photos by Ron Lewis
NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps, a longtime fan of the Verizon IndyCar Series, got to see speed from a different perspective this weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- as the passenger of legendary open-wheel racer Mario Andretti in the IndyCar Experience two-seater.
The ride was part of Capps’ experience as a guest of NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored IndyCar racer Alexander Rossi, and left an indelible impression on Capps.
“You know, I get to drive a lot of cool stuff. I’ve driven Midgets at the Chili Bowl, the Prelude to the Dream dirt race with Tony Stewart for all those years, but that was a bucket list thing with Mario,” Capps told IndyCar.com. “I got to meet Mario when I drove for Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme for nine years and they were tight. We got to go to his house and stuff in Pennsylvania. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and this morning when I found out I was going to ride with him, it was amazing.”
Capps’ ride was all the more memorable as the track was still damp from early-morning rains.
“When I found out that we were going to be on rain tires, I didn’t think it couldn’t get any better. What an experience. I got to go last and he went one more lap than he took most people and that last lap was pretty hairy. I mean, you could see he was searching around and trying to find the little bit of water that was still out there and I just couldn’t believe how much the car was sticking with how fast we were going in some of these corners. It was nuts!
“Even if we did slap the wall, it would be an honor to wreck with Mario,” said Capps. “They said he was pushing it pretty hard, but I didn’t care. Even if we did hurt the car, it would’ve been a badge of honor.”