Ride of a lifetime
By Bert Lehman
Full Throttle magazine
Opening night at Manitowoc Speedway I had the opportunity to receive a ride in the two-seat Sprint Car.
I’ve received a couple of rides in two-seater race cars in the past. I’ve received a ride in a two-seat Late Model at Shawano Speedway. I’ve also received a ride in a two-seat NASCAR-style race car at the Milwaukee Mile.
Needless to say my anticipation was high for my ride in the two-seat Sprint Car. Mark Jens arranged for Joel Jens and I to be part of the National Anthem, as we would take the black flag in memory of Dave Peik, who helped build the two-seater.
As the race program approached, I will admit I got nervous. Part of it was because of the young age of Joel, who would be driving the two-seater. The other part of my nervousness came from the images of flipping Sprint Cars in the back of my mind.
Finally, it was time for the race program to begin. I had put the driver’s suit on at least 30 minutes prior to us needing to head out onto the track. I then got strapped into the “passenger seat,” got my helmet tightened, neck brace put in place, and put on my racing gloves. We were ready to go.
We participated in the National Anthem, and I got to hold the black flag during that lap in memory of Peik.
The other cars left the track and it was our turn to let ’er rip.
Joel hit the throttle and away we went. After we went through the first corner, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the two-seater anymore. Words can’t describe the feeling. It really feels like the car is going to roll over when you are going through the corners, but the big wing helps keep the car glued to the track.
Only a short time later, the car stalled, and we coasted to the infield. Just like that the ride was over. I had just experienced the agony of defeat.
We got pushed back to the pits. And deep down I wasn’t disappointed my ride was cut short.
The crew immediately went to work on diagnosing the problem. The problem turned out to be a wire connected to the starter. After it was fixed, Mark Jens told me I could get another ride during intermission.
Once intermission rolled around, I was better prepared for the ride, and more comfortable. Again, words can’t describe the feeling, so I won’t waste your time trying to describe it.
What I can say is it gave me a whole new perspective of the talent Sprint Car drivers have racing at the speeds that they do lap after lap, just inches from other drivers, with the open wheels exposed. Some may say Sprint Car drivers have a screw loose in order to race a Sprint Car. Whether that is the case or not, they have to have talent.
It was a great experience getting a ride in the two-seat Sprint Car.
(This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)