Sparta, KY (WHAS11) – Imagine being behind the wheel, while driving a lap around the Kentucky Speedway, at speeds upwards of 160mph. Police officers from eight agencies in Kentucky and Ohio traded in their cruisers for race cars Thursday.
Officers from Kentucky State Police, Oldham County Police, Lexington Police and more suited up for the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Sparta, Kentucky.
“It feels pretty cool,” said Oldham County Police Officer Sarah King, while sitting in the driver’s seat of a stock car. “It’s real tight, extremely little in here and you have to know how to drive a 4-speed.”
Lt. Col. Jack Miniard with Kentucky State Police said, “It's very exciting when they start talking about the 600 horse power and the speed that you’d have and you automatically, even as a police officer, you know, people think that you're used to this kind of driving but it's really interesting as we’ve got to be up here and just the knowledge that they've passed on about the sport that a lot of people don't realize is it's really a precision sport.”
Rain showers prevented officers from racing against each other on the track, but they were still able to sit in the cars, learn what it takes to handle them, and how to win a race.
Oldham County Police Chief Greg Smith got to ride on the track with a professional driver, who explained the proper way to drive, in order to get the most speed.
Smith said, “They took us out on the track a minute ago and ran the course and kind of showed us how to angle the cars.”
Something that was surprising for Chief Smith – there was very little braking. He said “It's all acceleration and deceleration and very little movement on the steering wheel.”
Lt. Col. Miniard says there are some parallels between driving a race car and driving a police cruiser. “Much like police work it's a lot of situational awareness, what's around you, what's going on, what kind of area you're in, when you need to accelerate, when you need to get off the accelerator,” said Miniard.
However, Miniard says there are many differences, and the Richard Petty Driving Experience helped him gain a new appreciation for the people who race cars for a living.
Even though the officers didn’t get to compete on the race track today because of the weather, the prizes that would have been given to the winners were distributed evenly to the eight participating police agencies.
Each department was given tickets to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 and the NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 races in June. Those tickets will be distributed by the departments to local charities of their choice.
The Kentucky Speedway will try to reschedule the Top Cop Challenge for August when the Richard Petty Driving Experience returns to the track.
Today’s event is part of Police Memorial Week, which runs from May 13-19. This week honors fallen officers throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.