I used to work with a guy who always blathered on about this place called “Pacific Raceways.” Especially in the summer – as it turns out, most motorsports in Washington State need to take place in the summer or early fall to avoid the sky water. Something about the coefficient of friction…and fans not wanting to get sopping wet.
Anyway, we’d wrap up our day in the office (oh man, I hate offices, especially in the summer…the over-cold forced air, the energy-efficient, soundproof, tinted windows literally stripping the joy out of the sunlight, the coworkers asking you for the millionth time to stop rummaging through their stuff when they’re away from their desks), and Paul, yes his name was Paul, would excitedly rush to sit in I-5 North’s wall of immovable traffic, to basically get to Pacific Raceways in time so he could watch more traffic. Albeit moving faster.
Paul was a young, robust kid, probably 25, very gregarious and helpful, which is why he made a good salesman. Very professional too, and highly adept at wearing business casual clothes. I bring this up because there’s a misconception that people who watch motorsports are Lite® beer-swilling, toothless hillbillies with one foot on the stoop, another on the hound dog, a double-barrel shotgun over their shoulder and a giant wooden mixing paddle grasped in both hands, gently swirling the pot of moonshine they’re boilin’ up on the front porch for grandma as they lean forward over them vapors to both catch a buzz and getter better glimpse o’ dat ol’ TV dats a playin’ da Car Razin games.
Oh man, I’m so sorry. That’s really offensive. I don’t know what happened there. I think what happened is…well, whether professional or hillbilly, I’m starting to see the allure of motorsport watchin’…er, watching motorsports. I’m going to have to tell my therapist about this.
But when I think about it, the allure of watching humans encased in metal whipping themselves around in circles, figure eights, squiggly lines, or even one long, straight line (if you’re into NHRA – an acronym for the non-fictional National Hot Rod Association – a.k.a. “Funny Car” racing) at ludicrous speeds all comes down to one thing: The Overlooked Problem In Our Society That We Can’t Ever Do Anything About.
Yes, there’s a big problem our society overlooks, refuses to address, clearly avoids, and routinely, likely daily, sweeps under the rug: Boys turning 16. And, in fact, girls turning 16 as well.
The unfortunate reality of human beings turning 16 in Washington, Oregon, and likely the other 48 states excluding Alaska because there are no roads there is the fact that they can test for, apply and receive a legal driver’s license. Or an illegal one, if they choose to visit a specific Craigslist page wherein they can receive a very official-looking Russian driver’s license seemingly issued by a subdivision of the General Administration for Traffic Safety of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but which in reality comes from my very fancy card printer in my basement, but proves effective for remedying traffic violations/infractions when coupled with Russian Diplomatic License Plates, which I also may or may not have access to, for a very reasonable price.
I don’t really know what modern 16-year-olds are interested in because I’m afraid of them. Frankly, I don’t want to know. But if they’re anything like the 16-year-old me, they’re interested in getting away from their parents once in a while through the freedom offered by motorized vehicles, electric or otherwise, with a wheel-count ranging from two to four, in general.
(Speaking of vehicles, I recently read that those electronic charging stations or “charge points,” the most conspicuous of which go by clever but entirely confusing names like “chargepoin+,” “EVgo,” or “TESLA Supercharging Stations,” actually utilize tiny but efficient, fossil fuel-powered internal combustion engines to generate electricity, which seems to defeat the purpose of having an electric vehicle, but explains the smoke emanating from the exhaust pipe located on top of the charging unit, as well as the double trailered tanker trucks constantly parked next to them. At least by my house.)
Indeed, regardless of the hypocrisy, young people with newly acquired driver’s licenses likely want to get out there and determine exactly how violently they can turn without rolling over, as well as how fast they can go without getting arrested. This has to be the case because that’s what I did. And the answer to your question is, “No, never convicted.”
Here’s just a brief examination of how I expressed my newfound freedom at that time, a freedom I wish I had now, what with having a wife, kid, dog, mortgage, tax liabilities, and a boss I frequently inspire to suffer from nervous breakdowns. For some reason. Supposedly.
