bf sv nation riding with Mario
SONOMA, Calif.--It's one thing to get all fire-suited up, chat with
folks, pose for pictures and video and strap the helmet on. It's quite another
to sit still, two feet behind Mario Andretti in a two-seat,
open-wheel Indy car in the seconds before the racing legend
blasts you off around the road course.
At first, I was surprised that there wasn't a lot of thumpa-thumpa-thumpa coming from my
chest. I thought about how snug I was in the back of that rig,
strapped in and sitting in a crouch sort of like a baseball catcher. Not a
lot of room for movement. It felt safe. The smell of methanol
enveloped us. I wished the fog would lift and the sun would
come out. That's Mario Andretti in front of me. I think he's a grandfather.
But then my mind paddle-shifted to the moments ahead: In a second, we'd scream out of the
pits into the easy left-hand Turn 1 of the Sonoma Raceway course and
then charge uphill into the tight right-hand turn. Zero-to-whatever
in 50 yards. Would I barf? [Learn more about the Indy 500 at the Littelfuse Speed2Design site.]
Then, the pit crewman's answer to my question ("How fast on the
straight-away?") echoed in my head: "About 150." I've driven a car
over 100 mph several times and sat in a bullet train in France
(200mph+), but never in my life have sat in such a confined space,
so intimate with the road and gone so fast and had zero control over
my fate. There was no way out at this point. I was trapped.
And suddenly we were off, and there was no going back.
You know, I can't really complain. I do wish I had more time to spend with the engineers who hang out not only at the track but on these promo events.
I had a weekend with them at Indy (fabulous group of guys). But not much time this weekend. I did manage a few minutes' chat with one engineer who works for a company that makes those terror attack-protection shields that pop up out of the roadway. I can only imagine how mind-boggling that engineering must be!
But hey, no whining from me. I'm just glad I survived that lap.