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“A Fun Experience”

Rusty Wallace Racing Experience
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Reviewed 14 July 2014

I recently did the 10 lap racing experience and in all it was a very fun. This is an organized and well run event, from the registration to the instruction to the actual racing experience. Everyone makes you feel welcome. There is a definite emphasis on safety, and rightfully so. I did not plan on purchasing the insurance but we arrived at the track early to watch some earlier drivers and witnessed a car run off of the track and hit the guard rail inside the track. Needless to say, I purchased the insurance when I registered just for the peace of mind. It was a great experience to get into the car and be buckled in and waiting for your group to go. I understood that the group of 4 cars on the track at a time would either have a pace car or else a few laps to get everyone spaced out and used to the track before actually going faster but that did not happen. As soon as we were on the track the spotter just said to go. That was a little bit unnerving because you don't really know where everyone else is or how fast to really get going. You just have to try to stay in the line and if you need to get out of someones way wait for the spotter to tell you what to do. I have to admit it is harder than I thought it would be to maintain your race line and know when to slow down and speed up into and out of the curves. Although it was well explained in the class and places marked on the track where to accelerate and decelerate, it was still difficult, which limited how fast I could actually go. The windshield on the car was not very clear and almost like looking through a fog which made it even more difficult to see the cones and gates that were marked on the track. There was one spotter for all four cars and it was sometimes hard to tell exactly what he was saying, but if you hear your car number you knew to pay attention and do as he says for your safety and the safety of the others. I wasn't going very fast but got stuck behind someone who was even slower than myself. You can not pass unless the spotter tells you to. After following the person for a couple of laps I finally got the go ahead to pass. At that point there was only a few laps left and I tried to make the best of them. It does take the greater number of the 10 lap package to start to feel comfortable out there so if you can purchase more laps I would advise it. I am sure most people are like me and never get up to anything close to racing speed (you will likely drive faster on your way home), but the experience of being in the car hearing the engine accelerate out of a curve was worth it and at least makes you think you were going faster than you really are. Just the experience of driving on a track was great. I would do it again now that i know what it is about and would feel much more comfortable out there and hopefully be able to pick up some speed. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to experience racing.
A couple of suggestions for improvement would be that each driver have their own spotter like they do at the larger tracks and allow 3 or 4 "warm-up laps" that do not count against the 10 lap package to get used to the car, and how best to maintain speed.

5  Thank Islandrelaxn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 13 July 2014 via mobile

The Rusty Wallace Racing Experience was an absolute blast and I can not wait to do it again. I signed up and experienced the 3 lap ride along as well as the 5 lap driving experience package. The only thing that cast a shadow on my experience is that I did not decide to purchase additional laps. The instructor was great and everyone made me feel incredibly comfortable. The short track experience felt true to stock car racings roots and was everything I could have hoped for and more. Thank you to everyone at the track for a great day that will be a lifetime memory!

Thank Logan M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 June 2014

I bought a 10-lap racing package for Columbus Motor Speedway for June 14th. The entire experience was fantastic. From the moment you slide into the car, to the guys strapping you in tight, to firing the engine and laying down 10 thrilling laps of racing, it was exactly what I was hoping for. You are truly strapped in like a race car driver with a fire suit, helmet, hans device, radio communication with a spotter, etc.

10 laps won't be enough next time though. Felt like I didn't push hard enough or long enough, so I'll have to get it right next time.

The people working the event were great. They made it clear safety is number one, but they don't hold you back from getting after it on the racetrack. And I'm really thankful a 6'4" 300 lb man can sit comfortably in the car. Otherwise, I wouldn't be out there.


Thank soggydoggy22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 June 2014

First time doing the RWRE- My wife got it for me for Christmas- then i just happened to schedule for Father's day. Unbelievable experience! From the moment you walk up- you will know this is going to be FUN! The staff is very courteous and friendly. They do a great job of preparing you for your experience- you have to sit through a short class on the do's and don'ts, discussing safety first, and then the best way to maintain a safe and fast line around the track. Our instructor was humorous and fun- he got the point across in a great manner! After the class, you go into the tent where you put on your fire suit (PS before you get into the suit use the facilities...), helmet and get ready to race!

I did the 3 lap ride along- which i highly recommend- will certainly help your confidence level when you actually get to drive.

