FANTASY CAMP: I Spent 3 Incredible Days With My Auto Racing Heroes

Drifting Tanner Foust Ford Mustang Laguna Seca

Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider

If you have free time and enough money, there is a fantasy camp that will cater to any hobby you can think of.Love rock and roll? Then go to rock and roll camp. Love space? Go to space camp. Baseball fan? Pretend to be a Major Leaguer at baseball camp. Love to drive tanks? There’s even a camp for that.

Since motorsports have been my hobby for as long as I can remember, I jumped at the chance to attend the Speed Dream Ride last week.

What is the Dream Ride? It’s the grand prize in an annual contest put on by the TV channel Speed. Five lucky winners and their guests are flown to Monterey, CA and put up in first class accommodations. Then, for two days, they are whisked to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to drive with some motorsports legends.

And I mean legends. Topping the roster is Indy 500 Winner, IndyCar Champion, Formula One World Champion, and Daytona 500 Champion Mario Andretti, who takes winners for rides in a two-seat IndyCar.

Then, there are winning motorcycle racers Jason Pridmore and Steve Rapp, Kyle Petty, son of the legendary Richard “The King” Petty, drifting phenom and TV star Tanner Foust, and Pikes Peak Hillclimb winner Mike Ryan and his insane Freightliner tractor.

It is seriously overload for a racing fan.

Disclosure: I have to send a big thanks to Speed for flying me to the Dream Ride to participate with the lucky winners. I can’t lie; These were three pretty awesome days. Speed paid for all travel and accommodations.

This is what we were promised: Time to hang out with Speed F1 announcer Bob Varsha and Maxim model April Rose, among other racing legends. That sold me on the Dream Ride immediately.

I got in late the night before the event. This is the view from the hotel room the morning after. Not too shabby.

After a quick breakfast, we drove to the track. You don't see Mario Andretti's name (5th down) on an insurance disclaimer everyday.

After we were ushered up to the suites over pitlane, we got suited up for the first runs of the day.

At the same time, Mario was getting his gear ready for the two hours he was about to spend in the car.

Here's April at the track. She's a Maxim Cover Girl, Speed personality, and host of the Dream Ride. Not a bad gig. Unfortunately, she had to leave after the first day.

The winners were first up for rides with Mario. You could tell that they were incredibly excited to go out for a ride with the legend.

On hot laps past the pits, most of the contestants were pumping their hands in the air. I understand why.

I was the last one to go for a ride with Mario. It was worth the wait.

Here's the full ride with Mario.

After lunch, there were then rides on Suzuki motorcycles. I've ridden dirtbikes and been on the back of a streetbike, but never on a racetrack. This picture is what I look like when I'm terrified.

I got to ride with Daytona 200 winner Steve Rapp. He told me not to hold on tight.

I'm glad I ignored him. We popped a wheelie at around 85 MPH and the front wheel came back down at 110. Crazy.

It can be tough to get up-close and personal with these riders, so this was an awesome experience.

We spent that night at the Monterey Aquarium. This hammerhead shark distracted me during the entire meal.

After a long night talking about Formula One over drinks with other racing nerds, I squished my oversized head into a small helmet.

And then went for a ride with Kyle Petty. Tons of fun.

Turn eight is the most famous at the track. Called the Corkscrew, it's a left/right chicane that has a total elevation change of 180 feet. Pure awesome.

And we were about to go around it very sideways with Tanner Foust.

Through the left hand portion he is turning right.

And in the right hand section he's turning left.

The slide then lasts for two more corners uninterrupted. It was amazing to watch.

Here's a first person perspective of drifting with Tanner.

But this was something I really wanted a ride in: Mike Ryan's Pikes Peak winning Freightliner.

Not exactly what I'd call clean diesel. Unfortunately, the transmission broke just before my run.

But there was one surprise left for the winners.

The Skip Barber Racing School let the winners hit the track in its track-prepped Mazda MX5s. Great way to experience Laguna.

While we rode for two days, the final day was all about driving.

World Class Driving came by with a selection of supercars for us to drive up and down the coast.

It really was beautiful. This Jaguar XKR-S was one of the best we got to drive all day.

The Mercedes McLaren SLR was one of the worst...relatively speaking.

When you're in a supercar, this is the best sign you can ever see.

And the scenery isn't bad either.

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