Race Fans Fulfill Childhood Dreams with Mario Andretti

Imagine racing around the track in an Indy car at 200mph. The wind drowning out everything but the 600+ horsepower, V-6 turbocharged motor and the sound of rubber on pavement. You can almost feel the G forces pushing you into your seat as you go into each turn. Well a few weeks ago 33 very fortunate men and women got to make their dreams a reality as racing legend Mario Andretti took them for a 3 minute thrill ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Each participant paid $3,300 for the 180-second ride and each said it was worth every penny. But don't take it from us, here are quotes from the fans:

Gary Berg from Baltimore, MD said, “From a race fan point of view, it’s the epitome of anything I could ever do. You’re at the Holy Grail of racing grounds, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and you’re riding with an icon, someone who has represented the sport like no one ever will again. The fastest I had gone prior to this was 130 mph in a dragster, sprinting down the quarter mile. I always wondered what it would be like to take the place of an Indy car driver at high speed. I know now I would never be cut out for it. It’s just amazing what skills, instinct and experience it takes to drive over 200 mph, hour after hour. I’ve never worn a badge of any kind, but I’m going to wear the ring they gave us and see the reaction. Bragging rights, man – only 33 of us have had this experience! I’ll bore everybody with this story.”

Retired fighter pilot Wayne Strausbaugh had this to say, “I couldn’t believe it. It doesn’t seem as fast on the straights, but in the turns, it was awesome. I’ve been told they pull as much as 3.5 G’s. I’m a fighter pilot and let me tell you, they do every bit of it. Of all the racing I’ve done, this was by far the most intense. Unreal. I’ve got 2,500 miles of track time in the past two years, and this absolutely puts it all to shame.”

When asked about riding with Mario Andretti, Kevin Mandrell of New Palestine, IN said Of course, you are riding with the “driver of the century,” Mario Andretti, so what can go wrong? He’s 76 now, but I would ride with him if he were 176. "It was a little more intense than I thought it was going to be. I was surprised by the velocity and the air around and under the helmet. I wanted to maintain a visual over Mario’s left shoulder, especially into the corners, but it was extremely difficult with the G forces. I don’t know how they do it for 200 laps. Three laps for me was a perfect experience.”

We at E3 are a bit jealous of these racing fans and hope we each can have a similar experience crossed off our "bucket list." For more stories from the fans, and some great photographs, check out the full recap from Forbes.