Notes & Quotes: REV Group Grand Prix
DWIGHT BROWN joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2016 as a data acquisition engineer, left for a year and rejoined the team in 2018. He currently works as the assistant engineer on the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet driven by Matheus Leist. We asked him a few questions…
Q: How did you get involved in racing? Where did it start for you?
DB: “From an early age my dad and I would go to IMS and watch qualifying at Indy, and we would watch both open wheel and stock car events on television. However it truly started when I decided during the spring break of my senior year of high school that I would attend IUPUI for Motorsports Engineering. From there I had a few internships, which expanded my network, and with the help of several people including Tom Wilson and Steve Moore, I landed my first IndyCar role in 2015 with KV Racing Technology.”
Q: What does your job as a support engineer entail?
DB: “A support engineer can span a wide range of tasks...IndyCar engineering in general can as well. There are never two days that are identical. Anything from data analysis, fuel flow testing, CAD part design, wiring steering wheels, running vehicle dynamics simulations, gearing studies, software programming, and many other tasks. There are always high level items that must be completed, however sometimes we have single day turn-arounds and some six-day turn-arounds, so time varies, therefore the detail and scope is forced too. In-season and off-season are quite different; when you have two days in the shop before race events, you are closing the book on one weekend and preparing for the next, whereas in the off-season oftentimes you are dealing with bigger projects that in-season time does not allow for.”
Part of the team's engineering staff at work in the Indy shop: L to R: Intern Cordell Durcholz, assistant engineer Dwight Brown, data acquisition engineer Tim Trowbridge and Car 14 assistant engineer Alex Diaz.
Q; What do you do on race day?
DB: “There are several tasks to prepare for the race and a large amount of information to deliver to various personnel for the race. Some highlights during the morning of race day include selecting gears, cooling blockers, preparing fuel strategy, and assisting race engineer with final setup changes. Once arriving on the timing stand, after the national anthem has been played and the headset has gone on for me it is all about fuel strategy and reporting to the race strategist what mileage we are getting and need to get.”
Q: How long have you been an assistant engineer?
DB: “I am in my second year as an assistant.”
Q: What does it take (skills needed) to be a good engineer?
DB: “One of my college professors, an experienced race engineer, stated the rule that a race engineer is 90% driver physiologist, 9% logistics, and 1% engineering. Which in all honesty holds a lot of truth for several levels of IndyCar engineering. The proper amount of common sense and a realistic logistical timeline can go a long way in this industry.”
Q: Greatest thrill of your career (to date)?
DB: “Winning in Detroit in 2016 with Sebastien Bourdais would have to be my highlight. Aside from that just a week prior to the 100th Running of the Indy 500 was quite special, Indy is always special but it felt a little extra magical that year.”
Tell us something that may surprise people about you.
DB: “I am an only child...and single. I collect basketball cards.”
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
DB: “Motorsports is a very dynamic environment, one must change and adapt to change quickly. Whether it be weather at the race track that pushes back the schedule of the event, a rules change that alters part design, or excessive/minimal yellow laps in the race that changes your fuel strategy, the only thing constant is the expectation of change. Thus said maintaining as much consistency as possible with processes and procedures to prepare for the unexpected is critical for success.”
On the pitbox stand during practice are: (L to R): Dwight Brown, race engineer Daniele Cucchiaroni and race strategist George Klotz.
Q: How do you prepare for a race?
DB: “Ideally you get a good night’s sleep the night before, review gearing, setup changes, but primarily shift focus onto fuel savings vs. lap time.”
Q: What’s your favorite track and why?
DB: “Indianapolis is my home track, it is special to the Foyt family, and it is the crown jewel on the schedule. There are some other tracks on the circuit that are interesting as well, Toronto has a good atmosphere, and Detroit is special because I got my first win there.”
Q: Do you have a motto/favorite saying?
DB: “Counter-intuitive, however...Slow and steady wins the race. My first boss told me that and it goes along the lines of the fact that there is always a second or third time to repeat a task and complete it correctly even though the first time it was rushed or done improperly.”
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
DB: “My parents have been a strong influence in my life shaping me into the person I am today....Was a big Reggie Miller fan back in the day as well. However many people, have helped guide me in this career and have given me opportunities along the way.”
Q: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of racing?
DB: “When we are not at the race track in the summer time I enjoy spending time at the family lake cabin on Lake Lemon. Jet skiing is preferred, along with boating, tubing, and all sorts of water activities.”
TONY KANAAN on Road America: “I’m looking forward to Road America, one of my favorite races of the year. I hope we can start turning the situation around.”
MATHEUS LEIST on Road America: “I’m looking forward to driving at Road America this week. It’s such a nice track and beautiful place, definitely one of my favorites of the calendar. Also looking forward to seeing all of our friends from ABC Supply, it’ll be a special weekend. Let’s have some fun!”
Last Race: At Texas, Kanaan started 22nd and finished 15th while Leist started 20th and placed 22nd, parking the car after 73 laps due to handling issues.
Past Performance at Road America: In eight races, Kanaan’s best start is third and best finish is second in 2016 with Ganassi Racing. Leist’s experience here is in Indy Lights; in two starts (same weekend), he won the pole and the race in his first start. In his second race, he started second and finished fourth. Last year in IndyCar, Leist started 20th and finished 15th. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is 8th in 1993 with Eddie Cheever, and its best finish is eighth in 1991 with Mike Groff. The team did not compete in IndyCar races at Road America from 1996-2007.
ABC Supply is in its 15th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the NTT IndyCar Series. The company was founded in 1982 by Ken and Diane Hendricks with just three stores. The company now has over 700 stores and topped $10.5 billion in sales in 2018. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining well over 110,000 associates and customers over the past 14 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain over 565 guests.
ABC Supply local account Siding Unlimited, LLC, located in Waukesha, Wis., will be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with Tony Kanaan.
L&W account David M. Frahm Plastering, LLC, based in Menasha, Wis., won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. The company name will be on the engine cover of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment plus a Meet and Greet with Matheus Leist.
The REV Group Grand Prix will be televised live on NBC on Sunday, June 23, and starting at 12:00 noon ET. Qualifying for the Grand Prix will be broadcast tape-delayed on NBCSN on Saturday from 5:00 – 6:30 PM ET. All of the practices will be available on NBC’s subscription-based service, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.