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Getting ready, going Petty

- rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010

Growing up in Alabama, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney had been to the NASCAR track at Talladega but until Wednesday, he’d never been in a race car.

Getting a ride-along tour of Charlotte Motor Speedway at 165 miles per hour as part of the Richard Petty Driving Experience gave Swinney a new appreciation for a sport he’s been familiar with for years.

“I’ve done a lot of bold things but this by far…I can’t even believe they let us do that in today’s world. That was awesome,” Swinney said after climbing out of a race car.

Swinney said after climbing in car – dressed in a fire suit and racing helmet – his driver introduced himself and then hit the throttle.

“The strange thing is you don’t even know the guy and you jump in the car,” Swinney said.

“It’s like, ‘Hi, I’m Spencer.' 'I’m Dabo. OK, you’ve got my life in your hands. Let’s go.’ ”

Clemson president Jim Barker also took advantage of the bowl teams’ visit to the track to get his first high-speed ride.

“I was challenged to make sure I wasn’t intimidated by this. Everybody else was doing so I had to, too,” Barker said.

“You can’t imagine that a car and the human body can absorb that much speed. I kept hitting the (imaginary) brakes because the car in front was too close. You’re trying to keep that distance you keep on I-85.”

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