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Ann Cannon preparing for a ride with Don the Ragin' Cajun at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Cannon: What NASCAR taught me about fear and fast cars

By Ann Cannon

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 26 2013 11:45 am • Last Updated Apr 26 2013 07:37 pm

Memo to my parents: Don’t read this column.

I had to get that out of the way before I start, because although the three of us are now old enough to order off the senior menu when we have breakfast together at the IHOP, my parents still think I am the same 16-year-old girl who broadsided our neighbor’s Volkswagen. And ran into the back of a parked car in front of the football stadium. And collected speeding tickets like some kids collect bubble-gum wrappers. And high-centered the family vehicle in a parking lot. And was involved in a notorious incident at Provo High School wherein a car jumped a curb and took out a sapling tree (although it must be noted that my friend Gigi Ballif was the one driving at the time).

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In fact, the only times I ever saw my granite-faced father come unglued were the times when he was my passenger. Dude was afraid whenever I took the wheel.

Very, very afraid.

Possibly because I did stuff such as suddenly slam on the brakes in the middle of an intersection, thus pitching him and 1,000 returnable glass Tab bottles (we were on the way to the grocery store for my mother) into the windshield. Even a strong man cannot be expected to get over something like that quickly.

Or ever.

So. Anyway. Now that my parents aren’t reading this (automobiles plus me equals anxiety issues for them), I can tell you what I did last Saturday. I rode in a NASCAR car at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s true! I did! And I did it strictly so I could write one of those columns wherein I tell you 30 things I learned running a marathon (bit.ly/12NnABH) or walking across England (bit.ly/11IzGer ). See how much I love you? I did 160 mph around a racetrack three times just for you.

And as I waited for my turn, I started making up a list that included the following:

1. Wearing a NASCAR jumpsuit does not automatically make you look like Danica Patrick.

2. Although wearing a NASCAR jumpsuit does automatically make your butt look bigger.

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HOWEVER. The longer I waited, the less able I was to think of all the important life lessons I was learning. In fact, the longer I waited, the less able I was to think. Period. That’s because fear was taking over my brain in much the same way that the Borg assimilates alien species and renders them powerless. "Resistance is futile," Fear said to my brain, which caused my brain to run up a white flag and surrender immediately.

Seriously, what had I been thinking when I told my husband to sign me up for a NASCAR ride? Didn’t I realize how fast those cars go in real life? Also, there are no doors on NASCAR cars. Did you know? Which means you and your big old non-Danica Patrick, NASCAR-jumpsuit-clad butt have to crawl through the car window. Which is not an easy feat for people like me who order the Senior Sampler off the senior menu at IHOP.

But OK. Fine. I said I’d do it, and because I am a person of my word (and also because people were watching), I did it. I buckled up and put my life in the gnarly hands of my driver, Don the Ragin’ Cajun. (See photo of me and Don the Ragin’ Cajun before taking off. I’m the one with the worried expression.)

And guess what? The ride was awesome! I felt just like Top Gun pulling g’s. So when the ride was over, I said to Don the R.C., "That was awesome!" To which Don the R.C. responded, "I can’t hear you." So then I said, "THAT WAS AWESOME!" To which Don the R.C. responded, "I CAN’T HEAR YOU."

So yeah. That’s something I learned right there — driving NASCAR cars for a living probably doesn’t do good things for your hearing.

And here’s the other thing I learned. Or re-learned. Anticipating an event is almost always worse than the event itself.

You’re welcome.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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