Last year I went back onto the National Board of Directors of the Defense Research Institute (“DRI” or “The Voice of the Defense Bar” and not to be confused with “Dr. I”, or the “StayDRI” basement foundation water prevention company). My friends in the 23,000-member organization universally reacted with some version of “OMG, he is back.” Of course, many are now much more cautious in their behavior since I wrote about some of them in the earlier version of my book, “Down to the Hard Road”.
I now have a different outlook on this second tour of duty, primarily due to my near death experiences running stock cars about a year ago at the famous old NASCAR track at Rockingham, North Carolina (a/k/a “The Rock”). The day of Racin’ and Rubbin’ was a gift from my family, all of whom went to different states that day to establish their legal alibis. Oddly enough, the family life insurance representative’s contact sheet was missing on this date from my files.
After equipment training, a safety lecture, and a walk around the track to learn the apex points, throttle easing marks, and proper return to pit procedures, they suited us up in Nomax fire retardant suits. I had hoped for the “Nomax” effect where dorky professional race car drivers have beautiful wives and others on their arms, whenever they don the magic Nomax suits. That did not happen, but a tall attractive Charlotte news reporter did interview the students: (two lawyers, one Pharm.D., and a NASCAR announcer). As I went out to see the car, I thanked all the people who got my 2XXL stock car ready to race and plugged my favorite donut places.
Now here is the life-threatening part. I was allowed to drive my own car 10 laps to get the feel for the marks; all big fun, even on the 25° banked big scary curves with the crash marks all over them. But next they pulled my stock car up and told me to get in. Think 16 pounds of marshmallows to go into a 5 pound sack. They had bragged that Shaq had driven their cars, but somehow neglected to tell us they cut the top off one and let him step in that way. Try being “big boned” and crawling into your car window and then down into a little butt racing seat. My personal pit crew of Mike and Chris pushed and bent me in and then handed me a steering wheel. After attaching that very necessary part, the 2XXL car took off with a scary roar and the driver screaming like a junior high girl at the county fair rides. Universally, I have been asked, “How fast did you go?” and I always say it was hard to tell with just a tachometer, a water gauge, the oil pressure gauge, and all that screaming. After two different runs in two different cars and a change of under drawers, I limped to my personal car and headed home. I drafted a Prius for 70 miles and got all up under his rear bumper. It was tough finding a good drafting partner on those North Carolina back roads. However, that stock car jaunt helped my outlook once the screaming stopped.