Sports

A day in the fast lane with Rusty

Christie Fettes has her picture taken by volunteer Leslie McKellar before she climbs in to take a few laps around Agassiz Speedway, Saturday. - Greg Laychak
Christie Fettes has her picture taken by volunteer Leslie McKellar before she climbs in to take a few laps around Agassiz Speedway, Saturday.
— image credit: Greg Laychak

At the base of a small mountain just outside of Agassiz, morning  quiet is interrupted by the roar of a 460 hp engine revving up.

“You hear that, Randy?” asks Christie Fettes.

“It’s like music,” responds a nearby voice.

For a visibly excited Fettes it’s the song of a race car, and it’s the reason she’s here at Agassiz Speedway on the Saturday of a long weekend.

Each of about 20 participants gathered at the oval track for the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience will either sit for a ride-along with an seasoned racecar driver, or take control of the wheel themselves, depending on their chosen package.

In her case, Fettes is ready to scratch “driving a race car” off her bucket list, an aspiration 15 years in the waiting.

“I’m a little nervous,” she says after sitting through the required driving tutorial. “My kids are coming to watch so I don’t want to crash, but I’m really stoked.”

Although a little car-to-car contact is acceptable in stock car racing, it’s forbidden for these one-day racers.

And while uncommon in paid weekend events, accidents do happen in the actual sport, according to driver Aaron Willison.

“Even though we wreck fairly often, we walk away every time,” says the 26-year-old racer. “But I’m confident we’re safer driving on the racetrack than we are driving to work in the morning.”

He refers to the strict safety measures enforced at the track, and the required safety gear such as neck restraints.

Today Willison drives ride-along visitors in the fiberglass body late-model stock cars, pushing speeds of over 130 kilometers per hour. That number might seem low, but on a short oval track, there’s not much straightaway—it’s almost all curve.

The young equipment mechanic climbs through the driver’s side window to give his next customer their speed fix.

As they strap in, he makes sure the video camera is in position, ready to capture the passenger on the ride of their life.

Powerful cars on a small track

Hardy Nelson didn’t know until 9 a.m. that morning that he’d be driving a race car.

His partner Carlene Fetterly detoured their holiday weekend trip to the interior with a spontaneous early birthday present.

Having completed his laps, he pulls off the track and climbs out of the vehicle smiling.

“I was a little apprehensive at first because they’re very powerful and the track is very small,” he says. “But they’re actually very predictable.”

His only regret was paying for 10 laps, the number he says it takes to get a feel for the car and the track. He figures he should have doubled that amount to really get the most out of the experience.

As for Fettes, one more bucket list item ticked-off, she’s unable to restrain her buzz.

“Oh my God,” she says laughing. “Everybody should try that at least once, if not five or six times.”

“Just the power of those cars when you hit the gas, oh man . . .”

Fettes trails off, looking at the track.

She turns to the merchandise table and collects the plaque with a picture of her sitting in the stock car.

“Bigger track,” she says. “Bigger and faster.”

“Vegas is next!”

 

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