Drivers find new 'riding mechanics' in chefs to Rev up benefit

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Between 1911 and 1922, and again from 1930 to 1937, nearly all drivers competing in the Indianapolis 500 partnered with a riding mechanic. The riding mechanic, or mechanician as they were sometimes called, rode alongside the driver and served as oil-and-fuel pumper, tire-wear checker, gauge watcher, gear changer, spotter and occasional hand massager. And if the car ran out of gas or broke down, guess whose job it was to dash to the pits to retrieve fuel and/or spare parts: the riding mechanic’s.

These days, the riding mechanic has gone the way of the turbine car. Still, Indy 500 drivers develop important partnerships of a different variety, including with local chefs.

Saturday night’s Rev presented by Fifth Third Bank benefit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway put these culinary collaborations front and center. For the fourth annual annual event, drivers teamed with at least two local restaurants or caterers to offer a spectacular array of food, with selections ranging from Scotch egg tartine (from chef Eli Laidlaw of Plat 99 with driver Max Chilton) to beef barbacoa with pickled red onion and cotija on a garlic biscuit (from chef Brian Pleasant of the Willows on Westfield and driver Tony Kanaan) to chilled green tomato soup (from chef Alan Sternberg of Cerulean and driver Mikhail Aleshin) to chicken tostadas with satsuma (from chef Kristen Michele York of Thunderbird and driver Graham Rahal) to mac and cheese (from chef Juan Carlos Basurto of the District Tap and driver Sebastien Bourdais).

Will PowerA sellout crowd of more than 3,000 well-heeled guests attended the event, with Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden serving as the honorary chair. Not even the weather—the word “refrigerated” comes to mind — could keep the crowd away from the social event of the month. Fortunately, event organizers provided space heaters, free-flowing cocktails and, for VIPs, hot laps around the track to warm them up.

And, of course, the evening’s entertainment — 16 musical acts in all, including one that featured drivers Will Power (drums) and Aleshin (guitar) — generated its own kind of heat.

Rev serves as a benefit for the Methodist Health Foundation, which helps to foot the bill for the IU Health Emergency Medical Center at IMS (among other important initiatives including LifeLine helicopters). In addition to providing lifesaving services for drivers injured on track, the staff at the track’s medical facility also treat hundreds of patients on race day — not counting the thousand or more fans who receive care from medical staff on speedway grounds. Saturday's event netted nearly $800,000 for the foundation.

From the fans