Alongside Montoya: Making changes count

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Second of three parts looking at the Verizon IndyCar Series season of Juan Pablo Montoya through others' eyes. Today, chief mechanic Vance Welker.

“Preparation,” Vance Welker says matter-of-factly.

That one word would have sufficed in the chief mechanic’s review of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet’s Verizon IndyCar Series season. It is an underpinning of success but also complementary -- from the crew to the engineering group to driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

Welker says it starts at the race shop in Mooresville, N.C.

“All our information is on a set-up sheet. The guys have been given the information way ahead of time. When I get the car (at the racetrack) I’m basically checking off that it’s 100 percent and complete,” says Welker, a longtime Team Penske mechanic who moved from the stock car group to the Verizon IndyCar Series side with the addition of the No. 2 car in 2014.

“You start with a basic, good set-up and it’s the small tweaks that make the big difference.”

Click it: Part 1, race engineer Brian Campe

Welker confirms race engineer Brian Campe’s account that Montoya “found his race car” halfway through practice for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Though he qualified 15th, Montoya went on to win the race for the second time (Team Penske’s 16th victory in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”).

“It was a bit of a toe change that we did that brought the car to life,” he says. “You want to come with a good set-up, but then it’s about being methodical and making sure that when you’re making the small changes those changes count and you’re 100 percent accurate because the driver feels the small stuff.

“You want to be as close to the set-up sheet as you can and you want to have any changes you do make precise. The most important part for us is to know where we are with the car and where we’re going with the car.”

Preparation follows suit with the pit crew and service stops during the diverse race schedule. Welker says it starts in the offseason with continual training.

“If in a race we had ‘this’ happen, we’ll review it and incorporate that into our practice to be prepared,” he says. “You want to make sure everybody is ready for the next one. Any and all possible scenarios you want to be looking for to cover in that race.

“It’s all about the crew and the team. I’m just there to point them in the right direction and go.”

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