One day at FinishLine Racing School and you'd be all smiles, too.
Mike (below) and Kristal (above) Loescher give their students instructions.
After each run, students and instructors discuss any mistakes and good points so improveme
Time to put the hammer down!
Two of the wicked race vehicles you can strap into with FinishLine Racing School.
Talk about a wild ridethis was better than anything Disney World has to offer. The excitement of driving a real stock car is tough to beat.
It was time to go back to school, but in a classroom without wallsa racing school. I met the crew from FinishLine Racing School at 8 a.m. at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida for a day of higher education. Along for the ride was a group from Hoosier Performance Tires and The Gillette Company.
The thoughts that go through your mind are interesting. At the start of the day, all I could think was, Let me get behind the wheelIll show them. It wasnt long before that thought changed to I just hope I finish with a respectable time by the end of the day.
Once we signed the paperwork, we were ready to get going. First, we walked around the track to learn what to look out for while driving. Any trash or bumps could lead to the loss of traction and a possible accident. Also, Mike Loescher, instructor/company owner, showed and explained the different points on the track where we would start braking, turning, coasting, and excelling.
Next, we suited up so we could get out in the race cars. Each of us received a milk crate with our supplies, which consisted of Nomex underwear, gloves, a helmet, and a racing suit to use for the day. Let me tell you, if you never wore Nomex underwear before, its lots of fun. It feels similar to woolvery itchy and hot. Once we suited up, we returned to the track. We were separated into two smaller groups, each with its own instructor. I was in instructor Rick Fergussons group, a former FinishLine student and a racer in the Florida Legends series.
Our first run around the track was as a passenger. This is done while wearing earphones so the instructor can inform us of the lift, turn, coast, and excel points on the track and the proper way to carry them out. It also gives us a perspective on how the race car feels at speed.
Once we gained a feel for the car, we then headed out on the track in a Dodge full-size van with the instructor sitting in the passenger seat so we could learn the reference points and how to react. It seemed a little strange to go around the track at 35 mph in a van, but this was one of the best learning exercises we did. We may have already been informed where to lift, turn, coast, and excel, but driving, even at slow speeds, is the step that makes knowing and doing come together.
With that completed, it was time to turn up the thrills. Now, we would get to drive the cars ourselves. We once again wired up with sound and jumped into the race cars. Next to us, as a passenger, our instructor buckled himself in. He was there to see if we were really paying attention earlier in the day and to help us around the track. With all of us rookies, I wondered if he was putting himself at risk. Fortunately for him, Finish Line puts rev-limiter chips into the MSD ignition boxes to prevent anyone from going overboard.
This is when things got a little nerve racking. As I went around the track, it seemed all I could hear is the instructor telling me what I was doing wrong, with the occasional thats good. When I returned to the pits, my instructor told me, You had a good run, and you should do well during your solo drive. I checked my lap times, thinking they were going to be impressiveafter all, it felt like I was going 150-mph-plus. But I was disappointed, as my best time was only 80.26 mph. I hoped I would do better during the solo run.
Finally, it was time to get behind the wheel without anyone else in the car. The anxiety was gone and the excitement level was up; if I was going to get a decent run, this is when it would happen. We drove in groups of three. Loescher was in the lead car, and following him were two students. FinishLine matched our speeds from the previous run and put us in pairs so no one would get away from the other. Loescher, in the instructors car, would tell us what to do via radios and attempt to push us to our limits during the 10-lap run. If one of us fell behind, Loescher would come up behind to coach the slower driver through two or three more laps and get him up to speed. With the solo lap complete, I checked my final lap time, and was pleased with 98.6 mph.
The fun factor was as high as it could get. FinishLine Racing School was very organized and did everything possible to give the students a thrilling day at the racetrack without sacrificing their safety. I had a great time and wouldnt hesitate going back to schoolrace school, that isagain.