Monday, December 17, 2012

No Comparison

A/N: It’s taken a while to publish this article because I’ve been so worried about offending people who disagree with my sentiment. NASCAR is a great organization and racing owes a debt for what it’s done for racing in America. As much as it may sound like it, I do not have anything against stock car racing, I just prefer sports cars. This is something that won’t change; it’s how I’ve been raised. As Lady Gaga would say, I was born this way! -Shea

 I’ve been in a lot of paddocks over my 22 years but by far the most alien came at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a place that not only is my home track but that felt comfortable the weekend before. Imagine if you will, drinking 2% milk your whole life. Every morning with cereal, every night as hot chocolate. You always know that whole milk is out there; it’s just not your preference. And as a self-proclaimed milk aficionado, you can’t understand why some people drink whole milk instead of 2%. But one day, you’re forced out of that comfort zone. You’re told to drink whole milk just for a weekend, just to see what it’s like. Naturally, you’re going to over-exaggerate the effects and make the two seem like polar opposites even though they are both still milk in the end. For the grand finale, when you’re back to your 2%, you’ll appreciate it more than ever because it is familiar, more comfortable, and your preference. Now, I haven’t just spent a paragraph talking about milk. No, because for people who don’t know racing at all, this is the perfect metaphor for my feelings about racing. My dad tried to persuade me to use skiing, water versus snow. But to a Miami girl, what good is that? What’s familiar to me is sports cars. I’ve spent more time recently in paddocks of the American Le Mans Series, which bears a slogan of “For the Fans”. Never more have I appreciated this than after spending time in the paddock of NASCAR’s 3 main series. The ALMS paddock is an inviting place. Drivers walk around, not with scowls in anticipation of the next thing to sign, but with smiles. When a fan walks up to most drivers, they are greeted with conversation and genuine interest in what the fan has to say. It isn’t a hassle; it’s a pleasure. When working on the cars, the mechanics may put up a chain but they’re always available to tell you what’s happening with the car and what they’re working on. Most tracks allow the fans to roam in the paddock and even on the starting grid, where they can have their pictures taken with the cars or drivers without having to spend money on additional passes. The teams are families, eating together in tents such as Marion’s, and often stay in the same hotels as one another. The same cannot be said for NASCAR.
A typical ALMS paddock garage. Noticed how close I am to the body panels,
and how many mechanics are working around the cars. They stop to explain to
any fan willing to listen.
When I first received the assignment of going to Homestead, honestly, I was not happy. In the past, I have ventured to the Finale Weekend in South Florida but quickly learned that that sort of racing wasn’t my cup of tea. When the Sprint car race began in 2007, I watched the first few laps and then ventured off to find food. If the racing couldn’t hold my attention from some of the best seats in the house, why would it excite me to walk around the paddock? When I got to Homestead, a track I simply ADORE, the people at the facilities could tell this was a new experience for me. They helped me out with smiles on their faces and graciously pointed me in the right direction. Now, exactly 6 days prior, I had been driving on that very hallowed ground for the annual Rides ‘N Smiles (a successful event in and of itself that merits its own article). These same people may have remembered me but chances were slim. When I first walked into the paddock, a very friendly gentleman asked to see my pass and my id (they check the match for security purposes, first sign of a difference) and wished me a good time. :Can’t be too bad,” I thought. Once I’d made it inside the gated area that housed the second tier level cars, I found exactly what I was looking for! There was practice happening. When I got to a yellow line, I was told not to get any closer to the cars. Now, you might think this yellow line would be at the edge of the garage. Nope, it was at the edge of the haulers, some 20 feet from the garage. Not a chance of talking to the mechanics about what was happening nor encountering a driver unless they were going to or from their personal RV. A perfect example of this difference lies within Joey Logano, a driver I’ve always felt to be underrated. After about 20 minutes of waiting, 2 girls were rewarded with Joey’s signature on one of their mementos (they had several) and a photo with their idol. All in all, it took less time than a NASCAR pit stop.
The NATIONWIDE garage during practice. This was as close as I was permitted.
