IRL: Kentucky: Team Penske preview

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes August 9, 2004 MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE PREPARES FOR KENTUCKY This weekend 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr. will...

Marlboro Team Penske Pit Notes
August 9, 2004


This weekend 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar® Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr. will take to the 1.5-mile oval at Kentucky Speedway as Marlboro Team Penske heads to the 11th stop on the 16-race IndyCar Series circuit.

Castroneves has his sights set on gaining some ground in the IndyCar Series Championship point standings as he currently is in fourth place with 280 points, 120 points behind leader Tony Kanaan. Hopefully, the pilot of the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota will be able to replicate his past performances in Kentucky where he has started and finished in the top-five in both of his appearances at the Speedway. He finished fifth in 2003 and 2002 and started third in 2003 and fourth in 2002.

Marlboro Team Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. will also be looking to make headway in the points chase on the strength of three consecutive top-four finishes. The 25 year-old Defiance, OH native trails Kanaan by 133 points. Fittingly enough, Hornish Jr. is coming to a track that has brought him tremendous success over the past few seasons. In four years of competition at Kentucky Speedway, Hornish Jr. has three top-three finishes, including a win from the pole last season. In addition, Hornish Jr. has led 29% (231 out of 799) of the laps he's run in Kentucky.


Throughout the remainder of the 2004 IndyCar Series season, Marlboro Team Penske's Pit Notes will be featuring an in-depth look at some of the key positions involved with the on-track performance of the #3 and #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyotas. The second installment features John Turpin and Josh Sides, the tire technicians for Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves respectively.

While the average IndyCar Series spectator may not realize the importance and depth of the tire technician's roles and responsibilities, you can be assured there's never a slow moment for Turpin and Sides. Their responsibilities begin as soon at the Marlboro Team Penske transporters pull into the racetrack on set-up day.

"The first thing we do as soon as we get to the track is bring all of our wheels over to Firestone so that they can be mounted," explains Sides. "It's handled on a first-come, first-served basis so the faster we get over to them, the sooner we get the tires back."

Once the tires come back from Firestone, the air is let out of each of the eight sets of tires allotted for an average race weekend. Then the tires are filled with nitrogen and their weights are labeled after being balanced by Firestone. As soon as they are balanced, Sides and Turpin calibrate each of the eight sets to the same exact pressure. While each tire in each set is at the same pressure as the other eight corresponding tires, the four tires in a given set are not necessarily set to the same pressure. There are different pressures for each position - the left front, left rear, right front and right rear are all set to varying pressures.

Once the tires are all set to a pressure determined by the race engineer, their circumferences, or staggers, are measured. After all the tires are measured, the eight sets are reshuffled so that the most similar tires are in the same set, similar staggers are grouped together regardless of their original organization.

As soon as the cars get out on the track, the tire technicians are hard at work in the pits making sure each given set of tires is ready to be used at any time. In addition, Turpin and Sides work closely with their respective race engineers to determine what tire pressures the Team will be using for a given stint.

Once the car comes into the pits and the current set of tires is removed, Sides and Turpin capture the tire pressures and staggers of the four tires. That information is relayed to the race engineer who then determines changes that need to be made to the next set going on the racecar. In addition the tire technicians make sure the tires aren't cut and that the tire sensors are all working and the telemetry being fed to the electronics engineers is accurate.

Among the other duties of a tire technician are making sure the tires are laid out in corresponding position on the car and the rotation direction is clearly labeled for each of the tire changers during pit stops.

There's a lot of pressure on the tire technicians during each race weekend as success starts from the ground up and often times tire wear and durability can really make a difference in a race, so it's important that they are maintained and accurately set-up.

"I also work as a fabricator for the Team," said Turpin. "If anything needs to be repaired on-site during a race weekend, I work to make sure it is in working order. I do parts fabrication as well as carbon work."

As a fabricator, Turpin focuses on repairing any parts that have broken during the weekend when the Team gets back to the race shop, and makes back-up parts for the upcoming race. Sides makes sure the wheels are repaired and polished. In addition, he makes sure that the sensors have new batteries and are in working order, he also makes sure the valve systems are in place and functioning as well.

So, how does one become a tire technician? In 1990, Turpin got his start at Penske Cars in Poole, England where he helped build cars for seven years. In 1993, Turpin used his vacation time to come to America and help the Team out at the Indianapolis 500. It was then that Turpin knew he wanted to work at Penske Racing and he kept asking the Team if they had any openings and finally a few years later, was hired on at Penske Racing in Reading, PA. Prior to his experience at Penske Cars, Turpin studied engineering in England, including a one-year program at the Industrial Training Center.

Sides got his start in the automotive industry by working as a mechanic at a Chevrolet dealership in Iowa. He'd always had an interest in auto racing since going to the Indianapolis 500 as a kid and decided to move to Indianapolis to try and get a job with one of the Teams. In 2001, he was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway handing out resumes when someone asked him for a ride to the airport. As it turned out, the gentleman was a pilot for Penske Corporation and he took Sides' resume to the Team. A few days later Tim Cindric called Sides in for an interview, which took place in Penske's motor coach at the Brickyard. Sides got the job and has been with the Team since the beginning of the 2002 season.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske