Checking Off The Bucket List
One of the hardest working pit crews at most Verizon IndyCar tracks is seldom actually seen at the track except for early in the morning or late in the evening after the track has cleared out. That’s when people check off items from their bucket list–mainly riding or driving around any given track during race weekend.
Exhilarating. Thrilling. Unforgettable are a few of the phrases used to describe The Indy Racing Experience. I can’t really describe my experience when George and I were given the opportunity to take a two-seater ride at Fontana. I was apprehensive at first–I am often plagued by motion sickness–and the thought of having a helmet on while hurtling around a track in speeds in excess of 180 mph–you get the picture.
The first thing you do is sign a release form, give your insurance info, and emergency contacts—you know whatever you do where you have to provide this info is going to be fun (unless it is surgery). Then you get on board a trailer with all sizes of race suits. There are plenty of people to help you get into your suit and a mini-locker is provided for any valuables (I suggest you do not take valuables though—sometimes the lockers may be full). I selected a suit that had enough room for my Depends undergarment and headed out to the track.
You then line up to prepare for your ride, some times are busier than others—clearly a race weekend is going to be busy, so prepare to wait in line for a bit. There can be unexpected delays, like on Carb Day, where we had to wait for the end of the Sammy Hagar concert to begin the rides. There were about 50 people in line waiting for their rides. It is a great chance to see the Indy Racing Experience team in action. It is pretty amazing how they get people off all shapes and sizes in and out of the cars. If your ride is in the late morning or afternoon on a hot day, you may choose to wear something cool under your fire suit. It can get pretty hot while standing there—it does give you an opportunity to realize the heat the drivers must endure in the hot summer months.
Soon, it is your turn, and in my case, my heart was in my throat as I prepared to get strapped in at Fontana. We had an evening ride and it was a gorgeous night. Frank, of The Indy Racing Experience, was who helped me in and out of the car. We bonded on the spot—you share a special bond with the person who is strapping you into your first two-seater ride. In my case, I was certain that mine would be the first car that would end up in the wall. Frank put my fears to rest as he laughed at my inevitable questions “Has anyone ever died from this?”—which I’m sure he hears every day, so I asked him what color is the car I am riding in—anything to break the tension! I was feeling quite a lot of it by then—I was afraid I would step on the wrong thing as I got into the car and wondered if my butt would fit into the seat (they tell you where to sit and I’m sure my butt wasn’t the largest one to fill the seat). My driver was Logan Gomez.
Then the moment comes—they push you off. You are heading toward pit-out at slammed into the back of your seat and then you hit the track. It is hard to describe how you feel when you are going 180 mph around a speedway. Words would pale in comparison. I didn’t have to worry about my stomach, as I could feel my heart pounding around every turn. I’m sure the g-forces were minor compared to what an actual driver feels going around the track for 500 miles. I was enjoying every minute of it! Soon it was time (way too soon—I wanted more!) we entered the pits and my ride was over. I’m sure the smile on my face was huge. I compare this to my skydiving experience a few years ago. It was not necessarily on my bucket list, but had I even thought I would have the chance to ride a stretched IndyCar around a track, it would have been on the top of my list.
The Indy Racing Experience team is great at what they do. They put you at ease—many people riding the two-seaters are guests of corporate sponsors or relative newbies to IndyCar. After experiencing that ride—sign me up for sponsorship (after I win the lottery, of course). The drivers are all veterans—Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Sr., Davey Hamilton to name a few.
The Indy Racing Experience was founded in 2001, born of a conversation one afternoon in a small garage on Gasoline Alley in Indianapolis, Scott Jasek, Joe Kennedy and Jeff Sinden imagined stretching out a regular IndyCar Series car to allow for a passenger to sit behind the driver and truly experience the speed and pressure that comes with IndyCar racing. The Indy Racing Experience has evolved into a one-of-a-kind experience for race fans and car enthusiasts. The web site to make reservations and read more about the company is www.indyracingexperience.com.
The best place I found to read reviews on the experience is on Trip Advisor.
Some extra tips:
· Bring your own camera and a friend to document your experience from the sidelines. The Indy Racing Experience takes your photo at the end of your ride, but you will want to capture every moment of the experience.
· Wear closed-toe shoes.
· Dress appropriately for the temperatures, you may have to wait in the hot sun while wearing a fire suit on pavement.
· Prepare to have the ride of your life!
I don’t need to tell you this makes a great gift for the IndyCar fan. You can purchase gift certificates on the web site and let the recipient decide when they want to take the ride of their life. It is definitely worth the money. When George turned 50, his brothers purchased the Drive certificate—where he actually got to drive an IndyCar around the track at IMS. This is definitely an experience to add or check off your bucket list.