No one would talk to me.
When their practice ended, not a driver was to be seen. They all retreated in similar fashion to their temporary homes and the Truck practice began. I decided to instead wonder around the Sprint paddock. When I walked toward that area, I noticed a board with different credentials on it. Turns out, NASCAR has what is known as a hot pit and cold pit pass. Each gains you entry to the paddock (not the pits) at different times. I had the latter and wasn’t permitted into the most popular level when drivers would be present because I didn’t fork out the extra money for the hot pit pass!
My favorite stock-car because of the red M&M. He mirrored
my sentiment.
Toward the end of the day, I began to feel like the M&M on the quarter-pannel of Kyle Busch's car, trapped. All in all, I stuck around just long enough to get a feel and realize that this sort of racing does not appeal to me in any way, shape, or form. When people say that NASCAR is like IndyCar or ALMS, they have no idea. Racetracks are places that you should feel like you belong without paying enough to justify belonging. A track this year wanted to charge fans for a grid walk. ALMS responded by cancelling the grid walk. THAT is a series for the fans. If you want to experience loyalty, close up racing, and a general family environment, try something new. Find a race near you that’s different from what you know. It’ll make you appreciate what you have. Try the whole milk.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dreaming in France

Every morning since coming back, I wake up in a state of panic. Fumbling blindly, it isn’t until I find my iPod and hear segments of the race can I believe that it wasn’t just a dream. That it was actually a dream come true. Anyone who loves sports car racing knows the voice of John Hindhaugh. Tom Kristensen may be known as “Mr. Le Mans”, but John is “the voice of Le Mans”. His commentary on the legendary race is, well, legendary itself. I first found the Mecca of his voice during the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was my last weekend in Tallahassee and, instead of socializing with friends or spending time with my cousins, I was locked in my furniture-less room, with only a television, computer, and cat. Now, waking up at 8:30am on a Saturday morning isn’t an easy thing for a college student to do. Waking up at 8:30am on a Saturday morning for the start of the world’s greatest endurance race…much simpler. As the race began, I was entranced by the pictures on the television, but distracted by what was on my computer. Someone on a forum had given a warning. “Speed commentary ok, switch to radiolemans.” I was bewildered. Googling the mysterious recommendation led me to religion. “Listen Live” was actually ahead of the pictures I’d been receiving (only by a few seconds but keep in mind, racing is about the seconds)! John’s quips and witty remarks mixed in with the useful informational tidbits from Paul Truswell put me over the moon! Then Allan McNish crashed. After apologizing profusely to the roommate I’d awoken far too early for a Saturday and what seemed like an eternity of fear over the condition of Allan, I zoned back in to the commentary, which walked me through like a loyal guide dog would a blind owner. I could calm down and enjoy the race, knowing that the broadcasters of would cradle me in their arms and ensure I knew what was happening. 25 hours later, I felt like I’d made friends with all of the pit lane reporters, commentators, and drivers who had made a guest appearance on the show. So it’s easy to see why I jumped at the opportunity to go to a race with my dad last year. We drove from our cottage, just a stone’s throw away from no where, down to Lime Rock, Connecticut. The whole drive, Dad had to listen to me gushing on about how cool it would be to meet the John Hindhaugh. He pointed out that we’d met years before in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Yeah, Dad,” I said, “But that was before I knew who he was!” And the gushing continued. When we arrived at the hotel in Lime Rock, a car pulled up next to us. Guess who got out. Guess who we went to dinner with. Fast forward to January. I’m working for a company that handles the press fleets for 32 manufacturers. When I get my daily schedule, I notice a new name on it. A VIP flying into Orlando for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Needless to say, I delivered that car. Dad had told me that John and his wonderful wife, Eve, would be coming across the pond to work the race. I sent them tweet after tweet (the only real mode of communication accessible at the time), begging them to come down and stay with us post-race. When I left them a BMW X5, a special note (with plenty more pleading) was specially placed under the visor. The note had