Sarah Fisher Racing's Andy O'Gara Earns Clint Brawner Award SPEEDWAY, Ind. - A chief mechanic faces enough pressure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just trying to prepare a car fast and stable enough to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
Sarah Fisher Racing's Andy O'Gara Earns Clint Brawner Award
SPEEDWAY, Ind. - A chief mechanic faces enough pressure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just trying to prepare a car fast and stable enough to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Imagine the added stress for a small-budget outfit that loses its primary sponsorship money early in the month. Oh, and for good measure, you're only 24 years old and your driver happens to be your newlywed wife and team co-owner.
Welcome to Andy O'Gara's world in May 2008. Despite the obstacles, O'Gara and his crew assembled a quality ride for Sarah Fisher, who guided the #67 Dallara/Honda on Firestone tires to a starting position on the inside of row eight for the 92nd Indy 500. For the effort, O'Gara has been named the winner of the 2008 Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award.
Presented annually since 1987 by the Clint Brawner Foundation and underwritten by Firestone Racing, the Brawner award recognizes an Indy 500 chief mechanic who "exemplifies the mechanical and scientific creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise" of its legendary namesake. Clint Brawner was the chief mechanic on winning cars in 51 AAA- and USAC-sanctioned national championship races, and six season champions.
O'Gara received a $5,000 check and plaque to commemorate the honor during a ceremony prior to today's Carburetion Day practice. The awards were presented by Carl Gehlhausen of the Clint Brawner Foundation and Page Mader, Firestone Racing's General Manager of Race Tire Development. O'Gara's name also will be inscribed on a permanent trophy housed inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
"This is an absolute honor," O'Gara said. "I definitely wasn't expecting it. I have to thank Firestone and the entire Clint Brawner Foundation. To be recognized w ith somebody like Clint, it is incredible. I know how much he meant to open-wheel racing, I know how much he meant to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I know how I feel about both of them. I know how hard we worked to get here and this is just above and beyond anything I expected."
O'Gara grew up in a mechanic's world. His father, John, was a longtime wrench in the IndyCar Series before teaming with Fisher to form Sarah Fisher Racing over the winter. Andy learned his craft working with his dad in recent years at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Andy and Sarah were married last September, ensuring that the team would be a family business through and through.
Fisher announced a major sponsor early this year, one that was expected to provide funding to run Indy and several other 2008 events before undertaking a full schedule in '09. But the sponsorship money never arrived, and Sarah Fisher Racing has scrambled to find the funds to keep on track. Somehow, Fisher and O'Gara kept the team focused on its goal to make the race.
"I couldn't ask for a better group of guys," O'Gara said. "We got to a certain point (when the future was in question) and just said, 'OK, there's no looking back.' You get past that 50 percent hump and just keep digging. We haven't had a single episode all month. ... Sarah and I go home and talk about everything every night, in and out of racing. Sarah's done a great job. How she flips the switch when she gets in the car is amazing. There have been days when we realize what we're up against, yet instantly, on the second lap, she's up over 220-221 (mph). She certainly is a professional, and it's an honor to be here."
With a solid car prepared by her husband under her, Fisher made a smooth qualifying run on the second Saturday of time trials, surpassing other better-funded outfits with a four-lap speed average of 221.246 mph. S he will start her seventh Indy 500 on Sunday.
"The effort that Andy and his crew have put together this month has been quite impressive," said Firestone's Mader. "Despite their lack of funding and limited track time, they were competitive from the outset. It was clear that Andy put together a solid race car. He is a most deserving winner of this year's Clint Brawner award."