JR Hildebrand, J.R. Todd and Sage Karam

INDIANAPOLIS – A normal “lap” for J.R. Todd is 1,000 feet in a straight line. On Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NHRA Funny Car champion went 12,200 feet farther on an exhilarating ride with legendary Mario Andretti in the Indy Racing Experience two-seat Indy car.

The thrill ride with Andretti at the wheel on the 2.5-mile oval was part of Todd’s first experience at IMS – and the Kalitta Motorsports driver loved it.

“That was awesome, that’s like a bucket list thing,” Todd said. “I think there’s a very small amount of people in the world that can say that they’ve ridden along in an Indy car with Mario Andretti. To be able to do that, that far exceeded my expectations and those things go a lot faster than I expected for a two-seater.”

Mario Andretti and J.R. ToddTodd also visited the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing garage and hopped into the No. 24 Chevrolet of Sage Karam, since both drivers share a sponsor in WIX Filters. Todd spent time chatting with Karam and his DRR teammate, JR Hildebrand. (The trio are pictured above.)

The first African-American to win NHRA’s Funny Car title in 2018, Todd is accustomed to sitting mostly upright in his Toyota Camry. After sitting in Karam’s Indy car and riding in the two-seater, the Lawrenceburg, Indiana, native said it reminded him of a Top Fuel dragster. One of the biggest differences between driving a drag racer and an Indy car, however, is the G-forces that a driver deals with when at speed.

“Something that us drag racers don’t deal with is lateral Gs,” Todd explained. “If we do, there’s a problem! It’s just a different sensation having your head pinned against the side of the car (going through corners in an Indy car) like that where we’re used to having our heads pulled down so we can go against the G-forces that are trying to force our heads out the back of the car. There’s times in a drag car that the G-forces will spike up to 5.5 Gs, but like I said, it’s just a different sensation compared to what these guys go through.

“You definitely have to be in shape and work on your neck muscles, which I see these guys doing it when I go work out at PitFit training. I see why because, after going around here for 500 miles, I think my head and neck would be worn out.”

The only thing Todd didn’t like about his ride with Andretti was not being in control. But this was one time Todd was willing to make an exception that Todd was willing to make.

“You don’t like being in something where you’re not in control,” said Todd. “When you’re at someone else’s mercy, it might as well be Mario Andretti, the greatest driver in the world. It was a lot of fun, something I’ll never forget.”