Nissan 370Z at High Plains Raceway

Learning to drive like a race car star at RMDE


The author's first time racing vehicles on a GT track proved extremely informative and pummeled the illusion that racing is "easy" and race car driving is "simple." Find out what he learned.

"Jerry was a race car driver. He drove so go#&@*%d fast. Never did win no checkered flag, but he never did come in last."

The song from Primus kept me awake the night before our big day on the High Plains Raceway during the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience in Denver, Colorado. I tossed, turned, and generally got little sleep or relaxation that night despite the comfort of my Holiday Inn bed with its choice of soft or hard pillows. I'm still not sure if it was the extra beers I'd drank with Don Bain just before bed or the excitement of what was to come on that Thursday morning. Either way, the phrase "..wrapped himself around a telephone pole.." wouldn't go away.

When my alarm threatened to go off, I shut off my phone and got out of bed. Memories of the pale ale I'd downed the night before - called Dale's, which I'd chosen because that's a solid Celtic name - still lingered as I climbed into the shower. I briefly lamented not bringing a wrench, since that shower head would've looked awful good in my house, and got myself together for the day.

Meeting Rick
Downstairs, I checked out of my room, put my bags in the car, and went to the orientation breakfast. There I met someone who would greatly influence my day to come, a likeable middle aged Nissan representative from Dallas, Texas named Rick Kulach. We joked across the table as we ate our breakfast and drank the sweetest cappuccino I've had in any of my past lives. Afterward, it was to the parking lot to choose our drive from the lineup of cars going to the race track. Knowing that people with Marine Corps attitudes about territory had already staked their claims on the Audi R8s and probably the big Jaguar cruiser (Don loves Jags), I decided to follow Rick and got into the little Nissan 370Z. I joked with him that since most of my race track experience involved big rigs, I wanted to find the smallest car on the lot to make up for it. Another decision that would greatly impact my day had just been made.

The leisurely drive to the track was about 40 miles or so, mostly freeway, and I had a nice chat with Rick about the car, his past with Nissan, my own past and its woefully inadequate race experience, and some of the cool cars we've owned or wished we'd owned. Then we entered the track. At this point, I think Rick had realized that I was going to need some work. A 370Z does not require button hook turns - a habit from pulling big trailers I've never really shed.

At the track, we went through safety orientation while the cars were lined up in the pits. I checked my camera, turned my hat around, and got ready to be fit for a helmet. I was really glad I'd used the facilities at the hotel before arriving. Things were getting nervous down there. I hear the term "butterflies" a lot, but that never seems adequate. Yellow jackets maybe. Possibly killer bees. Definitely not butterflies, though.

We walked to the pits, ready for action, drivers already lining up to grab the wheel of their chosen first ride of the day. I looked around and found extreme relief in the fact that there were no telephone poles in sight around the visible portion of the track. One problem solved.

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