Apr 26 2010 - 8:00pm

TALLADEGA, Ala. – I can now honestly say that I’ve taken a lap at speed at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was in the Dodge Challenger pace car, with Brett Bodine at the wheel, and we weren’t exceeding the minimum lap time for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but it was memorable nonetheless.

Especially Turns 3 and 4.

That’s where Brett opened up and let the Hemi engine eat, and we whistled through 3 and 4 close to wide open, inches from the wall. Now, if you can, imagine that with 42 other yahoos wide open just like you and jockeying for position at the time.

My flabber has officially been gasted.

I’m not saying I’ve been everywhere and done everything. I have been around most of the tracks on the NASCAR series, either as a passenger or behind the wheel, so I do have a frame of reference. But this was unlike the others in that it was a 2.66-mile oval with 34-degree banking.

Bodine demonstrated the banking in Turn 1 by stopping the car in the middle lane. It felt like you were stuck on a roller-coaster halfway through a barrel roll.

Three and four, however, was hammer-down with the hair on fire. I was sitting in the suicide seat, inches from the wall, and it got a bit…tight as we came off four. Then Brett jammed the brakes to simulate pit road speed (55 mph).

I could have done without that, especially since the majority of my innards were still sitting in my throat.

But hey, there’s a reason the boys get up and shout here. The track is wide, there’s plenty of room (at least when you’re by yourself) and it’s a pretty drive for a Sunday morning.

It does give you a new perspective, though. Driving on I-20 or any other major highway is somewhat similar to driving this place…with some fairly major differences. First, you can generally cut someone off and not start a 30-car pileup. The hand gestures are somewhat the same (grin), however.

The difference that makes the most glaring impact is the fact that if you mess up and get a little bit out of line on the highway, you’ve got plenty of room and time to do something about it. Here, you’re on your way to the crash house or the garage, or both.