Sonoma Raceway Sneak Peek: Hitting 110 miles per hour with Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- Acceleration. Neck slam. A monosyllabic response: whoa!

That came from me, a reporter who gave in to what we call, "riding the elephant," in the news business. Traditionally we do it when the circus comes to town. They have a parade and put a reporter on one of the pachyderms.

This week that circus would be NASCAR and the Toyota Save Mart 350. And when the elephant is driven by two-time Daytona 500 Champ Michael Waltrip, it's a no-brainer.

"You like this kind of driving?" I asked as we bounced through a straight-away.

"I love this," he said. "But right now, I'm a little rusty."

"Now you tell me?" I asked as we slammed into a 2-G turn.

We'd been doing 110 at that point. It's about the time a guy remembers that waiver he signed, how the helmet sorta fit and how this compares with that ride in an F-16 a few years ago.

"I do intend to get your attention," said Waltrip.
Did we have lunch yet?

It all served as a elaborate guided tour of windy stretch of this road course called "The Carousel" that NASCAR hasn't used in this race since the 1990s. Having once flipped, there, Waltrip is an expert.

"So why do they call it The Carousel?" I asked.

"I dunno," he said. But Waltrip knows the geography with his eyes closed. "It's just a blind entry into a corner. High speed blind entry. Going up the hill you can't see the road and when you tip over the top you gotta' get down to the left."

Did we mention that The Carousel drops 135 feet? If you or I drove this way on our commute home, we might wind up in a jail or hospital bed.

When Michael Waltrip does it, you call that, "Riding the Elephant."
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