IPS: First time crew member shares his adventure

My experience at the track By: Tom Harleman As a car guy and racing fan growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always been my goal. When I turned 30, my chances to be there as a driver started to look dim. So...

My experience at the track
By: Tom Harleman

As a car guy and racing fan growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always been my goal. When I turned 30, my chances to be there as a driver started to look dim. So two years ago I started calling teams to get on their crew for the Indy 500 but just could not get anyone interested.

Then, I came in contact with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and told them I would work free. Michael Crawford, their team manager, said he probably could not use me on the IndyCar but probably on one of the Infiniti Pro Series car. This happened in April of this year.

In May, Crawford looked at his crew list and decided he did not need me. However, he was very kind to try and make arrangements with Taylor Fletcher's Bullet Racing Team.

The night before practice the deal looked as if it had fell apart for me to be on the team but I decided to not give up and I went to the track in my crew uniform and went to the garage. As soon as the driver saw me, he introduced me to the Marshall the Teams Engineer and I was back in.

That day I had so much fun working. I really enjoy working on race cars and I have never worked so hard and had so much fun. In fact they had to make me eat something because I was just working as hard as I could. I got to work on everything. Including setting up the suspension. I learned a lot!

The next day, Carb Day at Indy was race day for the MIPS teams and I arrived at the garage area to start working at 8:00 a.m. We got the car prepped for the race. When it was time to go out on the track for the race I got the thrill of a lifetime to push a race car out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A dream of mine since I was a kid. Well we got the car in place but the radio in the car did not work so we could not talk to the driver. One of my jobs was to run back and forth from the Pit Cart with radios untill we got one that work.

We got the car back together but no one could find the lugwrench (the lugwrench is 4 feet long). So I ran back to the garage which is about a 1/2 mile away from where our pit was -- as soon as I get to the garage they cue the mic and tell me they found it.

I ran back as fast as I could because I do not want to miss the first race lap as a first-time crew member at the Speedway. Two laps into the race it starts to rain, Drew (another crew member) and myself grabbed the car cover and then ran to the car -- only to have it stop raining as soon as we got to the car.

Then the team realized that they do not have the battery to start the car so I ran back for the battery. By this time I am so very tired, I can not hardly move and the battery is extremely heavy.

Thankfully the car started on the inboard battery. We finished ninth which was a good day.

When we had to pack up, the guys let me get in the car and steer it back to the hauler which was another dream come true. I have always wanted to do that. The team was great! Marshall, Bob, Scott, Walt, Drew and John all welcomed me in and helped me.

I need to say a special thank you to Bob Meyer. He really took me under his wing and taught me a lot. He taught me about all the different details and assisted me in learning. This guy works very hard and has years of experience at Indy. I really enjoyed working with him.

However, one of the greatest experiences of those two days was produced by the family that owns the team. Taylor and Bonnie Fletcher are great people. Both of them including their kids Cody, Serenity and Cody's wife Amy did something that they did not have to do, they made my wife Stephanie and I feel very welcome and part of the team. We did not feel like outsiders and that is all because of this family. They went out of their way to make sure we felt very comfortable. I can not tell you how much I appreciated that.

I hope I showed I could do the job and hope that if they run more races, I could get the privilege to be part of their team again. Because of the opportunity they gave me, another team has shown interest in me and might have me join them. Truly a wonderful experience and one I will never forget.

Be part of something big

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Taylor Fletcher