A Ride of a Lifetime

Dale Wilkerson                                           June 2010


When I heard that the Duvall Driver School would be offering a Ride Along program after the Grassy Smith Memorial Race, I knew I had two things that had to be accomplished before heading to the track last Friday night.
First, I had to ask my wife for permission and second I had to check the wallet to make sure I had some rainy day money to invest in such a venture. My wife made sure that I would not be driving or riding during an actual race and she okayed my venture. So after checking in at the press box Friday night, I walked over to the table where Mike and Pam Duvall were signing folks up for rides.
I hoped to use the track microphone, but remembering what happened while interviewing Austin Dillon a few weeks ago, as he sat in his car during a red flag, I knew the mic would not transmit from the car. I carried my voice recorder, and if you listened to Droppin’ the Hammer last week, that was not the best audio either.
Mike told me he was going to make a few laps during intermission. I asked if anyone was riding then and he said no, so I asked if I could cash in my ticket to ride then. Mike’s grandson Dillon and fellow racer Adam Yarborough told me a few things to expect. Chris Ferguson said “You are in for the ride of a lifetime,” and the anticipation started growing.
On of the guys with the crew found a helmet big enough to incase my size eight head, and he helped me get strapped in the car. Mike rolled to the end of pitroad and waited for the all clear sign before we headed out on the track.
I couldn’t help but look at Mike Duvall and think about how many times he had sat in a car, waiting to go out on the track, especially his home track in Gaffney. Mike rolled out, eased through turns one and two before droppin’ the hammer on the backstretch. Well, he only opened it up a little on the backstretch but he stood on it off turn four.
If I had been holding a match in my right hand I could have struck it off the wall. Duvall pitched this two-seater Crate powered late model into the corner. It felt like the right side bite hard, and I thought we might have carried the left front, like I have seen Duvall do many times over the years.
Each lap seemed faster and faster, and I was smiling from ear to ear under that helmet. We pulled back in the pits and Mike asked me if I enjoyed the ride. “Yes sir!!” I said with a smile just like many more folks did after the race. Some rode with Mike Duvall while others had the chance to ride with Freddie Smith or Chris Madden.
If you are a true race fan, you need to do this at least once. Better yet, schedule a class with Duvall’s Driving School by visiting www.mikeduvall.com or calling 864-489-3863. As a student you get classroom, race shop, and on track experience. You learn the inner workings of a late model chassis and you get to experience what it feels like to need turn right because you are going so fast left.