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  • Writer's pictureBenny Thompson

Wayne Strausbaugh - life in the fast lane and 350 knots in the sky

There are many great reasons to live in Fairfield Harbour, and one of my favorites is meeting new neighbors and finding out their stories. I recently met Wayne Strausbaugh, and after spending some time with him at his home in Fairfield, it made me wish that his story was mine to tell.

Wayne had a great career as a fighter pilot, requiring calm restraint, nerves of steel, and the ability to assess the situation you find yourself in and make quick decisions. Each of these attributes is essential for the speeds you find yourself as a jet pilot.

As Wayne started to age, he began to think about a "Bucket List." He started his list simply enough with his first experience on a jet ski. As a jet pilot, maybe that was a natural direction, though I think it had more to do with speed and the sensation of going fast. This may have been fun, but as many things do, this led to the desire to drive fast.

In this day and age that we find ourselves living in, driving fast is a clear and readily available option. Many of the NASCAR race tracks offer speed schools. You can enroll, spend time with an instructor, climb into a professionally set up race car, and do a few laps at significant speed.

Wayne has driven all 24 of these tracks that span our country. That certainly had to satisfy that desire to drive fast. But where do you go from there?

Easy enough, Exotic Driving School. Other tracks across this country offer the opportunity to sit down with a professional driver in a classroom setting, strap into a Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, or Lamborghini, and drive fast. I'm talking, knocking on the door of 200 miles per hour fast. These are full-body cars that, again, have been set up to go fast. Every precaution has been taken to make this a reasonably safe environment. He has now driven dozens of these cars on numerous tracks.

Now, to clarify something, I have told you about driving fast. Not racing anyone but yourself and a clock. Typically, no other cars on the track with you may be racing you and adding that third dimension of traffic. That is something that Wayne has less desire to do, as his goal is to drive fast. Not to say he hasn't raced and done very well against professional drivers.

Wayne had an opportunity to drive Laguna Seca Raceway in a Lamborghini Huracán Performante, where he beat Mario Andretti’s time by 100th of a second.

The next day he drove a McLaren 720 and set a track record. Number 1 of 20,265 entrants. This speaks highly of his ability to analyze the situation and trust that his driving car can respond to his controls.

But, if you want to drive fast, you must be in a jet. So off Wayne goes to Russia to the factory where the Russian MIG 29 fighter jets are built. There Wayne strapped in, and with the afterburners lit, away he went. Taking the controls at 56,000 ft. and flying more than 350 knots would turn the stomach of many. Not Wayne.

What to do next? Fly a bullet. Well, the closes thing to a bullet is the Lockheed F-104. The STARFIGHTER. This plane is 59 ft long with a total wingspan of less than 22 ft. As I said, a bullet. Capable of Mach 2 (1,400 MPH) speeds and an altitude of 100,000 feet, it is extremely fast.

Where will Wayne go next? The bucket list has many more items to check off, and maybe I will have to live vicariously through Wayne.

To learn more about Wayne and his passion, check out the videos that are below.

F-104 the plane I flew the shuttle landing approach in at Cape Canaveral (25,000 over runway and in 3/4s of a turn, roll out at 500 feet on final approach)

MIG-29 the jet I flew at the MIG factory in Russia

Rail dragster the dragster I drove at ZMax Speedway in Charlotte

Chasing Rusty Wallace in a NASCAR - I didn't know that was Rusty ahead of me. My car had more HP so slowly catching him wasn't too hard...

B-17 the plane I flew in at Raleigh a few years ago (this was the one that has since crashed with the loss of everyone aboard)

2022 Corvette at Dream Racing car I drove last year in Las Vegas

NASCAR vs my Corvette Z06 I drove both cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway and then compared them side--by-side

Monster Truck School - I drove a monster truck a few years ago. The rear wheels are steered via a toggle switch which is why I only have one hand on the wheel

Setting the track record in Las Vegas - first, a lap at Laguna Seca in a Mercedes GT-R, then the lap where I became #1 in the Michelin World Time Trials at Exotics Racing in Las Vegas

Nurburgring - a lap in a slow car around the famed Nurburgring in Germany

Wayne vs Michael Waltrip at Speed Vegas - I compared NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip to my lap at Speed Vegas n a side-by-side video

EXR Racing Series Car - driving a full race EXR car at Exotics Racing in Las Vegas

Ferrari 458 Factory Race Car - driving a race equipped Ferrari at Dream Racing in Las Vegas

Lamborghini Factory Race Car - driving a full race Lamborghini at Dream Racing in Las Vegas (check the skid & recovery at 3:30)

Wayn'e Corvette Z06 at Daytona - driving the ROLEX road course at Daytona in my Z06

Doing 200 MPH with Mario Andretti at Indy - riding in an Indy car at over 200 MPH around Indianapolis Speedway

Flying with Air Combat Ace - a flight in an Extra 330LC (handles plus or minus 10 G's - I did 7 1/2G's) in Las Vegas

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