I Still Think About the Track Laps I Rode Shotgun in This Dodge Viper ACR

The best ride along I've done, ever.

The morning I took this picture, I didn’t wake up thinking I’d be sailing down the front straight of Willow Springs International Raceway at 148 miles per hour.

  • Car(s): Fourth-Gen Dodge Viper ACR
  • Location: Willow Springs International Raceway, Rosamond, CA
  • Photog: Peter Nelson (IG + Twitter: @16vPete)
  • Camera: Canon 6D, EF 50mm 1.8 AF

A little over a month ago I signed up to attend GridLife’s Skip Day, a media-centric event that the company put on to help bolster their name on the west coast. It was completely free, including free food and a very, very traffic-free Willow Springs International Raceway at my disposal for content and just, well, having fun.

It was my first time on this gigantic, fast track. I had fun, but my little low-power Mazda2 wasn’t really cut out for it. A couple of corners were good fun, but generally, much faster cars have a better (more thrilling) time here. So I took my buddy Kevin Burke up on his offer to ride along in the Torco USA Dodge Viper ACR. 600 naturally-aspirated horsepower, 3,460 pounds, sticky Toyo RR tires, some other minor track mods, and barely enough room for my lanky body to squeeze into the shotgun seat.

I’m very blessed that I don’t get car sick from getting thrashed around on track, because my god was the experience unlike anything else I’d gotten myself into before. Kevin’s a very skilled driver with top chops, so I never got any inkling of concern of him running out of talent as he muscled the beast through all nine of this legendary track’s turns. We managed around 145 mph heading into T8 a long sweeper on the back side of the circuit, and 148 up the front straightaway. The longitudinal and lateral g-forces were insane, and so much freaking fun!

Kevin’s driving was impeccable, and the Viper was as grippy and stable as it was loud and chocked full of theatrics. I hope I can sucker my way into more ride alongs this year.

Peter Nelson

Peter NelsonPeter Nelson has been wrenching on and playing with cars since he started driving them quickly between the cones at Chicagoland autocross events in his late teens. Nowadays, he can be found wringing out his Mazda2 at tracks all over California. His writing background includes Winding Road, Donut Media, and Autolist.com. He's also an avid cyclist and '80s/'90s action film connoisseur. Contact the author here.