Just imagine being given a ride in an Indy racing car by a guy who’s won two Indy 500s.
We arrived at Chicagoland Speedway at 12:30 p.m. and I went to the Credentials trailer. I showed my picture ID and was handed three pages of legal paperwork and various waivers of liability to read and sign. I was already wondering if maybe I was in for more of a thrill than I bargained for.
We proceeded down into the Chicagoland infield to a trailer where I was instructed to suit up for my Indy Racing Experience. I was issued a nomex driving suit and a pair of racing shoes. After a short wait, Mario Andretti showed up on a motor bike and somebody stated that he would be driving the lucky riders on their laps around the track. Another one of the riders told me the other professional driver was to be two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk.
Once the waiting riders recognized Mario Andretti, he was besieged with requests for photos and autographs. Arie Luyendyk showed up a short time later, very laid back and in no apparent hurry. This was interesting inasmuch as during his Indy racing career, Arie was considered to be the fastest guy around the Brickyard.
Those of us at the front of the line were quickly fitted with facemasks and helmets. Being the second rider in line, I drew Arie Luyendyk as “my chauffer”. Just before climbing in, I mentioned to him I was familiar with his two Indy victories, 1990 and 1997. He just nodded in agreement. I was instructed to climb into the car and one of the attending pit officials buckled me in and checked the adjustment on the straps. The pit official signaled to Arie, the engine was fired, and we were on our way.
Arie worked up through the gears slowly and deliberately, familiarizing me with the layout of the track and getting heat into the tires. I had the feeling he was doing his best to see that I got the “feel” of the car.
After taking two warmup laps while gradually picking up the speed, Arie “nailed it” and accelerated up to a speed I estimated to be maybe 15-20 mph below what actual racing speed would be. He drove the car quickly through the banked turns and I could feel the G forces pushing in on me. The full face helmet started to push up off my head and I could tell it would have been difficult or impossible to keep it on were it not fastened properly. The overriding impression I had was of the downforce created on the car by the ground effects and the superior adhesion properties of the Firestone racing tires. The car was seemingly glued to the track as it sped through he banked turns. The pressure against my torso was greater than anything I’ve ever experienced in a passenger car. The case for superior physical conditioning among aspiring Indy racers was readily apparent.
Arie took two laps at speed and never once got less than six or seven feet from the concrete retaining wall. The whole idea is to give the rider the experience of an Indy car at speed without compromising safety or doing anything risky. This is interesting inasmuch as the fast groove at
After the two speed laps were up, Arie pulled into the pits and I exited the car. I was directed to the front of the car and a photo was snapped.
I would sum it up as a totally exhilarating and impressive experience. I’ve had been to Indy Car races before, but I never expected to get the opportunity to ride along in one of these sleds with a professional driver. I owe a sincere thanks to Indy Car, Arie Luyendyk, and ManTripping.com for a truly great weekend experience.