our address. They gave in and drove south. It hadn’t even been half an hour passed their arrival before John got down to business. “Have you ever thought about being a pit reporter?” Seriously, my heart skipped a beat. Had I thought about it? I’d dreamed about it! Consider this for a second: I’m the daughter of a racecar driver and an Emmy winning news anchor. Dreamed about it? I was bred for it! John started talking about how he had discussed with Eve the possibility of training me to be the eyes and ears in the pits. I went to sleep that night, dreaming on interviewing Dindo Capello, Allan McNish, and Tom Kristensen. Skip ahead another few months. It’s early morning again, this time, in California. The Long Beach Grand Prix beckons and the steady flow of ALMS crew trickles downstairs to get rides to the track. I was having a lovely conversation with Mr. Charles Dressing when, you guessed it, John Hindhaugh walks up to me and nudges the bottom of my foot. “What are you doing in June?” he asked. “Nothing!” I replied, without missing a beat. Charles started laughing and said, “It’s the best thing in the world, going to Le Mans!” For the next two months, all my mom would talk about was how I needed to practice stand-ups, make up, and camera presence. I told her not to worry John said he wanted to find out if my broadcasting career would be based in nature or nurture. She kept panicking. I gave into the make up part, letting her take me to a professional to actually buy *shudder* mascara. Hate to tell you, Mom, but looks aren’t as important if you’re on the radio. Anyhow, June arrived and I left. The time I spent with John and Eve, and later Jim Roller and Nick Daman, is a story for another day. Needless to say, I fell head over heels in love with England and was a bit sad to leave, even if it was for Le Mans. The drive down was more picturesque than I ever could have imagined. Every hill we crested, I would proclaim, “This looks like a puzzle!” Beauty surrounded by perfection. When we arrived at the track, John took me on a tour. When our Nissan Pathfinder’s wheels started down the Mulsanne (which functions as a normal road for the other 51 weeks of the year), I almost cried. Driving down towards Indianapolis and Arnage was overwhelming. But what got to me the most was the front straight. Walking up the cement steps toward the bleachers in any empty stadium is eerie. But none more so than a silent Le Mans. I crested the steps and saw, for the first time in reality, the front straight. Every pit garage door was down across the way and not another soul could be heard. No voices, no engines, no tires chirping. Silence at the most prestigious racetrack I’ve ever been to. John and I walked down to where the start-finish line lays. I couldn’t help but to notice the walls separating the bleacher section from the fence near the track are distinctly German. They reminded me so much of those which kept my ancestors prisoner only a few thousand miles from where I stood. That thought was quickly pushed from my mind, however, as we approached an area where even John got emotional. In 1955, more than 80 people died watching this race when two cars collided and were sent, flaming, into the spectators. In those days, there were no fences to catch the debris, no barrier between track and fan. John looked for the plaque and told me he always thinks about those people. We couldn’t find the plaque. What found us, slowly but surely, were the other members of the Radio Le Mans family. John and Eve are definitely the parents. John’s had his praise already but Eve deserves more than I could give in one sitting. She’s one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in the company of. Eve is wonderful! She’s knowledgeable on every subject we broached but has a true passion for racing. She’s got the mother hen sort of personality: get under her wing and be well protected, but fight against her chicks and she’ll kick some butt. She’s also one of the best chefs but her food is mostly consumed by Nick Daman. Although this will inflate his ego, Nick is HILARIOUS! Very quick witted and obsessed with racing (a common theme you’ll find among the RLM family), he is exactly as he seems on Midweek Motorsport, only more inappropriate. We shared an interesting discussion over a meal when he stole my dessert. I’ll leave it at that. He also knows what questions to ask and how to make an interview into a conversation. Nick, unfortunately, is insecure with his standing as top male in the eyes of the Radio Le Mans following, the Listener’s Collective, ever since young gun Jonny Palmer entered the scene. Jonny, with his boyish good looks and alluring voice, has taken away several of Nick’s followers and earned the nickname “Cabana Boy.” He is, however, quite the English gentleman. (A/N: Nick, I reserve