"Gentlemen, start you engines."
It's one of the most famous phrases in all of sports. On Sunday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Alstott and Joe Jurevicius had the opportunity to utter that celebrated sentence at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Following a pre-race parade lap with all of the drivers around the 1.086 mile track, Alstott and Jurevicius stood on a podium at the start/finish line and shouted the four famous words, prompting 19 drivers to fire their 750-horsepower engines and visit a deafening roar on pit row.
"It was awesome," said Jurevicius. "To stand up there, say 'Gentleman, start your engines,' and then hear the noise as they did it was just unbelievable."
The entire day was 'awesome' for the Buccaneers duo, which was involved in race events before and after their time at the microphone. For Alstott and Jurevicius, the day began at about 10:30 a.m. with a behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to compete on an elite level in CART.
The first stop for the players was the CART hospitality tent, where they learned about the differences between the tires that the drivers use for every-day driving and the and the special 'slicks' that are used on race day.
The players learned that the average slick can absorb about 4.6 G's and remain on track, allowing it to take 90 degree turns at 80 MPH, while the average tire on the road can absorb about 0.86 G's before it begins to slide off track. These racing tires are about one quarter as thick as the tires on a regular car, which allows them to get hot quickly and stick to the race track surface.
The next topic to enthrall the Bucs' budding speed junkies was the horsepower of CART engines.
While the engines are designed to put out up to an astounding 850 horsepower, CART regulates the amount of horsepower per race to maximize the skill and speed required for each track. Sunday's race required a limit of 750 horsepower, which still allowed the cars to accelerate from zero to 100 MPH and back in four seconds flat.
"It's amazing how fast these cars can go in such a short distance," said Alstott. "I can't believe all the things they can do."
The two Super Bowl Champions were mesmerized by technology of the race cars, but the tour took a turn towards safety and the extra precautions that CART takes to protect its drivers, beyond just the cars' well-known safety features.
The average driver loses five to 10 pounds per race through sweat, so hydration is a constant issue for the drivers and their doctors. These doctors are far from mere water boys, with the medical tools on hand to perform anything from x-rays to open-chest surgeries. Traveling with a team of doctors and paramedics, each CART physician is specially trained to deal with the injuries that occur in race car driving.
The Bucs' tour was guided by Tim Mayer, the Vice President of International Operations for CART, who took the players to the collection of pace cars that CART had brought to St. Petersburg or the Grand Prix. Alstott, who had ridden in one of the pace cars on Friday afternoon, was already intimately familiar with the vehicles, but Jurevicius wanted to know if the they could be used outside of the racetrack.
Jurevicius didn't say what his motives were for that question, but the point is moot. CART pace cars are not street legal.
The next stop for the Bucs was the garage area of Canadian driver Paul Tracy. There, Alstott and Jurevicius learned about the vehicle technology they would see in action later that day. Among the more notable features were a boost button that provides extra gas and thus speed for the drivers to pass each other (the number of uses of the button is regulated by CART), a computer screen that reports potential and real problems to the driver and his pit crew, an advanced braking system and a head and neck restraint system that all drivers are required to wear.
The players were most impressed with three bits of information: 1) all the cars employ the same gold foil that is used on space shuttles to help reduce heat; 2) an average CART car has four times as much technology as the first space shuttle; and, 3) at top speed, the cars with their tires fully warmed could drive on a ceiling and not fall.
"It's completely unbelievable the amount of technology that goes into a racecar," said Jurevicius. "I never knew how much went into it. I have a newfound respect for these guys and what they do. They're incredible athletes."
Finally, the players visited the crash clean up and safety trucks and the vehicle inspection center before they were whisked away to make their important announcement.
After the engines were started, the two Bucs headed to a VIP booth to enjoy the race and race-day festivities with their families. Near the end of the run, Alstott and Jurevicius wanted to witness a live pit stop up close. They got their wish in the pits of Spaniard Oriol Servia and Canadian Patrick Carpentier with about 30 laps to go.
"It was amazing," said Alstott. "They changed all four tires, gassed it up and had it rolling again in about 10 seconds. I can't believe how fast they work."
Apparently, the Bucs' Super Bowl magic has yet to wear off. The driver Alstott and Jurevicius visited before the race, Paul Tracy, eventually took the checkered flag. Tracy dominated the field, leading 70 of the event's 105 laps and finishing over 12 seconds in front of the second-place driver, Michel Jourdain Jr.
Tracy's victory at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was as dominating and overwhelming as the Buccaneers destruction of the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl. Both events were enjoyed immensely by Alstott and Jurevicius.
"I had a great time today," said Jurevicius. "The drivers are talented and the cars are amazing. It was a great event."