[Editor's Note: To some of us, there is a vast distinction to be made between high performance driving and racing. This is about the former.]
It’s been a few weeks since I was last on a racetrack. Already I miss it terribly. I am an addict, completely and utterly hooked on driving as fast as I can on track.
This is what it’s like.
There are so many things all happening at once when you’re driving on track, that my editors would shoot me if I tried to explain in full detail. Like that subtle moment when the suspension stops bouncing after you've turned the steering wheel, and you only sense the impending apex with your peripheral vision. Your eyes are already scanning the course ahead, both for danger and your next breaking or turn-in point. That impossible-to-define instant when you’re not really on Earth.
It’s as though you’ve slipped through to another plane, one in which you’re not driving on instinct so much as working hand in hand with the fundamental laws of the universe. Everything slows down inside your brain, even if you’re traveling at triple-digit speeds, and everything just makes sense. Just as the brakes and tires work together to convert forward momentum into heat energy when you slow down; your eyes, brain, and body work together as part of a much larger system that encompasses not just you, but your vehicle.
Never in my life have I done any hard drugs, but I would imagine the feeling is similar to a junky who will stop at nothing to return to their euphoric state. My addiction is also chemical: Dopamine, I’m told, floods my system, and for days after an event, I’m on a high.
Sure, I’ve tried alternatives in the hope that something else can be my methadone. I’ve donned my helmet and played Gran Turismo for eight hours in a single sitting, forgetting to eat, drink, or pee. Like an ex-smoker sitting in a hazy pool hall, it made the craving worse. Autocross (shown) helps, but it’s no substitute.
Weeks have passed now, since my last seat time. The dopamine has long since worn off. The jonesing is unbearable—it’s always at its worst at this stage—and I know that if I don’t get back out there for a few months, it will slowly dissipate into a dull aching.
Track addiction doesn’t destroy lives in the way a raging coke habit does, but it certainly impacts them. I probably own the fewest tires of any addict I know, and they stack nearly to the ceiling. But hey, at least they’re in the garage, right? I know people who store track tires inside their house, lest the sub-freezing temperatures of winter make them harder. I’ve seen guys go through engines faster than Larry King goes through wives, and I have friends with entire storage units chock full of completely unused engine parts.
The thing is, though, even without the chemical aspect, I wouldn’t know life without my track addiction. Since quite literally before I can remember, the clarion call of motorsports has cut through the static of daily life, an ever-present beacon to that place where you can touch the universe.
My addiction’s eventual consumption of me was inevitable. I left law school. I inhaled deeply from what I’ve heard referred to as the “go-fast crack pipe” and I never looked back. My addiction, severe as it is, gave me direction as a lost 20-something and ultimately guided me into a career I can be proud of, rather than the desk-bound fate I surely would have been otherwise committed to.
It's been weeks since my last seat time. The longing is painful, especially as I head into the wintry off-season. Soon—though never soon enough—I’ll be back out there to start the cycle anew. This is what it’s like to have an addiction to driving on track. And it’s incredible.