After the ride along, they put you into your own car- I'm a bigger guy so we had an issue with the steering wheel hitting my legs- the staff worked on 3 different wheel solutions- the whole time being very friendly and helpful. Finally we modified one and it worked. 1- way radio in place and the guy on the other end said "Start your Engines!!" Let the fun begin! 10 laps at high speeds, the Spotter does a fantastic job of keeping everyone choreographed so not to have any problems. He'll tell you when to pass, what to do and how to have the most fun.

10 laps went way to quick! I promise you the more laps you buy the more fun you'll have. I was on the track with 3 other cars- all of which had 5 lap packages- after that i had the track to my self! Unbelievable! So much fun to be out there carving up the track!

After the run was over, they coax you back to pit lane where an associate is waiting to help you out of the car- or in my case probably make sure i didn't try to drive the car home!

Friendly and helpful- Fast and loud- this morning was the best gift anyone could have gotten me!! The RW team did a great job of making the experience that much more fun and exciting. I would definitely recommend the Rusty Wallace team in the future and YES- i will return!

Thank you,

Thank Trevor C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 18 June 2014

Last year I participated in the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience at a half-mile paved oval called Motordrome 70 speedway in Pennsylvania (just off I-70 not all that far above Morgantown, WV). I had a great time and wrote about it in my blog at http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2013/10/racing-school.html.

At the start of this year, I was alerted to another discount deal for the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience (RWRE), this time at Columbus Motor Speedway (CMS) in Ohio. I had so much fun last year that I decided to do it again on a different track. Columbus is only about two hours away—there are no other tracks as close to my home which host such racing schools.

CMS is roughly a third of a mile long, with only about 10 degrees of banking, and it has virtually no straightaways. It is more like a circle stretched on the sides than a traditional racing oval with a front and back straights. Despite its small size and odd configuration, there is a lot of history there—it has operated continuously since 1945. I’ve watched a couple of races there over the years, and (as I reported in my previous blog posting) I got to drive a small four-cylinder “Legends” race car on it once.

My appointment was set for 8:00 AM Saturday morning—the first session of the weekend. In hindsight, I probably won’t pick the first session if I do it again, because I think there is some advantage to watching others on the track before you get out there. I arrived early, parked in the designated area, and walked over to the registration trailer to sign-in.

I decided to purchase the optional $60 insurance policy, just in case something might happen (indeed, a guy had crashed not on the race track, but at the conclusion of his session when simply coming through the pit gate during their previous visit to CMS—plus I knew about a couple of accidents that had occurred at Motordrome last year). However, I passed on their offer for purchasing a “ride-along” (where you ride in a special two-seater race car beside one of their drivers before you drive yourself on the track), or buying extra laps, or choosing the in-car video option.

At 8:00, we met under a tent canopy for the drivers’ meeting. The instructor carefully went over all the details for our track session. The track had already been marked off with tape markers at various points to indicate the proper groove to take, and cones were set at the entrance to turns one and three to indicate where you should get off the gas pedal.

RWRE is nice because they put multiple students on the track at the same time (a maximum of four at CMS), and allow you to pass each other if necessary. All the students can hear the instructor over the radio, and if you are faster than another student, the slower student is told “left and lift”—meaning they should go to the left of the groove coming out of turns 2 or 4 and lift off the gas pedal, to allow the faster car to make an outside pass on the straight stretch.

Once everyone felt comfortable with all the instructions, we went to pick up our drivers suits and helmets. Then we went to where the cars were lined up, and the pit steward assigned us to a particular car. I believe they base their decision on which car they think will best fit your dimensions—it’s not like the race car seats are adjustable as they are in a passenger car.

At your assigned car is an assistant to help you get geared up and ready to go. This person is a bit like a squire to a medieval knight, assisting you with mounting your steed. First, the official RWRE photographer comes by to get a few shots of you beside your car and climbing into it. However, I’ve taken my phone with me both times I’ve done RWRE, and each time my “squire” was willing to take a few shots for me.

Climbing through the car window and into the seat is no easy chore. Before you get in, make sure the front wheels are pointed straight ahead—you don’t want to attach the steering wheel later in what you thought was a vertical position and then discover the wheels were not properly aligned. Also make sure the crotch belt (to prevent you from “submarining” below the lap belts in a sudden stop) is not lying in the seat before you sit down. Then ease your way into the custom built seat and get comfortable. Check the pedals, instrument panel, and gear shifters (this is not a standard H-pattern single gear shift, but two shift levers—only one of which needs to be used). This will be your office for at least ten laps so get acclimated to it.

