Do you see that face? That is the face of a woman who had no idea she was about to almost die 37 times in that very car. Yet thanks to a gruff but incredibly talented racing instructor named Mike, I lived to tell the tale of my four-lap, 160-mph spin around the Texas Motor Speedway.
When we heard we'd be treated to a race car ride at this conference, many of us thought it would go like this: A little car would chug over and pick us up, one at a time, for a lap around the track. You know, something ladylike. Instead we were first deposited into the Speedway Club, a nine-story entertainment facility overlooking the track, where they filled us with pizza, tacos and free booze. Which I'm pretty sure was meant to prep us for the two-page waiver we had to sign down on the infield. As we stood around a table scribbling dozens of initials and signatures as fast as we could, I asked if the group anybody was actually reading this stuff. "NO!!!" came the gleeful chorus. Good girls.
Then we climbed into fire suits and helmets and lined up next to ten stock cars. Ten! This shit is for real! And here comes Racing Instructor Mike, who helps me into the car. As he was strapping me into a web of, like, seven seat belts, he asks what I'm doing here. "Um ... I'm here to ride in a race car?" He gives me a long, tired look and says slowly, "No, I mean, who ARE you people?" Ah.
Anyway, no more chitchat, because soon the engines start. The car starts to fill up with fumes, and my heart starts thumping so hard. The rumble of the engine rattles your guts, even before you take off. It's too loud to talk, so we just sit there waiting for the crew to check all the cars. Then I feel a tap on my knee. I look over and Mike gives me a questioning thumbs up. Thumbs back up to you, Racing Instructor Mike!
Then we took off, and surprisingly it wasn't the speed at all that scared me most. No, what really made me poop my fire suit was going 160 mph NEXT TO NINE OTHER CARS. Those drivers were really fooling around, too. Trading places, zigging and zagging, swooping and sliding ... I don't think I breathed once the entire two minutes, I'm serious. Didn't blink, either, no, not once, because I couldn't peel my eyes off the bumper of the car TWO INCHES IN FRONT OF US. Or the fender of the car TWO INCHES FROM MY DOOR. The best part, though, was in the middle of the last lap when Mike actually removes his helmet. There's a hook dangling from the roof of the car, and he's trying to hang it up there. But he can't quite get it, so he turns his head to stare at the hook, steering with one WRIST on the wheel while the other hand fiddles with the effing helmet. And this, friends, is why moments later Mike had to literally lift my shaking form out of the car and set me on the ground. I proceeded directly to the bar, took off my sweaty helmet, and swigged a cold can of Bud Light.
P.S. The rumor was evidently untrue, and Christine Daniels did not attend the conference. But I did shamelessly eavesdrop on two reporters talking about Lisa Dillman being out of the country right now. And that Lisa has said she knew of Christine's transsexuality long before the rest of us did.