The people in Europe really did enjoy the Hemi sound, that's what turned them on more than anything else. The museum's Petty 43 car we just restored has a 426-inch crate motor in it, but that 528 Hemi is in a league of its own; it is like afterburners in both sound and power. We never had any problems with the car on the entire trip. Give it good gas, and it would do pretty much whatever you wanted it to.

Nurburing, Germany
The next stop was an enormous track in Germany, a very famous road course called Nurburing. It's an older track and has been around about forever. It is also a track we almost continuously had to turn right on. The front part was two long straights, plus an S-curve that was difficult to get the Daytona around. Along the straights in the stands were thousands of fans, all screaming and waving their hands; they wanted to hear the thing run. After we got through the S's, there was a long half-mile straight, and we could really get that Hemi wound up. We probably did 120 laps there; it was a lot of fun, and I had a chance to drive the car and get comfortable with it. We learned what the car would do, and it made us want to drive it faster and faster and faster. Nurburing had the longest straights, but it also had the shortest, tightest turns; we got that feeling of speed on the long straights and then had to get on the brakes to slow it down.

There were about 110,000 people in attendance there, and that was an old-timer sort of historical event. They would do a race of all Ferraris or all Mini-Coopers and had eight heats or so. Justin was there with the LeMans car and a group of Viper owners; 32 cars on the track. They all had mufflers except me, so people always knew where we were on the track. The Vipers kicked my butt on the curves, but we made it up on the straights with the 528; it would just blow by them. After about 20 laps in the car, we had serious brake fade, and we had to begin really prejudging the turn and downshifting the car all the way to Second to slow for them. Since Third gear took us up to 140 mph or so, Fourth was rarely needed.

The guys who drove these cars back then really drove them; this thing will roast you. After a few laps, the temperature in the engine is up; there is no insulation, nothing but a firewall and this huge engine. It is 110 degrees or more in the driver seat. Back then, no cool suits or helmets, and those guys had to fight them, had to turn them, and had to push the brake pedal down with both feet; it's not a friendly car. It's a fun car; it's a safe car; but you never forget it is more of man than you are; the minute you do, you're in trouble.

Chrysler is keeping the car on tour all the time right now; with Dodge's return to the Winston Cup series this year, it will be going all over the country. I will probably make a few laps at Talladega in it this season for exhibition purposes, but we are now focused on getting Richard Petty's No. 43 Charger over to Europe for the '01 Goodwood event. Like most people, I never would have dreamed that I would get a chance to drive the machines that made so much history for NASCAR, and I still have a hard time believing it.