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Putnam Park Road Course Satisfies Need for Speed


Editor’s Note, Sept. 3, 2014: This post has been updated with images and video taken by Darryl Smith at last weekend’s Xtreme Xperience event.
The names LP560-4, 458 Italia, MP4-12C, SLS AMG, C7 Stingray, and GTR might read like gobbledygook to the uninitiated. But to select aficionados—and legions of “petrol-heads” who watch the BBC’s Top Gear, grew up playing video games like Need for Speed, Gran Turismo, and Forza Motorsport, and had Lamborghini Countach posters on the walls of their childhood bedrooms—the seemingly nonsensical letters and numbers name some of the world’s most prized autos. And today and tomorrow, the Xtreme Xperience event is bringing these and other supercars to Putnam Park Road Course near Greencastle, allowing car enthusiasts with expensive taste—but not necessarily the means to buy them—a chance to whip around corners and scream down the straights on a 1.8-mile, 10-turn road course designed to challenge skill and nerve.
“It’s a feeling like nothing else,” says Nikola Ranguelov of Chicago, a regular at Xtreme Xperience events around the Midwest. “To me, it’s not about going fast in a straight line. That’s boring. It’s about taking corners at speed, and the best way I can describe that feeling is it’s almost like time stops or slows down.”
Ranguelovhas put in laps at Joliet Autobahn and Blackhawks Raceway inIllinois, and even traveled farther afield to Michigan and St. Louis to try different tracks and cars. “I’ve driven everything they have, but the choices were difficult to make at first,” he says. “Over time I kept trying more and more cars, but initially it had to be the Lamborghini for me, because as a child I had grown up with a Lamborghini clock in my room. When they got a Nissan GT-R, I knew I had to attend another event of theirs, because, c’mon, thatis ‘Godzilla,’ in the words of [Top Gear presenter] Jeremy Clarkson.”
Attendees aged 18 or older can purchase tickets (starting at $219) at the event, where they get professional driving instruction before being set loose for three laps around the track in the asphalt-eatingmachines of their choice. They can even purchase video and photo packages as mementos.
“Maybe you’re in the market to buy a McLaren, or you have a couple hundred bucks saved up for a rainy day,” says event spokesman Mitch Gummerson. Either way, he adds, “This is a bucket-list experience.”
 

Xtreme Xperience at Putnam Park Road Course, Fri. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 5251 S. County Road 550 E, Mount Meridian, 866-273-7727, thextremexperience.com.
 

Smith is a freelance photojournalist attending Indiana University in Bloomington for a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism.
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