the right to withhold judgment over which RLM man I prefer, sorry) Jonny’s counterbalance in the booth was more often than not Paul Tarsey, a man whom I rarely saw without a smile on his face. Because we had 3 Pauls, they are known by their last names. Tarsey did much of the commentary for the Group C and Aston Martin races, and his eyes lit up when he saw those cars. He felt the emotions of the track as much as I did. But when it comes to old sports cars, Charles “Chuck” Dressing is the only man to trust. Chuck knows everything you could ever want to know. When something during the race would happen, Chuck could tell you if a similar occurrence had ever taken place and, if so, in what year. Chuck works for the American Le Mans Series with both Jim Roller and myself. Jim would be the uncle in the Radio Le Mans family. He and John are like brothers. Jim has wisdom beyond his years, a true professionalism, and a serious love of dogs. He showed me pictures of his 4 dogs proudly, as a mother would her children. Jim has already had a huge influence in my career and was great to work with. He always wanted to listen to what was happening in the pits as well as worry about the goings on in the booth. Like Nick, he has a wicked sense of humour and would more often than not have me laughing over quiet asides. Jim found a new partner for some stints of the race, working with Sam Collins. Sam is a genius. When something broke on a car, Sam could easily break down what happened, why, and how long it should take to fix. He could help explain work happening in the garage from vague descriptions and translate engineer speak into English. Much like Sam and myself, another rookie to the team was Jeremy Shaw. Jeremy’s hardly a rookie, however. When interviewing in the pits, Jeremy would want to keep asking questions, not satisfied until he got to the bottom. He, too, was hard-pressed to be seen without a smile, something hard to do while working for 2 companies at the same time! He had double the shifts but gave every segment double the effort. The other two gentlemen in the pits were Joe Bradley and Bruce Jones. I’d probably get in trouble with John for calling Joe a “gentleman”. The way the two of them joke, you’d think they’d grown up together. Oh wait, they sort of did! What’s really funny is listening to the two of them talk together. They share the same dialect, both coming from Sunderland. People commonly confuse them on air so Eve split them up this year. Joe’s finest moment of the weekend came not at the track, however. On Friday night, the whole team had gathered at the house I was staying at, with the Trotins. Patrick Trotin, who is the patron of the house, had told us that we could watch the England football match after the France match. So we all sat patiently on the couch, watching the French game. About 30 seconds after it ended, Joe asked what channel was the England match on. Patrick calmly picked up the tv guide and said, “Uh-oh.” A little color was lost from Joe’s face. “What is it?” Patrick looked up at him. “It is on a channel we do not get. Impossible.” The rest of Joe’s color fled. He started panicking, asking if I could find the match on my computer for us to watch or if we could drive back to the track before it started. Then, very controlled, Patrick said, “Kidding.” And Joe jumped on him. We were all roaring with laughter, all except Joe, who was pretending to beat the tar out of Patrick. Bruce Jones is not quite as feisty as Joe, but he’s just as energetic. Taller than most French doorways, Bruce literally stands out. Easy to find in the pits, he makes it from end to end in few strides! He is a delightful conversationalist, and has a voice for midnight radio. Bruce knows almost as much about racing as Mr. Paul Truswell. The second of our Pauls is a human computer. He records about every useful piece of information (and a lot that qualify as “excess”), knowing who has done how many laps since their last pit stop/driver change/drink refill. Ask Truswell a question and there’s no doubt you’ll get a correct answer. If it’s not an answer you want but rather a delicious cup of tea or perhaps to watch “X-Men: First Class”, there’s only one person to turn to. Our final Paul Dunk, “Dunkie” (pronounced “dOUnkey” by our gracious hostess, Mina Trotin) wins the award for coming from the Collective into stardom! He wanted to learn how to do everything and, basically, did. Dunkie would help change the batteries for the pit reporters, set up radio antennae in the rain and 6 stories in the air, get Charles something he could drink, or even just keep people company. Dunkie is brilliant. Only one man, however, has brilliance written into his name. Some say Brilliant Bob could have made the show “LOST” end after only 2 days because he would have built a new plane out