The squire will explain everything to you and make sure you are comfortable. Then you get your helmet on, the Hahns device (a yoke to prevent extreme neck movements) is attached, the five point safety harness is buckled and straps are cinched, the radio speakers are slid next to your ears inside your helmet, the steering wheel is locked onto the splined shaft, and the window net is raised. Note that the steering wheel is much closer to your body than it is in a regular car—there is no power steering in these race cars, and so having it closer gives you more arm strength with which to steer it.

The instructor’s voice will come over the radio, and you reach out the window to give a “thumbs up” that you heard him. Then you turn the fuel pump on, flip the ignition toggle switch up, and push the starter button. The unmufflered race engine roars to life, and then rumbles along at idle until you are directed to pull out of the pits and onto the race track. Give it enough gas so that you aren’t embarrassed by stalling it, especially since you are starting off in second gear. Once you are on the track, even though you are still under caution, you can go ahead and shift into high gear. No more shifting is needed—just wait for the instructor to get everyone on the track and properly spaced out before the green flag flies (you don’t line up close together like a normal start to a race, but instead they put everyone at an equal distance from each other before starting).

Upon getting the command to start, you must focus intently since you alone control several hundred horsepower. Follow the tape guidelines as you drive around the track. Dive into turns 1 and 3, aiming for the apex. Then roll into the throttle coming out of turns 2 and 4, while drifting towards the outside wall. Stay in the gas until you enter the next turn. One of the biggest keys to success is to be smooth—don’t stomp the gas pedal, but gradually weigh into it coming out of turns 2 and 4, before hopping off as you enter turns 1 and 3.

While I was heading into turn 3 in one of my early laps, cranking on the steering wheel (with my left elbow down towards my left hip and my right forearm coming across the top) as I aimed for the apex, I got a bit of a surprise. As many race engines are prone to do, my car had warmed up enough (plus I was in the gas hard enough) to result in a loud backfire when I lifted off the throttle and rolled into each corner. It continued to happen several times until my time was up. I like to imagine seeing it from the grandstand with a big ball of flame rolling out of the exhaust—wish I could have had a picture of that!

It turned out there were only three of us on the track for the first session. We had started as a group of four, but one guy had purchased the extra “ride along” option, so he was given that opportunity just before the three of us went onto the track. Both of my fellow drivers were considerably younger than I was—one was probably in his 20s and the other in his 30s. I’m guessing from their attitudes that they thought they would be fast and that I was an old guy who’d probably be in their way.

I quickly had caught the first car in front of me, who was given the “left and lift” command to allow me by. As soon as I got past him, I set my sights on the next car and quickly reeled him in as well. Having passed both of the other cars, I just worked on pushing harder. Before my ten laps were up, I had lapped the first car I had passed. I felt good about winning the race on behalf of old guys everywhere.

Of course, RWRE doesn’t put an emphasis on winning or losing. They don’t even bring a radar gun or timer to provide evidence of how fast you are going. It isn’t about finding the next big racing star—it is just about giving the average fan a taste of what it feels like to drive a real race car. It feels really good to me! In fact, I wished it hadn’t ended so fast—maybe I should have purchased those extra laps.

After bringing it to a stop in the pit area, your squire helps you get disconnected and climb back out of the car. Then you head over to return the helmet and driving suit. By that time, they have souvenir pictures of you made at the trailer that you can purchase; along with other mementos from the day you drove a race car.

As I left the track (in my Prius), I was still on “Cloud Nine.” It was a real adrenaline rush for me. My arms knew they had received a good workout that day, wrestling that race car through the turns. I wasn’t out there long enough to develop any blisters, but the next time I sign up for something like this, I think I will bring along my own pair of gloves, just to enhance the visual effect. After all, real racers don’t drive bare handed!

I had a blast and look forward to doing it again someday. I hope that I can maintain my health and continue to do adventures like this for many years to come. It is a way to keep my youth by revisiting my childhood dreams. If you have an interest in auto racing, I’d strongly encourage you to give this a try.

2  Thank David K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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