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Lead Foots, Rejoice!

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Kent Hudson, speed demon

That guy in your life feels the need; the need for speed. But what’s one to do when the Parkway and Turnpike aren’t exactly known for the good kind of driving thrills? Sure, both provide white-knuckled rides. Both have “obstacles” including slower (read: correct speed) drivers and lying-in-wait State Troopers. But for your Kyle Busch-, Tony Stewart- and Dale Jr.-wannabes there doesn’t seem to be many places one can drive for the pleasure of it.

But in fact there is a safe, fun, and totally legal way to help the inner speed demon let it out of his system. In my recent quest to find a Father’s Day gift for “the guy who has everything” I happened upon Pocono Raceway’s Stockcar Racing Experience.

Pocono Raceway, a.k.a., the Tricky Triangle, located in Blakeslee, Penn. is the site of two annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. But when not hosting an event, it also offers both driver and ride-along experiences in real racing stock cars or ProKarts.

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The mix-and-match experiences include passenger ride alongs with varying numbers of laps. There are also driver experiences where, after you complete graduated levels of behind-the-wheel training, you enjoy increasing numbers of laps and increasing speeds. Additional options include professional photos and personalized merchandise.

For my husband, Kent Hudson, we opted for a 6-lap ride-along consisting of a passenger seat ride with one of the track’s instructors in a two-seat stock car at top speed (about165 mph). The pictures alone are very cool, and he loved the experience of it.

If you go…

  • Bring ear plugs. The folks at the Raceway provide the jumpsuit, helmet and in-car safety belts. The one thing they didn’t provide that we wish we had was earplugs. After all, it’s a stock car, and the engine is as loud as it is fast!
  • Plan for bare-minimum accommodations. I definitely encourage your family & friends to watch and take pictures. But know that spectators won’t get to sit in the raceway stands. My kids and I sat on folding chairs in the pits. And as for pit-stops, there’s only port-a-johns, nothing else.
  • Avoid stops in the wilds of Pennsyltucky: Verona to Blakeslee is about 2 hours. Most of it is on Route 80 West, over the NJ-PA state line across the Delaware River, past exits for Stroudsburg and Tannersville, and down remote stretches of highway. This is Pennsyltucky, the affectionate way we native Philadelphians refer to uber-rural PA. It means your restaurant, gas station, and rest room stops in this area will be very few and very quaint, as in, the kind of quaint that might give Stephen King the heebie-jeebies. Blakeslee, PA is at exit 284. If you plan on a stop and/or a meal before or after your ride, do it at exit 302 in Bartonsville, PA. The exit is easy on-off Route 80, and the brand new mall includes a Red Robin, Longhorn and Red Lobster, as well as gas stations all in one place.

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