Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

For those with a need for speed, Las Vegas provides some heart-pounding excitement in some unexpected places.

Las Vegas. Promises of heart-pounding excitement and awesome spectacles. But far from the tables, slots and Cirque du Soleil, there's an undiscovered side that delivers even more thrills: a life-altering, out-of-body experience.

It's called the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And for less than you'd lose on three rounds of blackjack, you can feel like Mario Andretti pushing his Ferrari to 120 miles an hour, every muscle, nerve and heartbeat alive in the moment.

Stop Dreaming. Start Driving! The ad screamed at me, promising exotic car driving nirvana. My inner car addict was immediately hooked.

At the track, I'm pounded by the wailing tsunami of engine noise—Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches scream past at warp speed. Fear grips me; my heart races in search of lost courage. My few summers cruising an old Miata down country roads won't cut it. Like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

I feel tragic and unhinged.

Deep breath. Easy does it. They're not going to turn me loose in these lethal machines without proper training, right?

I'm herded into a quick session on driving technique, then stuffed with other sweaty drivers into a fat SUV for orientation laps that fly by in a blur. I panic and absorb nothing.

Next, I'm squeezed into a too-tight helmet and urged toward a Ferrari. The car taunts me with her menacing idle, growling and rumbling like a lion in heat. Raw power hides under her seductive body, drop-dead gorgeous and sexy in red. I hesitate, frozen and enchanted.

"Let's get going!" commands the instructor from the passenger seat. I snap out of my stupor and slide into rich caramel seats that embrace me like an elegant lover.

Finding my nerve, I punch the throttle; the Ferrari explodes onto the track. Ferocious engine roar shatters my hearing, shooting sparks up my spine. The car is scary fast. I hang on for life.

"Faster! Eyes up! Hard through the corners. Go wide. Cut the apex."

"Accelerate NOW!"

Barked orders bounce off my helmet. It's happening too fast to think. I'm driving on instinct, high on the mesmerizing wail of the engine, exhilarated by the alarming rate the car tears through corners.

Five laps left. The instructor pushes me to ludicrous speeds – 120 miles an hour down the straight, the Ferrari fantastically fast, yet forgiving. Hands, feet, eyes, nerves struggle to execute, to stay in the moment. I feel ecstatic and terrified, like a teenager in the throes of sex.

Abruptly, the last lap ends. I climb out of the car, knees shaky, heart pounding, my mind almost blank.

For a guy like me—a lifelong car freak—today has meaning: I've flown away and touched heaven, albeit briefly. In my case, that well-worn expression "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" doesn't apply.

My few moments of race car driving glory are seared into every neuron in my brain. I'll be replaying them until I take my last lap around this mortal coil.

If you go Exotics Racing, call 702-405-7223 or book online at www.exoticsracing.com. Las Vegas Motor Speedway: five laps in a Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin or other high-end sports car, starting at $199.

A version of this article appeared in the May 2017 issue with the headline, "Lapping Las Vegas," p. 75.

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