INDYCAR Paddock lends a helping hand to get 33rd car on track

INDYCAR Paddock lends a helping hand to get 33rd car on track

Sometimes it takes a village.

The effort to put together a 33rd entry for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is representative of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ appreciation for tradition, but it goes way beyond that.

Six different race teams have their hands in the No. 25 DragonSpeed/Cusick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Stefan Wilson in this year’s race. It mainly shows what kind of community the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock is and how far it will go to support one of its own paddocks.

Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed ​​team will provide much of the team members to tinker with the car, while Cusick Motorsports owner Don Cusick will round up the funding to support the ride.

From there, AJ Foyt Racing supplied the car, Team Penske provided a fuel setup and starter, Andretti Autosport supplied the shell cushion and Juncos Hollinger Racing provided a steering wheel.

“It means everything,” Julian said. “I mean, it’s nice to come home. That’s how it feels. Every time I come back to the Speedway and INDYCAR, people always just understand what we stand for.

“They are just pure racers at heart who are willing to take the gamble, take the risk and do the hard work. I think that reflects, and these guys see it. We would help someone else get into sports cars in the same way.”

Veteran engineer Will Phillips is Wilson’s race engineer. His career has included stints with chassis builders March and Reynard, as well as INDYCAR vice president of technology and as a race engineer with Rocketsports and AJ Foyt Racing.

John Cummiskey will become Wilson’s racing strategist and was previously chief mechanic at Team Penske and Team Green, as well as team manager at Newman/Haas Racing, Dragon Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Phillips and Cummiskey also have a history together, having recently teamed up with driver Pippa Mann in the same roles at Clauson-Marshall Racing in 2019.

Julian said that when the final pieces of the program came together, he had a list of the parts he needed to complete a full Indy 500 entry. So he started asking for help and several organizations showed up to meet those needs.

AJ Foyt Racing supplies the team with the race car that Tatiana Calderon drove to a 15th place finish in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Saturday. She also drove the car to 26th place at Barber Motorsports Park earlier this month.

But the team has moved beyond its original expectation to provide a race car for Wilson’s fourth Indy 500 entry. AJ Foyt Racing president Larry Foyt has insisted that his organization is “here for everything they need”.

Many of the parts that went into Charlie Kimball’s fourth Foyt entry last year are at DragonSpeed. There are also several AJ Foyt Racing engineers on the number 25 pit box.

“It’s always been in our DNA to try and help when the Speedway needs something,” Foyt said. “Obviously, with AJ (Foyt) there is respect for Roger (Penske) and only the respect here at the Speedway. We just wanted to help.”

In the past 48 hours, the No. 11 car running on the 14-turn, 2,439-mile circuit was converted from a road track to a speedway configuration and renamed from Calderon’s ROKiT decals to the LOHLA Sport, Sierra Pacific Windows and GNARLY Jerky decals now adorning Wilson’s ride.

While all this was going on, Julian’s DragonSpeed ​​organization was on hand at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and won the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event in the LMP2 class with Juan Pablo Montoya and Henrik Hedman.

DragonSpeed ​​also won the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in the LMP2 class in January with NTT INDYCAR SERIES stars Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta and Devlin DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco, a rookie in this year’s “500” field, spent time in pit 25 on Tuesday afternoon as Wilson completed his veteran refresher course.

Wilson completed the program easily, forcing him to complete Stage 2 (15 laps at 210-215 mph) and Stage 3 (15 laps 215+ mph) of the program. Wilson’s best lap on the 2.5-mile oval of his refresher session was a speed of 218.711 mph, a speed he was proud of given the car and team conditions.

“I’m grateful that we could get a car that was in pieces, literally in pieces on Sunday, and put it together yesterday, and then drive it around at 218 mph was just epic,” Wilson said. “So, I’m really grateful to everyone who helped make this program possible.”

Wilson got out of the car confident that he and the DragonSpeed/Cusick Motorsports team are on a good footing as they transition into Indy 500 practice mode for the rest of the week. In the three-hour open practice session that ended the day, Wilson was the 32nd fastest with a top speed of 222.232 mph.

Whether this year’s Indy 500 results in a life-changing win for Wilson, surpasses his career best finish of 15th or something else, he’s simply honored to drive a car that so many people have worked on to continue the 33-year-old tradition. maintain cars in “The greatest spectacle in racing.”

“It means a lot to me,” Wilson said. “The fact that they are doing that shows that they have a lot of confidence in me with their equipment and how to use it, so I am very grateful to all the different teams that have contributed to make this possible.

“Now we want to make the most of it. We want to be there and not just in it. So we have to keep working, refining what we have, refining the package and keep improving.”

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