This morning, shortly after arriving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s media center, NASCAR PR was asking if anyone was interested in a pace car ride. As a life-long racing fan, I jumped at the chance.
We made our way down to Gasoline Alley, where veteran driver and series pace car driver Brett Bodine was waiting. I asked Brett if I should buckle up for this, “You can if you want, I’m not going to do anything too crazy.” At that point, I figured it would be a nice, easy ride around the famed 2.5 mile oval.
Bodine took us out on the warm-up lane just as 43 drivers will do today when they exit pit lane and gave us an example of how flat and fast this track is. Bodine talked about the importance of judging each of the four turns correctly. Even though all four turns are symmetrically the same, each one is just a little bit different in how you handle it.
After making our way through a crowd in turn one, Bodine opened up the 426 horsepower V8 Chevy Camaro and gave us a feel of the first turn at Indianapolis. Bodine went back on this promise and made his way through the short chute just inches from the outside wall at over 100 miles per hour.
On the backstretch, where drivers will hit speeds of over 200 MPH, Bodine roared the engine and buried the car into the third turn at 126 MPH.
I’ve always felt one of the more difficult aspects of racing is pit lane. Races can be won and lost in an area that has a 55 MPH speed limit. Bodine took us through pit lane at the speed limit to give us an idea of what drivers are up against. Bodine mentioned that when he raced here, he would be looking ahead trying to figure out where guys were in their stops and when they may be exiting their pit stalls. The narrow service road makes it difficult with cars entering and exiting at different times. On top of it all, trying to find your pit stall when they all look the same and going from 55 to 0 to get service.
In all, it gave me a new outlook on the nuances of racing; some things that the average fan may not think about. Plus, it’s always good to get into a car and go fast.