Throughout the next two weeks, members of the reigning Indy 500 champion team, Bryan Herta Autosport, will be blogging here on RACER.com. In our fourth entry, lead mechanic, Damon Sturrock, speaks about the family dynamic the team has as they spend more time together for Indy than any other race.
It's Indy 500 time again and here we are at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the greatest racetrack on earth.
Unfortunately, I never got to be a part of Bryan Herta Autosport's win last year with Dan Wheldon. Ironically, prior to the 2011 Indy 500, I actually declined an offer from BHA team manager Don Lambert; in hindsight, it was one of the worst decisions I've ever made! To have experienced that win with the group of guys I work with now would've been something really special.
After last year's Indy 500, I started working with Dan Wheldon and BHA on the DW12 test program. What I learned, through working with Bryan, Steve [Newey], Don and all of the guys, is that Bryan Herta Autosport is one of the most well-managed racing teams I've ever worked for. They're very conscious of the time and effort that everybody puts into racing whether it's at the Speedway, at our race shop or at the other tracks the IZOD IndyCar Series races at.
The Indy 500 is our “home race,” so we're fortunate to get to go home every night and sleep in our own beds which is just as well given the amount of time we spend here. But to say that makes it easier isn't necessarily true. I'd guess that most people don't understand the amount of time and preparation that it takes, from the mechanics' side, to run at the biggest race of the year.
I think the team would agree that switching to Honda power has made our effort great. It's far superior to where we could have been. Today was Pole Day and we qualified (at the time) in ninth place, which would've put us into the Fast Nine shootout. Honestly, we're pretty satisfied with that.
The first practice session for Team Barracuda - BHA was last Saturday and we had received our new Honda power plant only a couple days before that. To build a car for Indy in two days that will turn laps for the first time without any testing, and to get to where we qualified in such a short period of time is extremely rewarding.
I've been in racing for 12 years now and participated in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with a variety of teams and with varying degrees of success, but I feel that of all the teams I've gone to Indy with, I feel most confident in this team – it's the organization; it's the people who Bryan and Steve have put together; it's the leadership from our crew chief and team manager.
It's a very dynamic group – we work well together and we have fun. Even through the 14-, 16- or 20-hour days before we've even moved into the Speedway, and then the long days we spend at the track, there's still a very light-hearted atmosphere. It makes it a lot easier to get through all the turbulence of May. You can have the highest highs and the lowest lows at IMS. One day your car is great and the next, it's slow and you don't know what's wrong. It's tough and can be very trying on your nerves.
In May, you actually spend more time with your team than you do with your own family so I feel lucky that Bryan and Steve are very conscious of the time and effort that we put in. They're family-friendly and try to make our families feel like they are also part of Indy.
Overall, I just feel fortunate to be here. Just like Alex Tagliani has stated publicly, I believe we have a legitimate shot at winning this race. It would be my first Indy 500 victory and it's what I have worked for since I started in racing. One night we were nearing the end of a 16-hour day and all the guys told me that I was the reason we were working late: They said it was so I could have my chance to win, since I didn't accept the job last year! Well, I have learned my lesson and that's why I'm here: because I believe in this team and I'm confident that we can reach our goal of putting the No. 98 in Victory Circle again.
• RACER's latest issue looks at heroes in several disciplines, including Team Penske's Rick Mears, going into the Indianapolis 500. Click here to learn more.
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