Monday, May 09, 2011

At Speed: Me and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

It's the month of May and that means one thing in Indianapolis -- the 500 mile race. Festivities kicked off last Saturday with the mini-marathon and next Saturday the track officially opens, with practice soon to follow.

In between those two dates, I'll be taking my fifth trip around the track. Okay, I admit that the trips so far have bordered on the sedate. The first trip was almost twenty years ago and in one of the tour buses of the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. I think we got up to 30 mph.

But I've also driven around the track in my old MG. Once was for a lap around during the 500 festivities when our granddaughter Ashley was a 500 princess. Top speed on that lap was 45. Two times were with the Indiana British Car Union's fall gathering -- once around the old Grand Prix circuit and once around the oval. I think we got over 60 at one point -- though the speedometer conked out as we passed 55 so I'm really not sure.

This time, though, will be completely different. For my 60th birthday, my step-kids (Michele and Jeff, Laura and Mike, Lisa and Laura, and Chris) and Nancy got me an Indy Racing Experience package. The first part is as a passenger in a two seater Indy car. Other than the extra seat, in every other way, this is a true IZOD IndyCar® Series car. I'll be sitting be hind the driver (one of the current Indy car drivers -- or a past winner such as Mario Andretti or Dario Franchitti (maybe he'll bring along Ashley Judd??)). The car is built on a Dallara chassis and equipped with an authentic racing power plant that can reach up to 180 miles per hour. I'll be experiencing speeds and g-forces similar to those in a real racing situation.

Then, if I survive that part, I'll be driving three laps in a real IZOD IndyCar® Series car that has competed in the famed Indianapolis 500. Yes, I'll be DRIVING. They say that "Speeds are dependent upon each customer's comfort level in the car." How fast can an old man drive if he's trying not to throw-up?

Yes, this time will be completely different than the previous times. The picture above is of my buddy Aaron and I tooling across the yard of bricks at about 30 mph. Later we got about twice that speed through the curves (on 30 year old tyres) and Aaron was holding onto the crash bar and taking someone's Lord's name in vain.

In this case, if Jesus' name escapes my lips on Wednesday when we push through a turn at more than 150 mph, it will not be in vain -- it will be a sincere prayer. I may sound like a line out of an old Harry Chapin song --"It was funny how he had named the only man who could save him now."

It's a great gift for a "kid" who always wanted to be a race car driver. Now at (almost -- not til Wednesday!) 60 I'll be going from 0-60 in around two seconds and being propelled around the track in an automobile that exerts so much downforce that it could be driven upside down. Let's hope I don't experience that!

-- Brent

PS Pictures and commentary (from the spectators such as Nancy, Lisa, my Dad, Aaron and others on hand) will be posted after I quit shaking on Wednesday. I expect, "Screaming like a little girl!" will be among them.

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