Driving a Sprint Car is Like Nothing Else

(Andy Forsberg of Auburn, CA, has been driving sprint cars since 1994. A second-generation racer, he’s won an unprecedented 10 Civil War Series dirt sprint car championships. He’s claimed multiple track titles at Placerville and Chico and has 170 main event victories across California and Oregon. This is the third of a series of columns.)

Andy on the gas at Placerville, 2018.

Andy on the gas at Placerville, 2018.

Tearoffs • by Andy Forsberg  |  I don’t have much, if any, experience driving other kinds of race cars, but I do know, driving a sprint car is like nothing else in the world. You know what I mean? It’s the only type of race car that I’ve ever driven, except for one time in a super stock and once in a dwarf car.

I can vaguely visualize and feel what it might be like to drive a stock car. But I don’t know; if you’ve never driven a sprint car, I don’t think you could visualize the experience. You just can’t imagine what it’s like to be in that thing, on dirt, going into a turn, in a pack, close to 100 mph. 

First of all, you have to turn right to go left. That’s pretty unique. Sprint cars are crazy, really. The power will get your attention first. It’s instant; it’s there, all 900 horsepower, in around 1,400 pounds.

Back in 1993, when I was 15, my father, Richard, used to let me drive his sprint car, to pack the dirt and do a couple of hot laps at Placerville Speedway.

Holy crap, it was a big deal. We were sneaky. At the time, I was too young to be out there. Back then, you had to be 16 and it was like we were breaking into Fort Knox. 

How much faster is this frickin’ thing gonna go?

As I got a little more brave and antsy on the track. I could not believe how far down the gas pedal went. The first time I pushed the throttle down a quarter inch and it felt like it was going 100 mph. The motor made a bunch of racket and it definitely took off. I was thinking, “There’s still another inch and a half of pedal to go until I’m at full throttle! How much faster is this frickin’ thing gonna go?”

My mom would shoot video of me while I was on the track, and I can remember watching the replay to see how fast I was going, looking for when I got on the gas, and it’s funny; you couldn’t see it. I was going slower than everybody else out there.

These days, kids are racing sprint cars at 14. They gain experience from racing micro sprints and dirt karts and they get the feel and adapt to driving a sprint car rather quickly. But back when I started, that wasn’t part of the deal. You had to learn any way you could. 

I’ve compared racing to a boxing match, and that’s how I used to race, sparring with the other guy. Racing in the bottom or high groove, with the other guy, just going at it, throwing jabs. That’s how I grew up racing. But with the young guys coming up, racing has changed. Now you just throw haymakers, slide jobs and dive bomb each other—and hope it works.

But it’s still sprint car racing, and driving a sprint car is such an anomaly. I can’t compare it to anything else. It’s just so out of the norm and these cars are so odd. To me, they just don’t compare to anything.