Janquart Wins Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award
The race just to get into the Indianapolis 500 can cause struggling teams to make car changes out of desperation or frustration, often taking the car further away from the best set-up. It's those times when a calmer guiding hand is needed most.
|David Janquart (Center) receives award|
The #43 Petty Motorsports/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry for driver John Andretti was fortunate to have such a composed leader this month in chief mechanic David Janquart. The veteran wrench led the crew effort that overcame a first-weekend crash and ensuing struggle for speed. Eventually it all came "full circle," just in time to get crowd favorite Andretti qualified into the field for this Sunday's race.
For his effort and leadership, Janquart has been named the 2009 recipient of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award. Presented annually since 1987 by the Clint Brawner Foundation and underwritten by Firestone Racing, the award recognizes an Indy 500 chief mechanic who "exemplifies the mechanical and scientific creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise" of its legendary namesake. Clint Brawner was the chief mechanic on winning cars in 51 AAA- and USAC-sanctioned national championship races, and six season champions.
Janquart received a $5,000 check and plaque to commemorate the honor during a ceremony prior to today's Carburetion Day practice. Presenting the awards were Carl Gehlhausen of the Clint Brawner Foundation and Page Mader, Firestone Racing's general manager of race tire development. Janquart's name also will be inscribed on a permanent trophy housed inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
"To put my name on a plaque next to all those people, I get a chill when I think about it," Janquart said. "It's unbelievable to think I was even considered for the award. It's an awesome achievement that I didn't even expect. I was just out there doing my job as best as I could."
Janquart, 40, grew up in racing. As a youngster, he lived in Elkhart Lake, Wis., where he spent time roaming the famous Road America road course where his parents sold tickets. He drove karts for a bit before becoming a mechanic. His first major team job came in 1996 with Tasman Motorsports in CART, and he has also worked for Forsythe Racing, Fernandez Racing and Vision Racing before joining Dreyer & Reinbold 11/2 years ago.
All that seasoning was put to the test this May at Indy. Andretti crashed on the first Sunday of qualifications, but Janquart knew not to panic because the team had three off days to repair the car before practice resumed on May 14. Andretti struggled to find the speed necessary to qualify, so the team made numerous set-up changes before finding the solution just minutes before the end of bump day qualifying on May 17. To the delight of the crowd on hand, Andretti put together a four-lap run of 221.316 mph to secure a spot on the inside of row 10.
"We tried everything," Janquart said of that final qualifying day. "We tried a set-up from three years ago, we tried a set-up from last year. We did basically four different set-ups on bump day, completely altered the car - just to give us some sort of direction. And believe it or not, we put the set-up on that we started the month with, and that's what worked."
Janquart credited his crew - many of whom also worked for him at Vision Racing - for a yeoman effort all month long. "These guys are awesome," he said. "As a chief mechanic, I wouldn't have any other group behind me. I give them the direction, and they make it happen. All of Dreyer & Reinbold, that day everyone pulled together. John was the last one to get in out of the Dreyer & Reinbold fleet, and everyone just pitched in."
To those at Firestone Racing and the Clint Brawner Foundation, Janquart certainly displayed the traits of the award's namesake.
"The definition for the Brawner award mentions ingenuity, perseverance and expertise," said Mader, Firestone Racing's general manager of race tire development. "David exemplified all of those characteristics and more in leading his crew through a difficult month and into the race. For that, he is a deserving winner of this year's Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award."