“I did the Richard Petty Driving Experience when it wasn’t open to the public. I just went to the track with the instructors, and they said, ‘Here’s the keys to a NASCAR. Have fun.’ The guy said to me, ‘Here’s the rules: I’m going to drive in front of you, and your job is to hit my bumper. Stay so close that you’re going to hit my bumper. You be on my ass, right?’
“‘You’re sure?’ I asked, and he said, ‘Look, this is like chasing a dolphin. You’re not going to catch me, so you stay on my bumper. If you stay on my bumper, I know that you’re in a safe line, that nothing’s going to happen to you. If you get off my bumper, I don’t know. You could slide, you could take an unsafe line. Stay on my bumper, and you’re safe. As fast as you want to go, I’ll go. If you want to go 75, I’ll go 76. If you want to go 100, I’ll go 101. But you stay on my bumper.’ OK.
“So I’m on this guy’s bumper. I’m doing about 140, not superfast for NASCAR, but 140 in a real race car, on a track with turns. I’m right on this guy’s ass. I’m white-knuckled and it smells and it’s loud and it’s rumbling and you’re on his ass and you’re doing 140 and you’re a nanosecond away from death, right?
“And you come into the first turn. If you watch [racing] on TV, it’s no big deal, right? Just this little turn. But you hit this first turn, and the G-forces, the car doesn’t move, but your body wants to go out of the passenger window. So you’re now fully holding on for dear life trying not to fly out of the car, while this car is turning at 140 mph.
“It was the most death-defying experience of my life. It gave me a whole new respect for NASCAR, because if you watch it on TV it’s like no big deal.
“But I got out of the car after probably 12 laps and I almost fell down because I was physically exhausted. After 12 freaking laps, and these guys are doing 500 miles. Anyway, I looked over and everybody was laughing. I was like, ‘Are you laughing because I’m tired? You guys get in and try it. Trust me, this is hard.’
“‘We’re not laughing because you were tired,’ they said. ‘We’re laughing because you couldn’t keep up.’
“‘Couldn’t keep up? What are you talking about? I was on his ass. If he would have let off the gas, I would have hit him and I would have been dead!’ Then they said to come watch the replay, and I was like four car lengths behind. Swear to God, I thought I was [inches] behind and it was ... well, it was very far. To the point where they were laughing their asses off.”