Mid-Ohio notebook: Ohio State coach Meyer respects INDYCAR drivers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – As head coach of the Ohio State University football team, Urban Meyer knows a lot about the intestinal fortitude it takes to succeed.

But even the mega-successful leader of one of the most prominent programs in all of college athletics was impressed by what Verizon IndyCar Series driver Conor Daly does for a living, after Daly delivered Meyer to a Honda STEAM Connections event Thursday on the OSU campus in the INDYCAR Experience street-legal two-seater Indy car.

“Great respect for what you do for a living,” Meyer, who has accumulated a 50-4 record with the Buckeyes, including the 2014 national championship, told Daly in front of the assembled group of elementary and middle-school students attending the science, technology, engineering, arts and math gathering. The event was hosted by Honda, the longtime engine and aero kit supplier to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Of course, Meyer was quick to add a jab after sitting in the two-seater passenger seat for the short ride from the OSU football offices to the Longaberger Alumni House. “You’re a nut job to be able to do that,” he told Daly, “but that’s another thing.”

Daly and Meyer also exchanged Ohio State-themed helmets – Daly receiving a football helmet and Meyer the lookalike racing helmet. When asked to compare the athleticism he sees daily on the gridiron to that of Indy car drivers, Meyer’s thoughts rapidly went to bravado.

“It’s not just athleticism, it takes courage,” said Meyer, who also coached the University of Florida to a pair of national titles before taking the reins at Ohio State in 2012. “I just asked (Daly), ‘What’s the trick?’ He said, ‘Courage.’ You have to not be claustrophobic to be sitting in that thing (an Indy car).

“The biggest thing is the courage to do what they have to do. I know enough about that. It’s a very dangerous sport and one that you have to be very focused and on your game.”

Students attending the STEAM Connection event were treated to an array of racing vehicles, Honda cutaway passenger cars and more to pique their interest in possible future careers as engineers or designers.

Daly, driver of the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda for this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio, spoke to the group, along with his race engineer at Dale Coyne Racing, Michael Cannon. Daly emphasized that, even at age 24 and after reaching his dream of driving an Indy car, he yearns to learn more every day.

“Pursue it, enjoy it, continue learning,” the Noblesville, Ind., native said. “The quest for knowledge never ends. I’m on the same path. I’m trying to learn more about my race car, trying to understand everything about it so I can make it go faster when I get into it.”

Check out @ConorDaly22 giving @OSUCoachMeyer a ride! @HondaRacing_HPD #Honda200 #INDYCAR pic.twitter.com/5A5OWpgVpc

It's that never-ending curiosity, engineer Cannon added, that makes his job exciting and rewarding.

“One of the neat things about engineering is you never have all the answers,” said Cannon, who has worked as a lead Indy car engineer for two decades. “Every day it’s something new, every day you probably come home with more questions than what you went to work with. The best engineers I know are the ones that ask the most questions, the ones that refuse to accept the status quo.”

Graham RahalThe strongest message delivered, though, may have come from William White, a former Ohio State and National Football League football player who made sure to earn his degree in metallurgical engineering and now is vice president of the Midwest Region for Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit working to provide a “transformative learning experience” to give K-12 students the proper skills to compete in all areas of the workforce.

White challenged the students to what the true definition for STEM was.

“What does STEM mean?” he asked. “Science, engineering, technology and math? Nah. ‘Skills Talent that Enhances Money.’ Then you can do whatever you want to do. You have the talent, you’ve just got to put in the effort.”

Rahal honoring Ohio State football team again at Mid-Ohio

A year ago, Graham Rahal – born and raised in suburban Columbus – drove to victory wearing a racing helmet mimicking the design of his favorite college football team, Ohio State University. Still a Buckeyes fanatic, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver is taking it to another level this year.

Rahal unveiled his firesuit for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (shown at left) during a fan event at a Columbus location of his primary sponsor, Steak ‘n Shake. The firesuit is designed to look like an Ohio State football uniform with the Steak ‘n Shake logo still prominently featured.

Rahal also has a pair of Ohio State-logoed driving shoes and gloves to complete the outfit, in addition to his helmet again resembling the Buckeyes football helmet.

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