Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A two seater ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an experience like no other

A two seater ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an experience like no other

IndyCar Garage recently had the pleasure of taking some hot laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at over 180 mph and lived to tell about it. IndyCar Garage would like to thank and commend the Indy Racing Experience, as my thrilling ride around the 2.5 oval is something that I will never forget. Below is how the experience went.

The Pre-Ride build up

The experience starts around in the garages right next to pit plane, as your group will meet at the designated area. Once you sign your name a few different times, you are fitted for your own fire suit, shoes, and even have your own assigned locked if needed. While your preparing to dress like a real driver, the two seater cars are getting prepped, warmed up, and fueled up for their laps. Once you exit the garage in your fire suit and your family has snapped about a dozen photos already, you begin the walk down the famous pit lane.

Pit Lane

Immediately exiting the garage, you get chills through your body as you see the massive grand stands that surround turn one and pit lane. Everywhere you turn, you see why they call the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the greatest race track in the world. You continue to walk down pit lane and just continue to stare and look around as your mind starts to wonder what it’s like on race day when over 300,000 people fill the stands. The Indy Racing Experience (IRE) officials walk you down to the end of pit lane, so that you’re literally standing within an arms reach of pit wall and a short rock throw of the track. The two seater cars are warmed up and ready to go and the people in the front of the line are now getting fitted for helmets, face mask, and gloves.

The Drivers

Davey Hamilton, Arie Luyendyk Jr, and Stephan Gregoire are your regular drivers for most IRE, but in some cases, several former Indy 500 winners and IZOD IndyCar drivers have driven for the IRE, among the notable names: Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Arie Luyendyk, Al Unser, Jr., Mario Andretti, Buddy Lazier, Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Michael Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Sarah Fisher, Robby Gordon, Tony Kanaan, Vitor Meira, and Danica Patrick,
The day I was riding, I was looking at either Davey, Stephane or A.J. Foyt IV. As the riders are getting ready for their experience, the drivers are suiting up and getting into the cars. The fun now is about to begin.

The Indy Racing Experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

I was toward the back of the line of about 35 people, but I didn’t care, I was still in aw of standing on pit lane and watching everything take place in front of me. The first round of riders is ready to go and the cars are pushed away, the smell of fresh ethanol comes across pit lane. As the first riders finish, you can see the joy and shock that comes across their faces as they are greeted by their families in the post-ride atmosphere. I get my face mask and helmet, and make the mistake of closing my visor right away, luckley my friends help me out and raise it up so it doesn’t get foggy.

The finger is pointed at me and I begin to walk to my IndyCar two seater. I will be riding in the brand new IZOD two seater, the same IndyCar two seater that Mark Walhberg rode in prior to the drop of the green flag for the 2010 Indy 500. Today the car is wrapped in Venom livery after Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti.

I sit down in the car and immediately get told to drop my shoulders more and sit back more, it feels like I am almost laying back to sun tan. I am all strapped in and I reach for my visor and the IRE staff tells me that they will take care of it, my ride is now on deck. 30 seconds pass and my visor is shut and Stephane hits the gas, I immediately feel like I am doing 75 mph on the high way because of the acceleration out of pit lane, in reality I probably was only doing 40 mph. The car reaches the back stretch and I start to realize how fast we are going to go and we haven’t even reached our first lap let. I start to look around and try to take in everything that is around the track. I have been to the track several times over the course of my life, but never at these speeds. We reach turn four and I try to find my 500 seats, but its no luck, I don’t even think I saw the North West Vista, just a bit of Stand J. We fly down the main straightaway and take the green flag (no one is waving though).

I would guess we are up to 150 – 160 mph going into the first turn of my first lap, as we go through the turn, I feel like my whole body is going to go straight through the ride side of the tub of the car, but it never does, the feeling was surreal. We get through two and hit the back stretch of my first lap, I start to feel my helmet lift up, I realize that air is starting to lift it up because we have increased our speed to around 180-190. I had no clue how we would get through turn three, and before I realize it, we are in the short shoot between three and four. Speaking of four, it’s a blur and I barley catch the birds nest seats at the top.

We come down the straightaway to complete my first lap and I still have no clue how we are only going 180 mph, it felt so much faster. I try to spot my family and wife inside of turn one near pit lane, but the four dozen people standing down there just look like a small spot, in reality I just saw some red spots. Going through turn one the second time makes me feel the G force more than ever, as my head is almost pulled to the left. I see the turn two suites and think of the several wrecks that took place there in last months 500. We enter the back straightaway and I remember everything being quicker than the first lap and I start to realize my ride is quickly coming to an end after this lap. I manage to spot the North West Vista this time and check out the Pagoda on the front straight. We cross the yard of bricks at full 180 mph, but it feels much faster. I start to appreciate how cool of a gift this was, and don’t want my ride to end yet, but my head is feeling a little weird.

Turns one and two feel just like the first two laps and I try to slow things down in my head as we go down the back straightaway, as we get into turn three, Stephane starts to let off the gas because he will be entering pit road after he gets through four. As we come into the pits, I guarantee we would have been given a speeding penalty if it had been a real race. We cross the yard of bricks at what feels like 150 mph, probably only 80 mph and come into where we started.

The Aftermath

The IRE asks how my ride is, I am almost speechless, but I tell them it was amazing, and I am speaking the utter truth. The helmet and face mask come off and I am walking back to my friends and family. They ask me about it, its hard to describe, we snap a few more pictures and then I take the walk back to the garage and get out of my first suit. All I could think about during that walk was: It’s already over?

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