At approximately 16.5 years old and legal to drive I hopped into my parent’s 1984 Volkswagen “Quantum” (brown, four-door, front-wheel drive, straight 5 cylinders of what seemed like awesome power) and promptly:
- Picked up my un-licensed friend Jon, drove to the church parking lot by his house, which was conveniently free of wheel stops (those little mini curbs at the end of parking spaces), and just absolutely mashed the accelerator down, alternatingly cranking the wheel right and or left haphazardly as he just kept saying, “Patrick, Patrick, PATRICK” over and over again whilst grasping the roof handle/grab handle/panic handle thing.
- Later picked up either my newly licensed friend Jon or Jeff depending on availability, and found a convenient, incredibly long, incredibly straight gravity hill (downhill slope followed by an uphill slope) on highway 16 near Gig Harbor where, if the wind blew out of the east, and I mashed that accelerator down again, that 1984 Volkswagen Quantum could achieve a top speed of 122 miles per hour.
- When it was raining, I picked up either my newly licensed friend Jon or Jeff depending on availability (this time in my parent’s rear-wheel-drive behemoth Cadillac), and utilized my expert knowledge of physics, particularly gravity (again…gravity is a big deal when you’re 16) as it relates to the previously mentioned coefficient of friction, by aligning said Cadillac at the bottom of Carr Street Hill (mammoth of a hill, at least two city blocks long) in such a way that it pointed to the top, then mashing the accelerator down, so the Cadillac fishtailed, or as I liked to think “did a burn out” all the way up the hill.
- Routinely found any piles of gravel, anywhere, in any kind of vehicle, and did a bunch of burnouts.
- Tried to burnout anywhere else, wherever possible.
- Consistently did not get dates.
So the truth of the matter is, motorsports exist because all humans turn 16 and subsequently want to race cars and motorcycles too if they’re available. Then, at a certain point in their lives, possibly in response to what may be a violation of a municipal code or state or federal “law,” they realize this is a bad idea. They’d better “straighten up and fly right” if they want to continue to live (and eat) for free at their parents’ house.
But that hankering for speed, g-forces, burnt rubber, and fishtailing madness never goes away for any of us. Think about it…what do you drive? Let me guess, it’s some form of family-friendly sedan, SUV, hybrid, or (oh, I’m so sorry) MINIVAN. But do you know what your real problem is? ALL-WHEEL DRIVE. It’s hard enough to do burnouts with your fancy airbag collision alert heads-up display blind spot alarms going off…but with ALL WHEEL DRIVE, it’s impossible.
It’s just not going to happen. And it’s probably for the best. You have kids, or if not, kids in your neighborhood. And now you’re a boring, responsible adult. You think about insurance premiums and wear and tear on tires. You don’t want to go to jail. You eat chicken breast without the skin and avocados – not because avocados taste good, but because you heard they’re good for “heart health.”
It’s all okay. Because you have Pacific Raceways:
- A 2.25-mile road course with nine turns that races stock cars, “screaming Ultra Super Bikes,” historic sports cars, 150 mile per hour karts, and car club vehicles (think Porsche enthusiasts)
- A huge grandstand, with concessions, which happens to be one of my favorite words
- A quarter-mile drag strip, which runs the previously mentioned NHRA Funny Cars, plus other cool vehicles, many of which also require parachutes to stop
- ProFormance Racing School – The first professional and fully accredited high performance and competition driving school in Puget Sound. Where you can learn to race or (even better) enroll in their advanced street survival driving skill course
- “Lapping Days” a.k.a. High-Performance Sport Driving Days on select weekends where (novice or seasoned racers) can tool around the track (they group you by ability) and receive instruction (classroom and in-car)
And if Pacific Raceways is unavailable to you because you live in some weird place like New Hampshire, just look around. There’s a similar facility somewhere. Guaranteed*.
Just think – you could take your over-computerized, family-friendly sedan and really let off some steam while succumbing to the urge to achieve some terminal velocity without it being a terminal event. Or maybe watch the insanity of professional drivers breaking the sound barrier with fire shooting out of the 22 chrome tailpipes inserted all over their race cars. Wait. Maybe I should do all of the above. I could fire my therapist.
See you at the track.