OLDSMOBILE PERFORMANCE PROFILE: BUTCH MEYER/TEAM MENARD ENGINE BUILDER Butch Meyer is the power behind Team Menard. Meyer, the grandson of three-time Indy 500 champion Louie Meyer (winner in 1928, 1933, and...
OLDSMOBILE PERFORMANCE PROFILE: BUTCH MEYER/TEAM MENARD ENGINE BUILDER
Butch Meyer is the power behind Team Menard. Meyer, the grandson of three-time Indy 500 champion Louie Meyer (winner in 1928, 1933, and 1936), runs Team Menard's in-house engine program which supplies IRL Aurora V8 engines for Tony Stewart, Robbie Buhl, and J.J. Yeley. Meyer's Oldsmobile engines propelled Stewart to the 1997 IRL Drivers Championship and clinched the Team Championship for Team Menard. In the following interview, Meyer talks about Menard's IRL Aurora V8 engine program and his family's roots in Indy car racing.
How many engines have you built for this year's Indy 500?
"We have 15 engines in our arsenal for Indy. The reason we have so many is that we have engines for practice and qualifying, and we have engines for the race. Right now our race engines are back at the shop running on the dyno. We'll run them for about two hours, tear them down, inspect them, reassemble them, and then they're ready for the race."
Is your approach to this year's Indy 500 different than your approach last year?
"Last year, the 4.0-liter motors were new and there was a limited supply of parts. This year we've really turned up the wick. We're getting more power out of the engines and we're pushing them harder. We're running all-out this year -- we're not holding anything back."
What are the advantages of an in-house engine program?
"The biggest advantage is that it allows us to maintain secrecy. If a team uses an outside builder who is also doing engines for other teams, any power advantage or parts development is going to be shared with the other team. I believe that we can build engines faster and cheaper with our own in-house engine program."
How many people work in Team Menard's engine department?
"Four people, including me. David Reynolds, the assistant engine builder, is my No. 1 man. Bob Murden does the cylinder heads, and Joe Sturgell does the oil pumps and water pumps. We call Bruce Anderson the 'dyno troll' because he is always in the dyno cell either installing or removing an engine."
Do you approach the Indy 500 as a sprint race or an endurance race?
"During practice and qualifying, it's a sprint race -- but you've got to run 500 miles on race day, so your motors have got to be built to run the distance."
How long have you been involved in racing?
"I've been in racing all my life. When I was a kid, I was the Indiana state go-kart champion. I raced sprint cars for five years and ran Super Vees for five years. Then I decided that I was a better engine builder than I was a race car driver.
"I've built racing engines since I was 12. After school and on weekends I'd go out to the shop and help my Dad (Sonny Meyer) build Offenhausers, DOHC Fords, and small-block Chevys. We built everything. I worked at Patrick Racing for nine years and must have built 500 Cosworth engines. When I came to Menard with the turbocharged V6 program, we were trying to do the impossible -- compete against four-valve V8 racing engines with a two-valve, six-cylinder engine."
How has your father influenced you?
"We've worked together through my entire career. My Dad has been involved with 25 winning engines at the Indy 500, starting in the days of the Offenhausers and Fords. We worked together at Patrick Racing, Granatelli Racing, and then Larry Curry brought us together at Menard. He retired last year, and I took over the engine department.
"My Dad is a great teacher. I still talk to him. We had a little problem with an engine the other day. I called him, we talked for an hour, and now I think we've got the problem fixed."
What kind of feedback do you get from the Team Menard drivers?
"Tony Stewart has an incredible feel for the equipment. We have real-time telemetry, so I can monitor everything the engine is doing on the track. We may not see anything wrong on the telemetry, but he might tell me after a run, "Butch, I felt a little vibration." After we go back to the garage, we'll find a valve spring that's just starting to break. He has saved us so many engines because he can feel little things. It's the same with Robbie Buhl; he has a good feel, too."
What is the relationship between engine and chassis development in an Indy car?
"We build the best engine we can, and then the team works on the car until the drivers can run flat-out all the way around the track. Then we go back to work to give them more power -- so then they have to work on the car again to get it to run flat-out. That's how you keep going faster."
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