We like to reward our Team Valvoline members from time to time. So a few months ago we decided to give away an Indianapolis V.I.P. Race Experience. Brad Larkey was our lucky winner, and we couldn’t have hoped for someone who would enjoy it more.

According to Brad, he and his wife had the time of their lives. We set them up with travel arrangements, a hotel stay, and a meet-and-greet with Al Unser, Jr., who won the race in 1992. Al surprised us all and asked Brad and his wife to accompany him in the pace car parade around the track before the race, which was one of the biggest highlights of the weekend.

We caught up with Brad after the race to learn more about him and what he thought of the experience first-hand.

Q: How long have you been a member of Team Valvoline?
A: I’ve been a member for about a year.
Q: What’s your day job?
A: I work for Love’s and work on truck tires. I’ve been with them for 5 years.
Q: What’s your dream vehicle? Or do you already have it?
A:  My dream vehicle is a Koenigsegg Agera R. It’s a sweet ride.
Q: Do you register for sweepstakes often? Have you ever won?
A: I try to enter sweeps when I can. Most people think they are just a scam, but I’ve won a few different things like a helmet and once I won a bunch of locks and a battery charger, but nothing really big like this trip.
Q: What was your first response when you heard you won the Indy experience?
A: I called my wife. It was the first thing I did.
Q: Had you ever attended an IndyCar race before?
A: No, I have never been to an Indy race. I’ve never been to a race before. It was so amazing you just can’t describe it. We got to do everything! It just blew me away. The crowd was going nuts!
Q: What was the garage area like? Did you see anything that surprised you?
A: The garage area was so cool. It was laid back. We got up at 4:30 in the morning, so when we got in there we were able to do more things because it wasn’t busy like it usually is. Growing up I always watched the Indy race, so actually seeing Gasoline Alley in person was so cool.
Q: What was your first impression of Al?
A: He is super nice, down to earth, and just a normal guy. He’s a hero to a lot of people. He was just so kind-hearted. We were doing a meet-and-greet and he said, “I want to take you guys in the car with me.” And we almost fainted! He blew us away when he did that. Afterwards, we couldn’t believe that it really happened.
Q: Did you have questions prepared for Al or did you just plan to wing it?
A: We just winged it.
Q: What did you guys chat about?
A: Basically he told us about the track and how it was the largest track in the states, as far as seating capacity. And we talked about the race in 1992, and that’s pretty much it.
Q: Tell us about the pace car ride. How shocked were you when Al asked you to ride along?
A: We were in shock. And I was thinking that we needed to just be in the moment. Like my wife said, if we would have known this was going to happen ahead of time we wouldn’t have been able to sleep the night before.
Q: What were you thinking as you were riding around the track seeing the massive sea of fans?
A: There were 12 cars and we were number 11. Basically all the past champions were part of the parade. We rode on the back of an SS Camaro convertible with Al. He told us to make sure to hang on. My wife was scared to pull her phone out to take pictures, but I’m glad she did. The crowd was cheering for all the champions. It was unreal.
Q: Did you see any other drivers or celebrities?
A: We got to see the Vice President’s motorcade come through. We also saw the other champions in the parade like Tony Stewart and Mario Andretti.
Q: What was your favorite part of the race?
A: Riding around the track was our favorite part for sure. You can’t even buy that. You have to be a champion or have to have one of the champions take you with them. I told my wife we’ll never get to do that again.
Q: Any other bucket list races you’d like to cross off?
A: I’d like to go to the Coca-Cola 600. We live in West Virginia, so we’re close to Charlotte, Bristol, Martinsville, and a lot of those tracks.

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Tags: Culture