of coconuts and bananas. Others say Brilliant Bob could’ve used only two wires and a spare bolt to build Sputnik. All we know is that he’s, well, Brilliant! Any little issue, Bob would quietly mull over and suggest a logical solution within minutes. Driver of the Nissan LCV, Bob enjoyed nice sleeping quarters during the race but worked like a MANIAC for the week before. Bob had the help of Carl for the first couple of days, but Carl had to return home early. We also had Dave to help out behind the scenes and keep the chaos relatively controlled. He took Dunkie under his wing and, melded with Bob, created a mini-progeny. Our London based team, along with Carl, included Tim, one of the celebrated voices of Midweek Motorsport, and Toby. They kept the show running from headquarters. The team member who made herself stand out the most, as all the team would agree, was Dolly Z. Llama. Not much is known about Dolly. She will not reveal when, where, and if she was born. Dolly was brought to the track as a weather llama. The concept was simple: if she’s standing, no rain. Concepts do not always come to fruition and, unfortunately, Charles Dressing would not allow Dolly to lay down. In any case, Dolly jumped up every time she saw a Ferrari, unable to hide her favoritism toward the manufacturer. She quickly developed a rapport with both teams and some sponsors, and her tour around the track caused much chatter. Dolly was contacted for comment on the story; she declined but would admit that the week she spent at Le Mans was “the best of One’s life…so far.” Over the course of the week, I would learn more than school ever taught me. Who the big-wigs are at various teams. What to look for to report on during a pit stop. Always try and find someone to interview. Be calm, have fun, and sound like you really want to be there. But mostly, I’d learn where I feel most at home in this world. There is nothing, NOTHING that comes close to standing in the pits during a race. You’re the first to know what’s going on with a team, the first one to see a damaged car coming back in for mending, the first to talk to a driver when he gets out of the car after driving for nearly 3 hours. The emotions of the rest of the racetrack do not even come close to those in the pits. Down there, it’s exhilarating, exhausting, and ever hopeful about the outcome of the race. My first stint of the race came right as Dumas got out of his car and began imitating the Hulk, as he ripped pieces of the body away. Audi wasn’t my end, however, so I had some time to breathe. Like the nose of the number 3 Audi, that time was also ripped away quickly. The biggest crash of the race, Anthony Davidson’s, came right as I walked down to Toyota to find out how things were going for them. Eve had warned that this race would be “initiation by fire” and “throwing me in at the deep end.” I doubt they’d ever guessed I’d have my first big debut as all Hell broke loose. Oh boy. My nerves got the best of me and my first stint left me a bit shaken. When the shift was over, I handed off and went for some comfort food and sleep. It’s nearly impossible to sleep when you know the thing you’ve dreamed about seeing your entire life is taking place about 50 yards away and, with eyes closed, you can’t see it. How I managed an hour and a half of shut eye, I’ll never know. When I woke up, my first thought was “cold.” Even in a fire suit with jeans on underneath, I was FREEZING! During my warm up lap up and down pit lane to get the gist of what was happening, I was waved over by James Walker, driver of the 66 JMW Ferrari. “Are you cold?” he asked, perplexed. My response to him, that I used countless times during the week, “I’m a Florida girl.” He told me he could see me shivering from across the garage. Oops! But the cold faded away…or at least my consciousness of it as the action picked up. I found my groove at night and became much more relaxed. When the Audi of Marcel Fassler (who would later win the race) ran rogue and was damaged, I was two feet from its fin to give a report on the severity. Shortly there after and with much thanks to Martin Pass, I was the first to snag Dr. Ulrich for an interview regarding the situation. Things ran much more smoothly and, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing something I could be good at! By the time my third shift came around, I was rearing to get back in to the pits. It went entirely too quickly. I stood, with about 30 minutes left in my stint, on the pit wall and just took a minute to soak it all in. Across from me, separated by only the track, were thousands of people who would have given a kidney to stand where I was. Between us were engines with tons of horsepower, soaring passed. Behind me were exhausted teams, working as fast as they could to try and get their car back on track. And