The cabinet for this game was really quite realistic, given as Atari billed it as a driving 'simulator'. There was a choice of manual and automatic transmission, and starting the car in manual required you to depress the clutch while turning the key. Very realistic, and this aspect of proper driving is one I've only ever seen emulated since in a special version of Namco's Ridge Racer. Oh, and Sega's F355 Challenge.
The cow was conveniently placed at the very first bend, where the road divided into the stunt track and the speed track. Colliding produced an audible moo noise, much to the delight of your 11 year old friends.
The speed track was pretty dull, but everyone drove the stunt track anyway. Again, being only 11, the point was usually to make it to the loop (which was no easy task in itself) and either drive up the the apex and then slam on the brakes, or drive full speed up the loop and then purposely drive off the edge.
This was because some genius had put in a replay function, so after every crash you got to watch your car go flying through the air/into the cow/into an oncoming dump truck (which of course you see driving around stunt tracks) while music reminiscent of Toonces the driving cat would play. This worked well for Atari, as the timer kept ticking down while you watched the replay (although you could skip it)
Home versions of the sequel Race Drivin' were abominable. The SNES version ran at about 5fps, despite having no graphics whatsoever. The Game Boy version was surprisingly adept, managing the same low frame rate but also managing to be a polygon-based racing game, on the Game Boy! If anything, this proves Game Boy Elite is possible. Hooray!