7-year-old Ben Thiem has NASCAR experience | TheUnion.com

7-year-old Ben Thiem has NASCAR experience

Photo for The Union by John Hart

As 7-year-old Ben Thiem climbed behind the steering wheel to test his skills with a real-life NASCAR race car Wednesday afternoon, there were really only four words that mattered: Go fast, turn left.

Racing around a digital version of Texas Motor Speedway, Thiem seemed to be a fast study of the technique sitting inside a NASCAR simulator parked outside his family’s business, Outside Inn in Nevada City.

Though he struggled to reach the gas pedal during the three-lap race, he did reach a top speed of 137 miles an hour before banging into the wall above the high banking of the track.

“Sorry, he’s running into the wall,” said Erin Thiem, Ben’s mom and the Outside Inn owner.

“That’s fine,” said Jeff Cordell, in a thick southern drawl that sounded only appropriate as he peered into the window of the car.

“He can beat it up all he wants. That’s the good thing about these simulators.”

Cordell’s company travels around the country to events to share a NASCAR experience. He hauled the Rexall No. 1 car from Odessa, Texas, to Nevada City in advance of an appearance at next week’s Dreamforce ’12, an event put on at the Moscone Center by cloud-based computer company Salesforce.

“I think it’s going to be the star of the show,” said Fran Lantz, a Nevada City marketing professional, after noting the event’s bill also includes speakers like Richard Branson and Colin Powell and performers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Cordell’s company takes retired NASCAR race cars and converts them into simulators, offering racing fans a NASCAR experience, which not only included the digital race game but also the actual roar of NASCAR engine when Jeff Gordon’s retired race car was fired up.

Cordell and Lantz teamed up to provide two tickets to a nearby NASCAR race for the winner of a Fastest Lap competition Wednesday.

A trio of Grass Valley Charter School fourth-graders was ready to take a shot at that prize Wednesday, but Garrett Crabb, Makai Malin and Brennan Schad admitted they were wide-eyed just walking around the car itself.

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