What Does it Take to Race the Indy 500

It’s more than just pushing the go pedal.

It’s more than just pushing the go pedal.

Photographed by Nick Laham / Getty | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

If you’re going to drive 500 miles in a circle, the very best place to do it is in Indianapolis. The Indy 500 is the one race even non-race fans care about, and no Memorial Day Weekend would be complete without it. This year’s event will show off the new Indy IZOD cars. The cars were designed to be safer, faster and all-around better. We sat down with racing superstars Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti to find out more about the race and what it takes to be a driver.

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MARCO ANDRETTI: Racing Indy cars is the best job in the world. Are you kidding me? I love it. It’s a sexy job to have.

Don’t Cry! You’ll Need Those Fluids.

ANDRETTI: It’s going be really hot in that car. You have to start hydrating two days in advance. There’s no real trick. You do it the old fashioned way – drink water. In the car we have a drink tube, but that water quickly heats up to 90 degrees, so you don’t want to drink that.

GRAHAM RAHAL: It’s going to be something like 90-degrees that day out on the track. You don’t want to know what it feels like in the car.

Photographed by Jonathan Ferrey / Getty | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

Make New Frenemies

RAHAL: I have the utmost respect for Marco. And I’m sure it goes both ways. But of course we clash. Like at Long Beach. [Rahal was placed on probation after the Long Beach race where officials said he was guilty of blocking and initiating avoidable contact with Andretti] And there are always two sides to the story. At least people are paying attention. In that case, I looked like the bad guy. But that’s cool. Somebody has to be the bad guy. It gets people writing about it. I’ve said some bad stuff and I’ve said some good stuff. It’s the bad stuff that gets the most publicity. I speak truthfully and honestly, and that has gotten me in trouble a bunch of time.

Chill Out, Speed Freak!

RAHAL: In my spare time, it’s not all about adrenaline. I like relaxed things like golf and spending time outdoors.

ANDRETTI: I just like to hang out. As a driver, you face a lot of pressure and stress. When I have off I don’t want to do anything. Plus, there’s stuff in our contracts that doesn’t allow us to do extreme sports. I’m not even allowed to ski because of the injury risk.

Racing Is Like Hockey

RAHAL: A lot of drivers are really down-to-earth guys. We don’t have a lot of big egos in the sport. Part of that is because while some of us are making a lot money doing it, that’s not true for everyone in the sport. Guys are doing this because they love it. Drivers are a lot like hockey players. We’re just good ol’ guys.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

RAHAL: I always want to be racing. I hope I can retire on my own terms. I love the thrill of pure adrenaline. And the satisfaction. When you put a great lap together, it feels good. There’s so much satisfaction.

Better Than Sex?

RAHAL: I didn’t say that.

Attention Race Haters: You Will Like the Indy 500

ANDRETTI: I’ve converted non-race fans. Seeing a race in person is something you have to have on your bucket list. It’s tough for TV cameras to capture the speed.  But if you’re watching on TV and it’s the first time you’re seeing a race, here’s what you’ll see: Cars driving at insanely high speeds with open wheels. We’re going to be inches away from each other. Because of the open wheels, if we touch, it’s catastrophic. The risks are high.

Enjoy New Car Smell

ANDRETTI: It’s actually be a lot of fun to drive the new cars. They have a lot of down force. So the faster you go, the wind hits the wing, and it forces the car down. That means more grip for the driver. And that means more speed. For the driver, it’s the best.

Thanksgiving at the Andretti’s

ANDRETTI: At Thanksgiving, we’re probably all at different parts of the country driving something.