Contributor Carole Rose – Let’s Go Racing!

Ever since attending my first Indianapolis 500-mile race in 1970, I dreamed of riding in a race car. I had listened to radio broadcasts of the race since 1951, but nothing could compare to being at the track–mingling with the festive crowds, inhaling the fumes, and thrilling to the roar of 33 powerful engines. I resigned myself to satisfying my love for speed by riding roller coasters.

In the late 90s, a tandem race car was introduced, offering race fans the opportunity to take three laps around the famed two-and-a-half mile oval at an average speed of 180 miles per hour. In 2005, I received a small inheritance, and I immediately used some of the money to purchase a ride in the two-seater.

It was already a balmy 90 degrees when my husband and I arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on that July morning. When I’d called ahead to reserve my ride, I informed the staff that I was blind; I didn’t want any unforeseen surprises for anyone.

After signing a multi-page document absolving the Speedway of any responsibility should my driver and I crash, I was given a fire-retardant suit, complete with gloves and shoes. Then I entered the pit lane where I received my balaclava and cumbersome helmet. There I stood in the hot sun, with only my mouth and nose uncovered. My head felt heavy and because I couldn’t hear well, I felt disoriented. I stood in line waiting my turn, while two tandems transported passengers around the track.

My assigned driver had driven in the 500 several times, so I felt completely safe. I was introduced to him and helped into the car. Then came the neck brace and a five-point harness to keep me secure. The cockpit was small, I couldn’t move, and the seat was only three inches from the ground. I was informed that there was a button in front of me that I could push if I felt that the car was going too fast. I informed my assistant that he was crazy if he thought I was going to push it unless it only increased the speed. The engine came to life and the car left the pits.

I have heard that first-time drivers at this track are often intimidated by the walls. I couldn’t look through the lenses on my helmet, so walls were no problem. I could neither feel the wind nor smell the fumes; I could only hear the roar of the engine. As we headed down the front straight, I was thinking that this wasn’t much different than speeding down the interstate. Even the first turn wasn’t so bad. But the speed increased and everything changed. The straight-aways were fast but the turns were incredible. They were fast! They were tight! Had I not been so tightly wedged in the car, I was sure I would have tumbled onto the pavement.

By lap three, I had lost control. I was wild with joy! I was no longer Carole the passenger; I was Carole the racer. I was racing with the best in the business. Coming out of turn three, I made a daring pass on A. J. Foyt and had Mario Andretti in my sights. I stayed on his tail and drew even with him on the front straight and nosed ahead of him at the finish line. Mario had lost again.

The car slowed and pulled into the pits. The ride had ended. After being extracted from the car, I posed for pictures with helmet in hand. This and other photos that had been taken during my experience were posted on a racing web site weeks later. My assistant told me that my fastest lap had been at 185 miles per hour. I suppose that was reasonably fast.

I still attend the 500, and I am able to view the spectacle from a different perspective. As the cars zoom around the track, I know what the drivers are experiencing. I had completed three fast laps and would do more if I could. I’m not sure if I’m ready to negotiate laps at top speed with 32 other cars on the track. On second thought, if Mario Andretti would agree to be my driver, I just might reconsider.

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