the smells! Rubber and gasoline, enthusiasm and hope. Completely overwhelming. It was then, I cried. But there were still cars on track and work to be done. In to the pits came the number 61 Ferrari. I had to find out his story. When the race started, I got goosebumps. Watching the cars come out of Ford Chicane to take the green flag from mere meters away. Even now, I get emotional. What got to me even more was the last lap. When all of the flaggers, every volunteer came out with a flag in each hand, to salute the winner, it became too much. These brave men and women kept the drivers safe for 24 hours. They are the ones who deserve praise, enough of which they’ll never receive. And by walking out on to the track and doing what so many have done before them, that’s what made it feel historical. That’s what all the old pictures show. That’s what made it feel like the 80th running, connected to all those that came before. And that’s when I realized it was all over. A wave of sadness overcame me. All of these people, my Radio Le Mans family, I wouldn’t see for a year. I would have given everything to have been pinched and discover that the race had not yet been run. About 3 seconds after the checkered flag fell, I began thinking about the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans and how to come back.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Z Key to Happiness

Some days, living in South Florida can be very trying. Those who live in this unexpectedly hostile environment are nodding right now while others think I’m spoiled and/or ridiculous. For the latter half, a few examples. Our drivers are notoriously some of the worst in the world, people who believe that turning on their cars simultaneously requires turning off their brains. For half the year, homeowners watch the Atlantic, either anxiously dreading the next big storm that could demolish their home or, more commonly, listening to the news anchors talk for days about a storm that will definitely hit…somewhere else.
Yet other days, South Florida is anything but trying. The paradise known as the Sunshine State never deserves this title more than when the clouds leave the cerulean sky. On days like this, the convertibles play. Las Olas Boulevard becomes populated with Continental GTs, Murciellagos, and, as was the case yesterday, a very special Nissan. Not a GT-R, Nismo, or even the Juke-R, but a stunning gray 370z.

Before you lose all respect for my knowledge of cars, just think about it for a second. The 2012 Nissan 370z is powered by a 3.7L V6 that puts out a whopping 332 horsepower! That’s 17 hp more than the Porsche Boxter S! The Z has a 53-47 front to rear weight ratio which makes it a fabulous natural track car. What’s most impressive about this little monster is how well it shifts. While I’m a purist, preferring manual to automatic, the 7-speed automatic gearbox inside the Z shifts faster and smoother than even Sir Stirling Moss could dream. The car never lurches; it merely sings a melody that only Zs can make. With four piston opposed aluminum front calipers as the front brakes, the car stops on a dime. The mileage averages about 25 mpg on for the highway if maintaining around 75 mph, not a dreadful number for a car claiming the category of “sports car.” In fact, the highway noise from the convertible top is hardly noticeable. While it isn’t silent, (the wheels can get a bit loud), the radio does not be turned too far above normal.
But what I like best about this car is that it doesn’t pretend. This is a sports car. It doesn’t have the faux back seats in which only a dwarf could fit. It doesn’t have a design that makes it look fast but an engine that can’t keep up. What it has to offer would get even Oscar the Grouch to put his trashcan up for sale because, in this car, he would find happiness. The 370z says its fast and, last November, proved it.
Once a year, magic happens. The embargo set up by my mother (if I race, she’ll leave my dad) lifts. But this token of kindness is not a track day extravaganza, where freedom and racing ring. Rather, it’s for an event known as Rides ‘N Smiles. Started back in 2008, this now annual adventure delivers exactly what the name promises: rides in spectacular cars which tend to make people smile. Except these are people, kids more specifically, who don’t have much to smile about. Very ill children, some terminal, from Baptist and Miami Children’s Hospitals come down to the Homestead Miami Speedway for a chance to forget they’re sick. Their families, doctors, nurses, and friends come with them to get to see something rare. When someone gets strapped into a Ferrari 458 Italia for the first time, they can’t help but to grin. Several parents have told me that this day was the first in a long time that their child has acted like a normal child.
