2017-05-26 01:18:44 UTC
Calling All Speed Demons: Mario Andretti Will
Take You To 200 MPH At Indy's Famed Track
If you were offered a private tour of the moon with say, Buzz Aldrin,
would you take it? The equivalent for motorsports fans is what the Indy
Racing Experience is offering May 29, the day after the 101st running of
the Indianapolis 500. Thirty select people will ride along with Mario
Andretti in a two-seat Indy car for a few hot laps at, gulp, over 200 mph.
Why liken this to a moon shot with Aldrin? Because you get to check all
the boxes: Mario Andretti, the "Driver of the Century," as your
chauffeur; the most famous track in the world, Indianapolis Motor
Speedway, as your venue; and the magic number, 200 mph, as your speed.
Last year, IRE quietly inaugurated its “200 MPH Club” and, by word off
mouth, sold seats out way in advance of the event. At press time, Shonda
Kennedy, marketing manager of IRE, confirmed that 22 seats have already
been booked this year.
“This is the tops,” said Vicki Mullis, a race fan whose bucket-list
dream was to hit 200 mph. “It’s one of those things you wish for, but
don’t think will ever come true.”
I can tell you personally, having participated as a ride-along last year
and reported on it, that the $3,300 experience is worth every penny.
Here's how it went down for me.
Upon meeting my 32 fellow ride-alongs, I was fitted in a fireproof
driving suit and crash helmet, signed the customary waivers and posed
for photos with Mario. When my name was called, I was belted snugly into
the second seat with a five-point harness.
After a warm-up lap to heat the tires, Andretti gunned the engine. By
the time we were in the short chute between turns 1 and 2, the car was
already above 140 mph. As our speed increased, I began to feel the G
forces crush my body against the right side of the car.
Each participant in the Mario Andretti 200 mph program receives a
special ring to commemorate their induction into IRE's 200 mph club. Jim
Each participant in the Mario Andretti 200-mph program received a
special ring to commemorate induction into IRE's "200 MPH Club."
On the back straight we accelerated to over 180 mph, and I braced for
turns 3 and 4 where many accidents have occurred, some fatal including
Gordon Smiley in 1982 and Tony Renna in 2003. Teeth chattering, my
helmet felt like it was about to fly off from the hurricane-force wind
in the open-cockpit car as we dove down and hugged the white line at the
inside of the track. After exiting turn 4 a foot from the retaining
wall, we flashed down the front straight and across the famous yard of
bricks - at 202 mph!
After another few laps around the 2.5-mile oval, we pulled back into pit
lane. The entire ride, 10 miles, was over in a flash and had taken less
than four minutes!
“Mario Andretti has been my favorite driver since I was 7," said Jerry
Day, a minister from Columbus, OH. "It was like nothing I’ve ever
experienced. Crazy. I couldn’t hold my head straight, the Gs were so
amazing. I can’t believe those guys can do that for 500 miles.”
“It was more than I’d ever imagined, worth every $1,100 per minute,"
said Chuck Mitchell, a lighting and controls entrepreneur from San
Diego, CA. "Extremely fast. I was afraid in the first of couple turns we
were going into the wall.”
For his part Andretti, 77, was elated, too. “I was really pushing it out
there,” he said. “I’m passionate. I love the driving and to showcase the
sport. We are not just giving rides. I’m pressing certain limits out there.”
After our rides, participants were given a commemorative ring and a
certificate signed by Andretti, then treated to a fancy dinner. It was
all done professionally - and safely. To reserve a spot for this year's
program in May, contact IRE. Only a few seats remain, so don’t wait too