Not a cloud in the sky. Temperature around 70 degrees. No wind. It's a gorgeous Thursday at Phoenix International Raceway and the Indy Racing League IndyCar and Infiniti Pro Series teams are setting up, as are USAC's Silver Crown and Midget ...
Not a cloud in the sky. Temperature around 70 degrees. No wind. It's a gorgeous Thursday at Phoenix International Raceway and the Indy Racing League IndyCar and Infiniti Pro Series teams are setting up, as are USAC's Silver Crown and Midget racers.
It's quiet, too, except for the occasional whine of the two IndyCar 2- seaters prepared by Sinden Racing Services. They have been allocated two hours on this lovely morning to take local media for trips around the tricky mile oval. That way, explains Scott Jasek, the writers and broadcast media can have a better idea of what the IndyCar drivers go through during this weekend's Purex Dial 200, round two of the 16-race 2003 season.
Series veterans Davey Hamilton and Jeret Schroeder are giving rides and as each media member exits one of the two Dallara/Chevy race cars, smiles are evident. Some need an assist getting in and out: it's a foreign experience for most. Some exit a little shakily. It's understandable.
Hmmm, sounds like fun. So I sign my life away on two two-page releases, find a size medium driving suit, a pair of driving shoes that actually fit me (!), socks, a balaclava, full-face helmet and gloves. I'm helped into the hat and gloves and shoved over the wall to step up into the chassis, using aluminum stairs.
Jeret Schroeder is doing the driving and we're the last duo on the PIR mile oval this morning. Two Sinden Racing crewmembers cinch the belts around me and put the headrest in place. A roll of the finger to start the engine and all bets are off.
Jeret puts the Dallara's Xtrac gearbox in gear and we dash down the pit road, on the apron and onto the track between turns one and two. He stomps on the pedal and those wonderful g-forces take over, with my body moving from side to side (minimally, of course) as we ride a couple of inches off the wall going out to turn three. The 3.5-liter Chevy engine, prepared by Menard Cheever Technologies is wailing by the time we thunder by for the first lap, one of two flyers we'll do for this tour.
There's a little grab bar in front of the passenger along with a panic button, should the rider be, um, ready to hurl. Not so for me. I'm clapping my hands, yelling happily in the helmet because I know I'm the only one who can hear this. Each lap in this 650-horsepower projectile feels quicker but not too fast - because Schroeder is smooth and precise - and before I can think, the ride is over.
The Indy Racing League offers rides to journalists at all of its stateside races and the public can take rides around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May. Looking for the true E-ticket ride? Contact Jasek and the Sinden Racing crew to find out what it's like out there. As their brochure states, this is "as real as it gets." Visit www.Indy2seater.com or call 1-888-357-5002. You won't forget this thrill for a lifetime.