Indy’s out for me

The names roll off the tongue like a who’s who of auto racing giants.
Gilles Villeneuve. Alain Prost. Dale Earnhardt. Richard Petty. A.J. Foyt. And, in my mind, the greatest of them all, Mario Andretti.
I was fortunate enough to grow up watching all of these legends on TV, battling wheel-to-wheel with their race track rivals on courses around the world.
But having held off getting my own driver’s licence until I was 29 (I always theorized that public roads would be safer without me on them), I never visualized myself as possessing the skills nor the courage to join the auto racing fraternity.
Okay, perhaps the odd time steering the shopping cart up and down the aisles of the grocery store as a kid, I imagined myself a champion of the checkered flag circuit. But that’s about it.
So it was with hesitation—and a healthy dose of fear—that I accepted an offer Saturday from Monika Galloway, go-kart series organizer at the Emo Speedway, to take the controls of one of the miniature racing rockets.
If you thought I was worried, you can only imagine what Monika’s generous son, Joey, was experiencing the minute I told him I had never driven a go-kart before as I prepared to climb into his personal racing machine.
The donated helmet from racer Cody Drennan also was appreciated—except for the fact that after squeezing it onto my head, I found out why auto racers can’t be visually impaired.
My glasses were not going to fit without bending into a pretzel so I left them behind. Had I been able to see Joey’s face, I believe it would have possessed an even deeper shade of terrified anxiety.
After a crash course (whoops, wrong choice of words) on braking and acceleration, I was ready for the green flag.
I came shooting off the start line with two thoughts going through my mind: Don’t wreck Joey’s car, and the emphatic plea of my editor, “Don’t hurt yourself!”
There wasn’t much chance of that. I looked more like your grandfather clogging up the fast lane on the Trans-Canada Highway than a wizard of the dirt track during my first three laps, puttering around to what I’m sure was the great amusement of the assembled young racers and their parents.
By lap four, I felt a little more at ease with cornering and direction control so I hit the gas with significantly more force. This lasted about, oh, half a lap, until the high-speed rush transformed into quickly-induced panic and my thought of, “When I hit Turn 3, I’m a goner.”
Amazingly, though, there was no crashing—and not even a near rollover. For its size, the car handled deceptively well in the turns.
I completed my fifth and final lap, and pulled cautiously into the makeshift pit area. It was an odd feeling of survival and celebration that coursed through my veins.
It wasn’t the Indy 500, but the Emo 5 confirmed two things. I’ll leave the racing to the experts—and Michael Schumacher has nothing to worry about with me around.
Unless, of course, he gets in my lane.

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