Some of you may have noticed that I've cut back on the writing lately.
Time issues and a general lack of something interesting to write about (to
me anyway) have contributed to that. I've been attending the SCRA
races this year and been helping someone learning the ropes. I don't
consider it fair to zing someone who is still at the learning stage so
I've been silent on the matter. So I'll continue to write when
something of interest pops up.
I was in Nazareth last weekend for the USAC tripleheader (Midgets, Sprints
& Silver Crown cars) and IRL race there. . JJ Yeley had
called me up a while back needing bodies to help with his sprint car and
so I made the trip back east. I don't know if it's normal or not but
they have weird weather there. Thursday was set up day and it was a
million degrees all day. Sunday was a million degrees below and at
times what appeared to me (a sunny southern Californian) snow was falling.
Friday and Saturday were also cold but Sunday was the coldest. I had
decided to go with the middle ground and had clothes for neither type of
weather. Alas. Just like when you are unsure of what to do
car setup and go with something in the middle, the end result sucked.
Something of interest popped up while I was in town. It's called the
Indy Racing Experience. It's a 2 seater IRL car that Sinden
Motorsports runs for the IRL. Last year they plopped a section right
in the middle for the passenger but this year's cars are purpose built for
two people. They run the car the day before track activities start.
JJ drives the car, giving rides to the media and paying passengers.
Sort of like a cabbie. I'm there to work on the sprint car so I'm
standing around picking my nose or something and a guy comes up and says,
"you're up!" Next thing I know I'm signing my life away on
a release and throw on a driving suit and helmet. I'm a fairly large
individual but the back seat isn't any more confining than a sprint car.
There are two handles on the dash sort of like the passenger side of a VW
Beetle but vertical. On one handle is a little red "uncle"
button that you push when you want to take the chicken exit and quit
early. They fire the thing off and we blasted away down the pit
stretch. My initial impression was that the thing accelerated pretty
hard but no more than some of the really fast street cars I've driven.
I drove a non-DOT legal DP Turbo Porsche with the boost turned all the way
up a few years back and almost soiled myself it was so fast. I'd say
the Porsche was as fast as the IRL 2 seater. If you've never driven
a DP Turbo Porsche, then I imagine you'd say it was pretty damn fast.
Anyway, we sail off down pit road and JJ never quits accelerating even as
we drive through the corner on pit exit. I'm thinking that JJ is
trying to scare the whee out of me and we are going to slide up across the
grass median and onto the track proper. Nope, the thing just stuck.
We accelerate down the back stretch way too fast towards a corner that
turns very sharply left and we are headed straight towards a rather
imposing wall. To my amazement the car just sticks and we rocket
around turn three. Nazareth really has five turns, the normal two at
the ends and a kind on the front straight (Is that what you call it?).
I'm thinking that JJ is all done trying to make RichC pee his pants when
turn one comes up and I'm grunting with exertion just trying to keep my
innards keep from pouring out my right ear. Next thing I know I'm
banging off the left side of the tub as JJ sets up for the entrance to
turn three again. Turn two? Didn't see it, it went by a few
milliseconds ago. This time, I'm convinced the car is going to go
into a huge push and we are most definitely hitting the wall with such
force that we will just punch through and land in some Pennsylvania
farmer's field. No such luck and my left little toenail once again
tries to exit
my right ear. I manage a wave to the pits this time by. Then
again, I could have just waved at the porta potty down in turn one.
After several more grunting experiences, we pull into the pits. You
exit the car trying to look cool as a cucumber but you are vaguely aware
that your legs don't quit operate properly. I'll take a moment here
out something I discovered. THIS RIDE IS THE COOLEST THING YOU COULD
EVER DO IN A LIFETIME! That was rather subdued, don't you think?
If I had climbed out and they told me that Britney Spears was waiting in
her motorhome and wanted to knock it out with me or that I could get back
in the car and go again, hands down I'd go again. That's pretty
tempting you say. Well here's my thinking. While there's a one
in a million chance that Britney would NOT be a good ride, there's a zero
in a million chance that the IRL 2 seater would be a bad ride. It's
that good folks. Granted, it's expensive. Sell your house and
kids, do whatever it takes to get in that car. No, maybe you
shouldn't. If you take the ride, you will forever yawn on every
thrill ride at every amusement park. Parachuting? For wussies.
Base jumpers? All pansies. At this moment, I wish I could pass
along to you how to get a ride on the IRL's Racing Experience car but it
seems to be a secret. Maybe try to contact the IRL's business office.
In any case, I came away with a great deal of respect for the people who
drive those cars.
An amazingly physical experience. How fast did I go? Nazareth
is a 1 mile track and the IRL cars qualify at about 20 seconds. The
second fastest cars were the sprint cars, I think Tracey Hines qualified
at 25.2 The two seater was loafing around in the 23 second bracket.
I think JJ has to keep it at 150 so he cruised down the straights and
hammered the corners but the corners are what these cars are all about.
Rain was the story of the racing weekend though. Friday's qualifying
was rained out. We were meant to qualify on Friday and run our main
on Saturday. We ended up qualifying on Saturday and raced Sunday
morning. The midgets and sprints qualified in a light rain but the rain
came down hard enough that the last three sprint cars could not qualify.
fairly straightforward practice sessions with the exception of having to
replace a u-joint prior to the original attempt to qualify on Friday.
Because everyone didn't get to qualify, the cars were lined up according
to points. JJ was 3rd quick in qualifying but got dropped to an 8th
starting position because of this. The car worked well all weekend
but passing was tough. He got a few cars at the start and was up a
few spots. From then on it was follow the leader. JJ finished
5th. Tracy Hines won from the pole. It seems to me that they
lined up the midgets according to points but that doesn't make much sense
to me. In any case, Dave Darland was out front with JJ right behind.
JJ started to drop back with a vibration and finished 8th with Michael
Lewis winning. It turned out that the right rear tire on JJ's car decided
it wanted to be oval and not round. It was worn out in places and
The sprints and midgets had finished their features by 10:15 or so and why
the decision was made to switch the Silver Crown cars from their scheduled
10:30 start time to after the IRL race is beyond me. The forecast
made the IRL race look iffy and there appeared to be no way the Silver
Crown cars would beat the rain. They didn't. JJ started 8th
after riding for a few laps started passing around the outside of turns
one and two. He made it up to 4th and with Dave Steele in tow they
started to run down Paul White for third. JJ lost a spot to Steele
and the rains ended the race on lap 35. Jason Leffler was the leader
followed by Mike Bliss. We left without knowing how they decided to
finish it. So for now, I bid you farewell.
See ya at the races.