Race of Champions’ US debut zooms into Marlins Park

Miami is not exactly known for having the best drivers, but that all changes this weekend. Marlins Park is hosting Race of Champions to figure out who the best auto racer in the world is, and since this is Deco Drive, we feel it’s only fair to do some driving. Chris Van Vliet jumped into a race car and went on the ride of his life with an Indy 500 champion, and his heart is still racing.

Let’s back it up to show you how and why I’m riding with Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan.

Think of it as kind of like the all-star game for auto racing, to determine who the best driver in the world is.

Fredrik Johnsson, CEO, Race of Champions: “Formula 1 world champion against NASCAR champion, Indy champion, Le Mans champion, action sports hero, identical cars. Only driver skill makes the difference to see who’s the best of the best.”

The drivers are put into brackets, and then they race head to head, with the winners advancing until a champion is crowned.

Chris Van Vliet: “How different is this kind of racing from what you’re used to?”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It’s almost a polar opposite. I’m used to high grip levels, 240 miles an hour. Now, this is first gear, second gear. It’s a really tight racetrack inside a baseball stadium.”

On Saturday and Sunday, Marlins Park will host Race of Champions for the first time ever in the U.S.

Helio Castroneves: “We’re going to have as much fun as the public, because we’re going to be so close to the fans, and the fans are going to be so close to us, so everyone is going to feel the vibe.”

And I got to feel that vibe firsthand. Tony Kanaan invited to take me for a spin.

Chris Van Vliet: “What do I need to keep in mind here?”

Tony Kanaan: “Did you have breakfast this morning?”

Chris Van Vliet: “I did. Is it going to be all over the front of the car?”

Tony Kanaan: “If you’re going to do it, do it on the other side of me.” (laughs)

The track for Race of Champions was still being built inside Marlins Park, but that’s no problem. They built a track for us on the roof of the parking garage.

But first, you gotta suit up.

Chris Van Vliet: “And here we go. What do you think? Do I look the part? Do I look like I’m ready to race? We’re good to go now. You hear that?” (bangs on helmet)

From there, it’s into one of the Race of Champions cars’. A huge, deep breath — and then we’re off!

Chris Van Vliet: “I’ve got all afternoon to catch my breath now, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough time. Oh, man!”

Tickets are still available. They start at $18.

Race of Champions

Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.