Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lumbering life on road for IndyCar drivers in motor homes

The IndyCar series features top-notch drivers in some of the world's fastest race cars, which will hit speeds of about 180 mph in Sunday's season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

But racing these relatively light machines requires heavy travel — this year, 16 races in a 28-week span in 11 states from coast to coast plus Ontario — and because many drivers in the series have young families in tow, something more spacious is required on the road.

Often that's a motor home, where these very fit athletes leave sleek race cars behind to pile into lumbering behemoths usually more associated with middle-aged guys with dad bods.

"With all the back-to-back races and the time I was going to spend in Indy and in the Midwest, it just made sense," St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais said of traveling with wife Claire, 9-year-old daughter Emma and 6-year-old son Alex in their motor home. "It's also a great way to discover the States with the kids when they're off school. They come to the Indianapolis 500, we go to Detroit, stop at Cedar Point (in Ohio) on the way. Around Pocono (in Pennsylvania) time two years ago we went to New York City. … We went to see The Lion King."

Life on the road can require a lot of patience, even if, thanks to GPS, stereotypical arguments over directions are becoming passe.

"It's gotten a little harder as the kids have gotten older," said owner/driver Ed Carpenter, who lives in Indianapolis and has children ages 8, 6 and 3 (he no longer owns a motor home, instead renting one when needed). "The 8- and 6-year-olds are into their own things. When they were younger, they pretty much came to every race. Now they still come to most — (but) my daughter and wife are missing St. Pete because of a gymnastics meet."

Fort Lauderdale resident Ryan Hunter-Reay and wife Beccy don't have the problem of sons Ryden, 3, and Rocsen, 1, being distracted by outside interests yet, though he compares having two that young to "a Rubik's Cube.

"With my oldest one it's just all about race cars," Hunter-Reay said. "We've been talking about the St. Pete race for two weeks and he says he wants to see his IndyCar. It's his, it's not mine. As soon as he hears race cars, he doesn't need toys or anything else."

During the season an Andretti Autosport employee ferries the family in their home on wheels, but in the offseason Hunter-Reay will do his own driving in his Newell motor home, especially to the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.

Bourdais, on the other hand, does all his own driving between races, unless there's a long enough break in the schedule for the family to fly back to St. Petersburg.

"It's like a moving house, really, for us," Bourdais said. "We just use it as kind of the anchor point. … We do stuff that's adequate for a 6- and a 9-year-old. If they have a good time, you have a good time."

That was a common theme — spending quality time with their spouse and children is well worth the effort.

"I think when you have an awful day at the track, you go back to the bus and you have your family there, it kind of takes your mind off of your work problems," said Miami resident Tony Kanaan, who with wife Lauren has son Deco, 14 months (Kanaan's older son lives in Brazil). "If I have a bad day, I get in the bus and see my kid. And if I have a good day, I get to get on the bus and celebrate it."

Having a wife/mom who can coordinate activities is vital too, Carpenter said.

"Heather does a pretty good job of finding children's museums, science museums, things like that," he said. "In St. Pete, for instance, in the past they've gone to the beaches, visited the Clearwater (Marine) Aquarium. A thing like that where they've seen the movie (Dolphin Tale), it's cool for them."

Because, as any parent of a teen can probably attest, even something as exciting as auto racing can't keep a kid entertained forever.

"I've heard advice from other dads that you're only so cool for so long to them before they end up finding other things," Hunter-Reay said.

. Fast facts

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar season opener, 12:30 p.m. Sunday

TV: Ch. 28

Course: Downtown streets, 1.8-mile circuit that also includes part of Albert Whitted Airport

Tickets: Call toll-free 1-877-725-8849 or go to Three-day packages start at $30 for general admission for ages 12 and under and $55 for general admission adult packages. Three-day paddock and pit pass is $125 for ages 18 and over only. Three-day reserved packages $70-$100 for 12 and under, $105-$135 for adults. Single-day tickets start at $20 on Friday for 12 and under and range up to $100 for adult race-day reserved tickets in upper rows.

Lumbering life on road for IndyCar drivers in motor homes 03/09/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  2. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning


    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  3. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]