Heard on the Hill: Start Your Engines

Posted March 1, 2011 at 6:39pm

Although it wasn’t too fast or too furious, Sen. Mary Landrieu took a little ride on the wild side Tuesday morning.

The Louisiana Democrat climbed into the back of race car driver J.R. Hildebrand’s vehicle for a quick spin to celebrate the 100,000 graduates of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Kofi Kingston and Hildebrand, who drives a National Guard car in the IndyCar series, joined Landrieu for a photo op on Constitution Avenue before that evening’s 6th Annual ChalleNGe Champions Gala.

After she chatted for a bit about the program’s above-90-percent success rate in helping dropouts complete their high school education, Landrieu decided to hop in the back seat. But before the Senator stepped in, she asked photographers to be kind.

“I have to climb in there? As long as you’ll promise to take pictures from the front,” she joked.

Once the Senator settled in, Hildebrand revved the engine for a 20-foot roll as Landrieu flashed a big smile and a thumbs-up from the back seat.

“My children would love this,” she said as the car wheeled backward. “But I don’t know what my husband would think of this.”

The Senator noted she had never ridden in an IndyCar before, but she said it was “very exciting, exhilarating and it got my heart pumping. I don’t need to do any aerobics this morning.”

In fact, she said she was such a fan she would happily trade in her own SUV for the thrill of the open-wheel racing car.

“My old Suburban?” she said. “I’ll take this any day.”