IRL: Ganassi in flight

Indy Racing League IndyCar Series car owner Chip Ganassi is still exhilarated a day after his St. Patrick's Day ride in an Air Force F-16 fighter jet around the State of Arizona. Ganassi, the winningest Indy-style car owner of the past decade,...

Indy Racing League IndyCar Series car owner Chip Ganassi is still exhilarated a day after his St. Patrick's Day ride in an Air Force F-16 fighter jet around the State of Arizona.

Ganassi, the winningest Indy-style car owner of the past decade, who has amassed four titles and one Indianapolis 500 Mile Race victory with Team Target spent the entire morning and a bit of the early afternoon at Luke Air Force Base northwest of the city of Phoenix getting ground training from the crew that works on these types of flights with civilians.

He was advised - among other things - that should he have to bail on the flight, there were a number of stipulations he needed to follow as Ganassi made his way to the ground. Flying at an altitude of about 18,000 feet above ground, Ganassi was advised that proper deployment of a chute is essential.

He was also reminded that, should he have to eject, there was snakebite anti-venom in his survival pack. "Heck, they've never had anyone who needed to use that stuff and I wasn't about to be the first," Chip laughed.

Flying for over an hour with Col. Pat Shay, a 25-year Air Force veteran who was making his final appearance as pilot for a civilian trip of this nature and who will soon embark on his last voluntary duty in the Mideast conflict, Ganassi said the trip was one of the most exciting things he's ever done.

This surpasses even Ganassi' own career as a driver, and as a team owner who has accomplished far more than even he expected. "It was awesome," he crowed. "We went over the Grand Canyon, saw most of the state and buzzed over the [Phoenix International Raceway] track before we landed."

While most people who get to take this type of thrill ride have difficulties with the G-forces, it wasn't a problem for Ganassi, thanks to his driving career in single seaters. "The only time I felt queasy is when Col. Shay let me take the controls. As long as I could see Earth below me I was fine, but it was tough going through the clouds," he remarked.

Ganassi said his head still felt a little bit light after the flight and into the evening but he's fine today, regaling all in the PIR paddock with the tale of his F-16 ride with Col. Shay. Would he do it again? In a heartbeat!

Practice and qualifying for Saturday's XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage is condensed into a single day today. The 22 Indy cars on-site at the one-mile PIR oval are practicing throughout the morning and take on single-car qualifying at 3PM MST. Tomorrow's race is telecast live on ABC.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi