November 19, 2017

Richard Petty Driving Experience at Texas Motor Speedway

Richard Petty Driving Experience at Texas Motor Speedway
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 19, 2017

Miss Sheri and I got a sneak preview of Wonder Tuesday night. Loved it. Best portrayal of being part of a special needs family I've ever seen. And it does a beautiful job of portraying the challenges of being a special needs kid. l will admit, I cried several times and laughed quite a bit also. It had a really good message. After the movie was over, I leaned over and told Sheri that she is very lucky to have someone like me in her life.

It was back to the airport on Thursday as I was flying down to Dallas, Texas for a couple of nights.

I was going to Dallas to visit some of my customers for my job at Oracle.  We were sponsoring an event with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

My co-worker, John Eder, and I work together on several mid-market accounts in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  John is the field rep while I primarily work with the accounts remotely from Minneapolis.  John invited me down to help with this event and have the opportunity to meet some of our customers in person.

He was also kind enough to invite me to spend the night at his house and meet his family.  I had the opportunity to meet his wife, daughter, parents, and his wife's aunt & uncle.  They were all wonderful people and I found them to be so considerate for accommodating me like they did.  It was a very pleasant evening.

On Friday, we went to the Texas Motor Speedway.   We had about 25  customers and partners in attendance.   The plan was to have lunch then do our customer presentations, and finish with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

John asked me if I'd like to do the presentation with him and I was happy to help.  We spent about a half hour talking to the audience about our Oracle cloud solutions for SAAS applications in areas like ERP, EPM, supply chain, & logistics.

The audience seemed pretty riveted with what we had to say if I do say so myself.

John and I were partnered up with three of our customers from Farmer Brothers Coffee.  We had just done some business together back in September, so it was really nice to get to meet these guys in person.  Especially while participating in such a thrilling experience.

This was our driver Jim.  He told us about his many years of experience driving race-cars and that today we'd be exceeding speeds of 160mph.  Sounded good to me.

We divided into 5 teams and we all got to ride for 6 laps while "Racing" against 4 other teams including pit stops where we each had to perform various activities like refueling and waving the sign at the driver so he knew where to stop.  

The most challenging part of the experience was swapping riders and making sure that people could get in and out of the car quickly while also being sure to have everything strapped and buckled properly.  Much more difficult than it sounds.

If you are claustrophobic, you might not enjoy this.  The helmet is incredibly snug and you can't hear much while wearing it.  You also have to wear some kind of shoulder pads that attaches to the helmet.  Then when you get in the car, you have about 5 different straps to hold you in the car in various ways.  It makes you feel safe and secure, but it's not very easy to turn your head or anything to look around while you are riding.

The ride itself was amazing.  I was the first to go in our group and we did 3 or 4 laps with the pace car before they dropped the hammer and started going really, really fast.  I was pretty amazed by the pressure of the G Forces pulling at me as we zipped around the curves at 160mph+.  I got to do that for 6 laps and we passed a couple of other cars while I was in there.

On the first lap where we started going fast, I noticed my driver was trying to pass one of the other cars on the inside and suddenly the car we were trying to pass, accelerated and cut us off pretty hard.  I wondered if we had a close call and asked my driver about it after we were all done.  He told me "Yeah, that was a pretty sharp cut.  I didn't mean for that to happen and I was a little nervous we were going to wind up in the infield."  I'm glad I didn't know that while I was riding with him because I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed the rest of the 6 laps like I did had I known that.

Here's a short video that shows what it was like when taking off in the vehicle...

Both of my sisters live in Dallas.  So when my work obligations were complete, I was able to go spend the evening with my sister, Tracy, and her husband, Dave.  We went out to eat in Grapevine, Texas and set ourselves up for a night of fun.

We dropped in for a quick little visit to the concert of Zuriel Merek.  He is an electronic violinist and was playing a concert at the Palace Theater.  It was some pretty surreal music.

You can get a taste of how the music sounded here.

We stopped at several other establishments on the streets of Grapevine.  It was fun seeing all the stores and locations decorated for Christmas.  It got me in the Holiday Spirit!

On Saturday, we connected with my other sister, Tammy, her husband, David, and three of my nieces.  It was great to have a chance to see all of them!

It was Tammy's birthday recently and she was just dying to show me the new hat she bought to celebrate the occasion.  I thought it was a bit much, but I guess that's how they do things in Texas.

We had a few hours left before I had to go back to the airport, so we went to Six Flags holiday in the park for some fun.

The place was packed so we only got to go on one ride after waiting in line for an hour.  But the ride was well worth it!

I was hoping to get a ride back to the airport with Dave & Tracy, but they came across this mistletoe and started making out.  I couldn't catch their attention and after a half hour, I thought it would be a good idea to just grab an Uber.  It was a fun couple of nights in Texas, though!

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