---- — Tuesday night, as I was wrapping up my day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kate Guerra from the IZOD IndyCar Series public relations department stopped by where I sit in the media center.
Kate and I get along great, except for one day out of the year as she is from Texas and is a University of Texas graduate and I like to remind her that real football is played north of the Red River in Norman, Okla.
So, a good friendly rivalry exists between us for one day in October, but she's great in working with me in getting interviews for my IndyCar podcast for drivers who are on the Pro Mazda Road to Indy.
She asked me if I was going to be at the track on Wednesday around 8:45 a.m., and I said yes.
I was thinking that she was looking to set up some driver interviews. Instead, she told me that the PR department, led by Amy Konrath, the only female open-wheel PR director for a major North American racing series, had arranged for me to get a ride in the new DW12 chassis car through the IndyCar Racing Experience.
Two years ago, I was given a ride at the speedway by Al Unser Jr. in the old Indy car and that was 72 hours after I went around the Indiana State Fairgrounds in a two-seat non-wing sprint car with Jack Hewitt.
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a ride in the new car.
I wasn't sure who was driving the car as Mario Andretti is usually at the controls for the Honda's Fastest Seat in Sports Sweepstakes winner that occurs at each IndyCar Series race.
So when I got to the hauler at the end of pit road to get my fire suit, yes, you guessed it, there was Mario putting tear-offs on his helmet.
In the old car, I was quite cramped, but it was pretty awesome doing 180 miles per hour down the frontstretch with Unser Jr.
Andretti has always been known as a gasser and he proved that the second we left pit lane and headed on the pit-out road to get on the track on the backstretch.
The entire experience lasted a lap-and-a-half, but it is indescribable to a point.
Going into Turn 3 for the first time, I thought the G-forces were greater in the new car than the old car. They are legally allowed to go 180 miles an hour, but, with Andretti on the loud pedal, it seemed like we went faster than last time.
The same 'tunneling' effect occurred as we sailed off into Turn 1, but it seemed like we were in the short-chutes less and more in the corners this time around.
It was a windy day on Wednesday and that was noticeable in the north-end short-chute when I think, for a fraction of a second, the car twitched heading into Turn 4.
I was not worried. I had one of the greatest drivers of all-time at the wheel.
While the free ride is something that I get to do now and then, it truly gives you a great understanding of what the drivers do for 200 laps on a Sunday in May.
And now you know why they call it the greatest spectacle in racing.
n Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item. Email comments to email@example.com.