This past November, quite the turn out of cars came to take the willing for rides. Companies such as Chevrolet (Camaro and ZR1), Mercedes Benz (SLK 350), Dodge (Challenger), Ford (Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition), Porsche (Carrera GTS), Subaru (WRX), Lexus (ISF), and of course Nissan generously donate the use of their cars for the day for the benefit of these kids. Present also were the pace car Ford Mustang from the Speedway, and a Porsche Panamera from Champion Porsche. But those weren’t the only cars at the track. Private volunteers such as Bill Scherer, Tom Gonzales, and Doug Von Allman give up their rare day off to come down in a Ford GT, Corvette ZR1 and the aforementioned 458 Italia, and Audi R8 to burn out tires (and in one case a clutch) to make Rides ‘N Smiles a day the patients can never forget. On top of the cars that fly around the track, display cars with which the kids can take pictures were also present. This year, there was an Infiniti G35 (courtesy of the company), a Ferrari racecar brought down by Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale, an Aston Martin, and Ferrari California, owned by the man who choreographs the party in the pits, Chris Kavanaugh. But the car that stood out the most was the little innocuous Nissan 370z because it was the only car driven by a girl!
Every child who gets into a car will, later in the day, get a certificate saying they are in the 100 mph club, so as drivers, we have to get them there. A task easily accomplished behind the wheel of the Z. My first couple of rides, we took it easy. The kids adjusted to the g forces, the feeling of speed like they’d never before felt, and the music of the track while I got to know the car. The brakes on the Nissan were far more powerful than I’d expected. I found myself going much deeper into the corners than I had the year before in a Miata. The smooth steering did not fight me out of the corners either. The car obeyed without rebelling, and stuck to the lines I told it to. And the acceleration! Mind, it was nothing compared to the GT or ZR1 when getting out of the pits, but on the infield straights, the car shone. There were a couple of times I managed to get a better run off a corner and actually catch cars whose annual gas bills cost more than the Z! For a car that had absolutely nothing, zip, nada changed from the hour previously when it had been driving on the Turnpike, the 370z must have known it was at a race track because it’s attitude came to light! I could almost hear the little car purring; clearly it felt at home on track. Nissans and Infinitis typically have clutches that overheat when pushed. While the Z didn’t have this problem, a couple of times it started to smell hot so I brought it in. But again, this is a street car on a race track, so these types of instances are to be expected. After five minutes, though, the Nissan was begging to go back on track. And of course, I obliged.
By the end of the day, most of the patients and doctors have gone home. Everyone starts feeling tired after lunch and only the daring stick around. The afternoon session always turns into a track session. My car, despite being popular for the young girls, started to attract less and less of the brave boys and so I began taking some volunteers from the Homestead Air Force Base for rides. When it was about time to call an end to the day, I received a very shocking passenger: my mother. Now, my mom has had a back seat ride in an F-16, gone skydiving with the Army Golden Knights, been driven around more racetracks than she can remember. But nothing seems to terrify her quite as much as riding in a car (fast or slow) with me driving. No sooner had we pulled out of the pits than she yelled, “Slow down!” I laughed at her and replied, “Mom, this is a racetrack! This is where you go fast!” And proceeded to do so. Our lap had her laughing and screaming, while nervously clutching the door for her life. On the banking, I would have sworn she started to turn purple with anger. When the ride came to an end, I asked how she liked it. “Very nice,” she replied blandly. “But don’t get any ideas. One day is enough.”
To anyone else, this 2012 370z is ordinary. But to me, this car represents the happiest day of my year. The Nissan is the best street car I’ve ever driven on a race track. But it’s also one of the best street cars I’ve ever driven on the street! The week I had it to drive, I put down the top and took the long road to the grocery store every time. It’s a car that begs you to drive it, a car that penetrates even the most restful of dreams and turns them into fantasies about curvy roads. But unlike most cars that can’t live up to the performance in your imagination, the 370z exceeds all expectations.

Fun: Kitten with a ball of yarn
Looks: B
Performance: A
Cost: One Kidney
Seats: Good for quick trips, painful for long jaunts
Worth it: Hell yes!