MINI Takes The States Tour, Day 5: Lapping The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

MINI Takes The States Tour, Day 5: Lapping The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Day 5 of the MINI Takes The States Tour saw me back in the Clubman for one final jaunt, with a relatively uneventful drive from Columbus to Indianapolis. A back road detour had us on a road worthy of a car commercial, freshly paved in black asphalt, winding through various Ohio cornfields and small towns. But the best was yet to come, as I was about to get my chance to lap the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although it was officially a slow speed “parade lap”, I found a way around that and was able to experience the joys of going flat out around an oval – or a reasonable facsimile of it.

Hit the jump to read more

We arrived in Indianapolis ahead of schedule, only to find a number of MINIs queued up ahead of us for the parade lap on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s famed oval, home of the Brickyard 400 and Indy 500 races. I decided to check out the museum’s collection of historic race cars while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, and for the busloads of tourists to depart from the circuit.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have little interest in oval track racing, as road courses have always had an inexplicable draw to me – that’s not to say that I don’t respect IRL or NASCAR (which gets an especially bad rap from “sports car” snobs, who fail to understand just how much technology or driving skill is needed to drive one), I just find myself watching a Grand-Am or Rolex Series race rather than an oval track when given the choice.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall Of Fame Museum

Fortunately, the Indy museum has a number of very interesting cars, ranging from street legal machines to famous European marques to open wheel racers from Formula 1 and Indy racing.

The Maserati Birdcage is named for its chassis, which is constructed of hundreds of steel tubes welded together. The Birdcage is peculiar in that some of them feature Formula 1 engines, some of them are mid-engined, some of them have it positioned upfront, while others were constructed from all sorts of random parts due to Maserati’s tight financial situation – these Birdcages could have anywhere from 4 to 12 cylinders.

The Mercedes-Benz W196 is one of the most beautiful cars of all time. Finally able to shed the Nazi legacy of the pre-WWII Silver Arrows cars, the W196 was piloted by Formula 1 legends Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio and won back to back drivers championships in 1954 and 1955. This particular car has the “streamlined” body work.

Raise your hand if you had a Hot Wheels version of this car. I know I did.

Is there a more iconic combination than Lotus and Ford? This Indy car looks like it’s from the 1960’s. The British Racing Green and Yellow paint scheme will always be associated with these two marques.

Michael Schumacher’s Formula 1 car from his 1991 rookie season. Teamed with Ricardo Patrese, Schumi drove this Benneton/Ford Cosworth V8. Schumacher’s time at Benneton introduced him to Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, the team manager and engineer respectively, who helped him achieve a record 7 World Championships at Ferrari. Schumacher’s boss at Benneton was Flavio Briatore, best known for sweating profusely on race day, impregnating supermodels and helping Fernando Alonso achieve two world titles at Renault.

The Lap

At 4:30, we all piled into our cars to do one lap of the Indy circuit. While most journalists prefer to lap the buffet while wearing their Piloti driving shoes and racing-lifestyle branded gear, I jump at the chance to do any sort of performance driving, even if I have to share the track with hundreds of MINI owners mostly looking to have a good time and document the experience rather than go fast.

My desire to go fast also had to be balanced by my need to not injure any fellow participants. I was completely prepared to behave as we hit the track. And then I saw my opportunity.

As the MINIs struggled to stay together, a gap invariably opened up between the lead group of cars and the later rows. I heard the characteristic bark of a John Cooper Works car being downshifted, and knew that this was my chance. As most of the “tourists” were on the outside of the track close to the wall, I stuck to the inside and punched it all the way through second, third and fourth gear. It’s impossible to verbalize just how gratifying it is to just bury the sole of your shoe to the floor, the car hurtling forward with a mechanical symphony of engine and blow-off valve sounds accompanying Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”, and knowing that no matter what happens, the law and your insurance company will not punish you for your actions. Unfortunately, it all came to an end to soon, as I quickly caught up to the rest of the “parade group” and my thrill ride was over. As Chuck Palahniuk said in “Fight Club”

One must “… work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort.  A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.

Here’s hoping for another one soon.

(N.B. Please excuse my dorky attire. It was well over 100 degrees at the Speedway, so I was decked out in my finest trackside outfit;shorts, a t-shirt, Puma sneakers and my trusty Gulf Oil hat.)

Final Thoughts

The MINI Takes The States Tour was eye-opening for a number of reasons; the incredibly close-knit owners community, the lengths MINI USA goes to interact with the people who buy their products, and the overall enthusiasm for the brand. But in the end, the product stands alone, and there’s a reason why people from all walks of life have a genuine enthusiasm for the MINI lineup; they are damn good cars.

Car enthusiasts today are stuck at an uncomfortable crossroads; the environmental lobby controls much of the discourse in spheres outside of our little automotive bubble, and the car is an easy scapegoat for all the problems of our planet. At the same time, enthusiasts, who generally to have an individualist streak that’s more pronounced than the rest population, tend to react viscerally to the prospect of having their passion legislated into oblivion. A common stance to take is one where outrageously inefficient and expensive cars that no common person could hope to afford are lionized by enthusiasts and many auto pundits in a sort of hyper-masculine posturing, while denigrating fuel efficient vehicles.

It’s true that supercars are awesome and eco-friendly vehicles don’t quite get most people’s hearts racing, but the need for a halfway point is more necessary than ever, and the MINI fills that void. I never saw less than 30 mpg on the highway in both of my turbocharged Cooper S models, while the non-turbo models can get around 37 mpg in the same kind of driving. The fact that these cars can put up excellent mileage numbers while providing the kind of driving experience that would shame many second-rate rear-drive sports cars makes the MINI lineup a very relevant vehicle for today’s enthusiast. It’s true that the MINI is priced a bit higher than some people would like to pay for a small car, but one would be hard pressed to find the feeling of solidity during interstate and spirited back road driving in another compact or subcompact car. As someone who finds most new cars to be the same product in slightly differing wrappers, the MINI lineup, from the lowliest Cooper to the most tantalizing JCW, proves that “premium” and “compact” are not mutually exclusive. Now if only there was a way to get a Cooper diesel over here, and do it all while getting 60 mpg.

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. * is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of, 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked