Screaming around right-hand turns in a Verizon IndyCar Series car is a new thing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s new to racers because, until this year, turning right in competition on the track’s iconic oval meant bad news. You’d probably wrecked.
But, beginning this month, it’s all right to make rights. Required, actually. There are nine rights and five lefts in every one of the 82 laps of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10.
Wanting to see what that’s like at 200ish miles an hour, I put on a firesuit and took a ride in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater with former Indianapolis 500 competitor and Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Davey Hamilton behind the wheel. In 2013, my trip around the IMS oval with Mario Andretti at the wheel left me comparing the experience to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. So, I wanted to see how the road course ride compared to racing’s equivalent of one of the seven wonders of the world.
Since road racing is supposed to be a bit more genteel than oval racing, thoughts of a fancy hat entered my mind. But only fleetingly, as a helmet was buckled on. A helmet that I was immediately grateful for when Hamilton hit the pedal and we screamed onto the front straight of the IMS oval, going clockwise , the opposite way the cars travel in the Indianapolis 500.
In seconds, the Pagoda flew by on my right. Weird.
And it got increasingly weirder as we screeched around Turn 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 at mind-numbing speeds. While I felt pinned to the seat on the oval with Andretti, I felt like I was in a wilder-than-any-amusement-park ride over the 2.493-mile lap I took twice with Hamilton. I shifted right. Then left. Then repeated, over and over, until I’d been around. And around again.
By the time Hamilton hit the brakes, and I was helped out of the car (something I desperately needed given the G forces that were still resonating through my body) , I couldn’t wait to watch the Grand Prix. How anyone, let alone 25 someones, can go 82 laps (200 miles) on that twisting, turning course and have any wits lets left at the end is a mystery to me. Add in a bunch of other drivers on the same roadway racing to win and it seems impossible.
But that’s what professional athletes do. They perform 360-degree slam dunks on basketball courts with grace, return kickoffs for touchdowns and, apparently, negotiate crazy turns at 200 miles an hour in IndyCars while racing other IndyCars. And they love it.
Me? Not so much.
I think I’m going to try and slip on that fancy hat and spend time on a spectator mound. While I do, though, I’ll know that right is right for IndyCars at IMS.