the time Crown Royal flew me to Las Vegas and I beat Matt Kenseth in a harrowing head to head thriller, with 10,000 fans cheering in the stands and a gigantic trophy that I gained but soon lost while I was protecting the Pope from communist terrorists in Bangladesh. I wanted to show the Pope my racing trophy.
Joe Gibbs also sat next to us in a burrito restaurant as we were killing time so he could catch a few minutes of the Redskins getting smashed against the Jets. They did.
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