IRL: Team Penske Pit Notes 2002-01-08

Pit Notes January 8, 2003 Marlboro Team Penske Names Newbury As Engineer For Castroneves Marlboro Team Penske has announced that Grant Newbury will be two-time Indianapolis 500 mile race winner Helio Castroneves' race engineer for the 2003...

Pit Notes
January 8, 2003

Marlboro Team Penske Names Newbury As Engineer For Castroneves

Marlboro Team Penske has announced that Grant Newbury will be two-time Indianapolis 500 mile race winner Helio Castroneves' race engineer for the 2003 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series season.

Grant Newbury, 48, joined Penske Racing in 1989. During his tenure, the Team has recorded 59 race wins including five Indianapolis 500 victories and three CART Championships. While he's been a race engineer for a number of Penske drivers, 2003 marks Newbury's first season as race engineer for Helio Castroneves.

Most recently, Newbury served as an engine track support engineer. From 1998-2001, Newbury's primary role was development engineer.

Between 1990 and 1997, Newbury served as race engineer for legendary drivers Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. In 1990, he worked with Sullivan to capture two wins; from 1991-93 he engineered Fittipaldi to eight wins including the 1993 Indianapolis 500; and from the Milwaukee race in 1995 through the 1997 season, Newbury worked with Unser Jr. to score three wins.

Prior to joining Marlboro Team Penske, Newbury was a member of Truesports Racing. He first worked with the Team on a part-time basis from 1982-84 assisting mechanics at the track, changing tires during races and developing onboard instrumentation systems. Newbury rejoined Truesports full-time from 1985-89. He was race engineer for Bobby Rahal from 1986-88 scoring 11 wins including the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and two CART Championships (1986-87). In 1989, Newbury focused on development of the Judd engine for the TruPower division of the team -- during which time he worked with then summer intern and current Penske Racing President, Tim Cindric.

>From 1978-84, Newbury developed advanced engine and emission control systems for General Motors Advanced Product Engineering. He also joined US Racing (CanAM) on a part-time basis from 1978-81 working with George Follmer, Bobby Rahal and Tom Klausler.

Newbury received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1978 and was granted a GM Fellowship in 1980 to attend the University of Michigan where he earned a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He resides in Birdsboro, PA with his wife, Carol.


This past weekend, Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves was at the Penske Racing race shop in Reading, PA to be fitted for his 2003 seat. The entire seat-fitting process takes about two days, most of which Castroneves spends in the car.

While it may seem like an easy procedure to the casual observer, the seat fitting process is a very painstaking venture. Brian Yerger, the Fabricator at Penske racing who oversees the seat construction for both Marlboro Team Penske drivers, begins the process by filling a bag with small Styrofoam beads about 1/8 of an inch in diameter. The bag is then placed into the tub of the 2003 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara so that Castroneves can sit in the bag in order to fit the seat. The beads are then molded around him and he assumes his driving position. As Yerger sets the beads around Castroneves, he has to take into account the pedal location, and the space needed for steering and shifting. As each driver is different due to size and height, the seat must be tailored specifically to the individual. Yerger then makes sure there are enough beads in the bag to cover all areas around the legs, back, shoulders and neck to ensure the seat is in accordance with specifications from the IRL. Once the seat is complete and Castroneves is comfortable, the pedals are set and the steering column is positioned correctly. Castroneves then gets out of the car and Yerger removes the bag.

The next step is to apply a resin into the bag, which will form the mold around Castroneves' body. The bag is put back into the tub and Castroneves gets back in the car. Once Yerger has taken all of the measurements and fit Castroneves back into his driving position, a vacuum removes all the air from the bag of beads and resin until it is tight around the driver. Castroneves then remains in the car for about 30 minutes so that the resin can set. After the resin and beads have set for a preliminary length of time, Castroneves carefully climbs out of the car to allow the mold to form completely. As soon as he is lifted out of the car, the end of the first day of the process is complete and the mold is allowed to harden - this usually takes about eight hours.

The next morning, Yerger trims all excess waste material from the bag, a task that can take up to three hours. Then Castroneves resumes his seat in the car for a "final fit." Space is hollowed out of the mold to allow for range of motion when Castroneves is steering, shifting and working the pedals. This process is completed with a "hot knife" which melts the resin and beads and allows Yerger to trim away prohibitive materials. This process takes another four to five hours. Once the material around his back, mid-section and legs is trimmed, Yerger fits the HANS (Head and Neck Restraint System) device onto Castroneves and the excess shoulder and neck areas are trimmed away. Once Castroneves is completely comfortable, Yerger smoothes the seat for any bumps or imperfections that may irritate Castroneves while driving. Then Yerger cuts the seat out of the car in three pieces - the legs (back, waist and thighs), and the left and right bolsters (shoulders and head).

Once the seat is removed from the car, Yerger cuts all the seat belt holes into the seat. Then the seat goes back in the car, and Castroneves has to get back in so the mechanics can measure the belt lengths. After that is complete, Castroneves is situated with the HANS device and helmet, as if he was going to run the car to make sure everything is satisfactory. After everything is measured and calculated, Castroneves is finished with his part in fitting his seat.

Yerger then takes the seat out of the car, smoothes out all areas to make sure there are no bumps or imperfections and then he covers the seat in a thin nomex layer which gets glued on with a spray adhesive to complete the process.

While Castroneves' seat is the same in construction to that of his teammate Gil de Ferran, there are subtle differences in the shape of each seat. Since Castroneves is smaller, he requires more bead content, nearly two gallons more than de Ferran. The pedals and steering columns are in different locations as well in order to account for Castroneves' smaller frame. While both drivers like to be as low as possible, de Ferran also likes to have a high rib support that wraps around him on his right side, which makes him feel more secure in the turns.

The process behind the fabrication of the seat is the same, but the seat for the 2003 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara is much different from last year's model. This year's tub is different than 2002, which makes the fitting of the seat very important so that the driver feels just as comfortable in the 2003 car as he did last season. In addition, the pedal and shifter are in different locations, so Yerger must take that into account as well when fitting Castroneves and de Ferran.


Marlboro Team Penske will be testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway Wednesday, January 8 - Friday January 10 to prepare for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on March 2nd. Castroneves will be testing the Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota on Wednesday and Thursday and teammate and two-time CART Champion de Ferran will assume driving duties on Friday. The test session will be open to the media on Thursday, January 9th from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. where Castroneves and Penske Racing President Tim Cindric will be available for interviews.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Bobby Rahal , George Follmer , Danny Sullivan , Emerson Fittipaldi
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske