Start Your Engine

Gate A Sports' Silicon Motor Speedway is Ohio's only NASCAR simulator.

It's really not just a bunch of left turns. And even if you don't like watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive in circles for hours, you'll love sliding behind the wheel of No. 8 and taking a few laps at Daytona International Speedway yourself. Since January, NASCAR fanatics, casual viewers and the purely curious have dropped by Gate A Sports at Mentor's Great Lakes Mall and anted up $8.50 for six minutes inside a simulated 750-horsepower NASCAR racer. It's one of just 17 NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway simulators in the United States and the only one in Ohio —a fact that Gate A Sports president Nick Merkuloff hopes will hook NASCAR fans and virtual-reality video-game junkies alike.

I belted myself into "Little E's" car (racers can choose from five different cars that look like slightly shrunken versions of their pro counterparts) and started the engine. In the first lap, the simulator's hydraulics kicked in and the car lurched as I clipped another vehicle and spun into the infield. But after a couple minutes, you start to get a taste of the concentration needed for the simulated version of NASCAR, let alone the real thing.

Gate A Sports offers racing packages to those who want to buy a chunk of time behind the wheel and league and competition nights allow racers to tick off 50 or 60 laps against one another for a $25 entry fee.

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