For $399, you can drive like A.J.

March 12, 2008
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sindenBusiness is good for the Indy Racing Experience, which was founded in a Gasoline Alley shop in 1987. The company, which started allowing fans to ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in two-seat open-wheel cars in 2000, quietly began letting fans drive a real Indy race car last year. This year, company officials said, driving slots for the Experience in May are sold out and business is up more than 100 percent from last year.

“The whole [Indy Racing League-Champ Car] unification made our phones ring more,” said company co-owner Scott Jasek. “A lot more.”

Not only does the company run the Indy Racing Experience ride-and-drive program at every Indy Racing League track except in Japan, it also has a division that sells car parts to IRL race teams and a mobile marketing division. But it’s the driving experience that is generating the buzz.

For $399, any race fan shorter than 6-foot-5 weighing less than 250 pounds can take three laps around an IRL track. Drivers are required to complete an orientation and follow a lead car. Drivers can hit top speeds of 100 mph or more.

Indy Racing Experience, which owns 10 single-seat race cars and six two-seaters, will usher 500 people through its program this May. The company is already taking reservations for May 2009. There’s only been one minor accident in the program’s history, and never with a fan-driven car. Program participants are not responsible for damaged cars.

“We have to have an insurance policy that makes Speedway officials comfortable,” Jasek said. “We have a large policy.”

The program is so popular, Indy Racing Experience has inked more sponsorship deals than most IRL teams, including major deals with Jim Beam, National Guard and Hewlett-Packard. “We really don’t know how this got so big,” said company founder Jeff Sinden. “We haven’t done any advertising, and we’re booking up fast.”

And the program could grow even more. Word is, the Indy Racing Experience has a major deal pending to run the program year-round at a large amusement park. Jasek hopes the deal will be complete within a few months.
  • You guys are really late with this story...Indy Racing Experience has been around for about 5 years!
  • Thank you John. The point of the posting is that Indy Racing Experience just started letting members of the general public drive the cars last year, and have had tremendous success with the program this year. And that IRL-Champ Car unification has helped fuel that growth.
  • Actually, that's not quite true. Fans could drive the cars for years (I did so in 2004),
    but you drove at IRP (now ORP). The new element is that you can drive the cars
    at IMS.

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  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.