For most anyone involved in Verizon IndyCar Series racing – drivers, owners, team members – winning the Indianapolis 500 is the best feeling of one’s career. For a handful of Andretti Autosport crew members and a Honda Performance Development engineer, it’s become an annual sensation.
Five members of the crew for Takuma Sato’s No. 26 Honda that won the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 were also part of the crew when Alexander Rossi won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” the year before. So, too, was Luiz Oliveira, the HPD engineer assigned to the winning cars both times.
Andretti Autosport’s Grant Bentrud, Grant George, Cameron Harcus, Ryan Marzec and Mike Trimmer all had a hand in both Rossi’s stunning 2016 win and Sato’s triumph this past Memorial Day weekend. (The photo at top shows, from left: Oliveira, Harcus, Trimmer, Bentrud and Marzec. George is not pictured.)
Many a crewman has gone an entire career without visiting victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This quintet has done it in consecutive years.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” said Trimmer, who serves as fueler on Sato’s car as well as the transporter driver. “Last year was a dream come true, but this was special. I’ve been dreaming of winning that race since I was 7 years old, and now to win it twice, it’s amazing.”
“It was incredible,” said Cameron Harcus, the inside front tire changer for Sato and shocks mechanic for all the team’s entries. “I was so proud. Just to see him drive as hard as he did and see the whole month come to fruition the way it did, and get a win that he desperately deserved – and how this crew just worked day in, day out, countless hours like we all do all month. Just to come away with that, it was all worth it.”
The group experienced different sensations of anxiety in their winning ways last year and this year. Sato’s fast and furious battle to the checkered flag with Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves contrasted greatly with Rossi stretching his final fuel stint to 36 laps before coasting across the yard of bricks on fumes. For these five, tasting victory – and milk – was just as sweet the second time around, but the way the 2017 race played out brought on different nerves.
“Last year, obviously we gambled on fuel and it paid off,” said Harcus, also the son of Paul “Ziggy” Harcus, Sato’s race strategist. “That was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about just winning that thing outright and beating Helio Castroneves, one of the best in the business. To come out on top, the adrenalin running, everything about it was so exciting.”
“It was awesome!” added Bentrud, a team mechanic. “He was just going for it, what an awesome race he drove.”
George gained his first taste of Indy car racing with Bryan Herta Autosport prior to the team merging with Andretti Autosport in early 2016. Now the data engineer has two Indy 500 wins on his resume.
“First off, you’re lucky just to be a part of one (Indy) win,” George said. “That’s just your goal of working in INDYCAR, is getting that first Indy 500 win. You never expect after that to get another one. To win two in a row is just unreal. The win last year still really hasn’t sunk in yet, so now I have two that aren’t really ever going to sink in. Just unreal is the only way to put it.”
For Marzec (inside rear tire changer and mechanic on Sato’s car), George and Oliveira, one could almost call it beginner’s luck. Each has been in his current role less than three years, yet found victory lane twice at the biggest race on the planet.
“Not bad at all,” quipped George.
Not one bit.
Honda Racing also captured the emotions of the crew members involved in both wins in this video: