The long-ago evening was wrought with loud words, a broken lamp, and an incredibly sobering statement: “Nikki, you’re a control freak.” Me, a control freak? Never! I’m mellow yellow, I’m like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream, I am the queen of go-with-the-flow.
Or am I?
I didn’t realize how much I crave control until I was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a hot lap around Daytona International Speedway with Mike Renner from the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It helped that he’s from my home chapter, and that we’ve shared an adult beverage on more than one occasion. Yes, the Mac Daddy of the M School is a friend of mine. I’ve got his number on speed dial. That guy you read about in Roundel, blowing people’s minds with a few smokin’ laps the Performance Center? He lives up the street from me. Be jealous—be very jealous.
At Daytona, Renner told me about the secret gate, specified the time, and practically gave me the secret handshake that would get me placed in his car. Although there were other Performance Center instructors with identical cars providing hot laps for important people, Renner was quite confident that he’d be able to show me the hottest lap of them all.
I wasn’t about to argue.
But as the remarkable M5 pulled into pit lane to take passengers, I had a sudden pang of terror. I had never ridden with Renner before, and I was going to have to surrender my need for control of the car. It didn’t matter that Renner was a Club driving god, legendary throughout the CCA; he would be driving, and I would be passengering (if that’s not a word, it should be). I gave him a little smile and tried to not look terrified. I’m no stranger to speed, and am not in the least bit afraid of it; it was the lack of control that was bugging me.
My first loss of control was realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to tell Mike Renner how to do anything better; he already knows how to do everything better. Second, I realized that I was about to lose control over where my body was going. If you’re unfamiliar with Daytona, it has a ridiculously steep bank. To maximize your speed, you can’t be shy around the banking; you must place your car into the highest reaches of the tilted concrete and hold it there, all the while feeling gravity pulling you back towards the Earth. The car wants to be even, your body wants to be level, but you’re going around 150 mph.
And at that speed, your body will do some things that you cannot control.
My organs felt like they were made of iron, and being pulled by a huge, sadistic magnet. My ears felt like a turkey baster was trying to suck out my equilibrium, and my brain sloshed around like a half-melted ice cube in a glass of room-temperature bourbon. I was left voiceless for the entire length of the lap. I wanted my control back—until I realized that my body was doing something else beyond my control—something I was perfectly okay with.
I had an uncontrollable smile for the next day and a half.—Nikki Weed