Clint Brawner Award Goes to John Jones of Chastain Motorsports INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 25, 2007) - Chastain Motorsports already faced a narrow window for success at this year's Indianapolis 500, considering it was destined for a second-week bid...
Clint Brawner Award Goes to John Jones of Chastain Motorsports
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 25, 2007) - Chastain Motorsports already faced a narrow window for success at this year's Indianapolis 500, considering it was destined for a second-week bid at qualifications in the little-used Panoz chassis it recently acquired.
The window appeared nearly shut tight when driver Stephan Gregoire crashed in practice two days before the qualifying weekend. Not only did substantial repairs to the car loom, but Gregoire was sidelined with a fractured vertebra and replaced by veteran "super sub" Roberto Moreno. Instead of giving in, however, the team buckled down behind chief mechanic John Jones, fixed the car and watched proudly Sunday as Moreno qualified at a solid 220.299 mph to safely make the field for the 91st running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
For the effort, Jones is honored today as the 2007 recipient of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award. Presented annually by the Clint Brawner Foundation and underwritten by Firestone Racing, the Brawner award recognizes a chief mechanic at Indy who "exemplifies the mechanical and scientific creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise" of its legendary namesake. Brawner was the chief mechanic on winning cars in 51 AAA- and USAC-sanctioned national championship races, and six season champions.
Jones received a $5,000 check and plaque to commemorate the honor, and his name will be inscribed on a permanent trophy housed inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
"What a great honor this is," said Jones, 37, of Brownsburg, Ind., "but it really belongs to the whole crew. If I didn't have a lot of guys here who had my back, I'd be nothing. It truly is a great bunch of personalities, all with a great work ethic. I've been doing this a long time and I can't think of a better group of guys to work with."
A former SCCA Club and Formula Mazda racer, Jones had mechanic experience in Shelby Can Am (working with Buddy Rice, Sam Schmidt and Richie Hearn) before joining Billy Boat's IndyCar Series team in 2002. That's also when he met Darrel Soppe, the 1991 Brawner award winner, and the two struck up a kinship. Jones later served stints with Indy Pro Series and Champ Car Atlantic Championship teams, until Soppe (now the engineer for Chastain Motorsports) called early this year and asked Jones to be chief mechanic for the effort.
"I've always been an anchorman and was happy to be an anchorman," Jones said. "I was hired three weeks before load-in day (at the Speedway) and had to line up everything. It's been a lot of hard work in the days and a lot of sleepless nights worrying about things."
Jones credited the Rahal Letterman Racing team for its extensive support in helping the Chastain crew prep the Panoz chassis. Gregoire was quickly up to speed and appeared a shoo-in for the second weekend of qualifying - until his accident May 17. Jones and crew immediately dove into scramble mode, tearing the car down in 45 minutes and spending more time waiting on a repaired gearbox than anything.
"We never quit and it never crossed my mind," Jones said.
Moreno didn't even get on track until the third qualifying day, May 19, logging a late-afternoon run at 216.229 mph that Jones called "embarrassing" but necessary in case it rained the following day. With the second slowest overall speed, the team didn't wait to be bumped on the final qualifying day. Instead, the 216-mph run was withdrawn and Moreno bettered it by more than 4 mph when he re-qualified to make the field for the first time since 1999.
"Over the past two weeks, John and the Chastain team cert ainly demonstrated a number of the characteristics that made Clint Brawner famous," said Page Mader, General Manager of Race Tire Development, Firestone Racing. "Among them were ingenuity, perseverance and dedication, not to mention risk-taking for withdrawing one qualifying run and relying on Roberto to post a better one. John is a very deserving winner of this year's Brawner award."
Past Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award Recipients
1987 John Buttera
1988 Phil Krueger
1989 Galen Fox
1990 Dale Coyne
1991 Darrel Soppe
1992 Bernie Myers
1993 Phil Casey
1994 Craig Baranouski
1995 Greg Beck
1996 Billy Bignotti
1997 Mark Weida
1998 Brad McCanless
1999 Kevin Hertle
2000 Paul Murphy
2001 Tom Bose
2002 Jamie Nanny
2003 Dan Miller
2004 Butch Winkle
2005 Rick Duman
2006 Brad Brewer