The rat race behind the race:

10 Jan

Installment 1

IndyCar Mechanic Grant Bentrud

When I first trotted out those words, I would imagine that they were taken incorrectly or at least, out of context. You see, I wrote them on December 22, 2016 in a twitter post beamed at @IndyCar, @tonydizinno, @IMS and @IndyCarPR. They are four of my favorite follows on Twitter as that social media platform is where I go to get current motorsport news and links. I mean, red hot, while it happens current news from all sorts of motorsport. That makes things a whole lot easier when I finally flip on the TV to take in the current weekend’s televised racing event because I am ‘up to speed’ and ready to sit back and crack open a cold one. So, what exactly was my intent with that tweet? What would put into context the rat race behind the race? Allow me to digress.

 

grant-and-gforcepaul

Grant and Gforcepaul

In a previous life, I came across an opportunity to become involved in the televised production of live events for the fledgling Indy Racing League. This should give you an idea of just how long ago that was. Being that up close and personal with the sounds and smell of speed allowed me to draw some conclusions about just how hard this endeavor really is. Believe me, it has many moving parts and synchronization is a highly soft after goal. But what I did take away from the experience was the appreciation of the various interests and talents involved in the weekly circus called racing.

 

It wasn’t until I had been out of the racing production involvement for a while that I came across a fellow blues music lover. We met one evening at an open stage night in some dive bar on the west side of Indy and I enjoyed his harmonica playing.  For the purposes of this article, we will refer to this musical instrument as a harp. (Bear with me a moment as this will all tie together shortly and I can see that your eyes are already glazing over a bit). Anyway, this gent and I started a conversation about what each other did for a living and I said I.T. work and such. He mentioned he was a mechanic and I asked if he worked at a dealership. Without skipping a beat he said Honda. After some conversing on this topic we parted ways after doing a quick set.

98-car

Contemplating speed

Later on last spring I made a trip to the hallowed grounds of IMS to take in early loading in for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis and cruised through the garage area. Lo and behold, there toiling away was this “Honda Mechanic” working on a non-descript car that I determined to be the 98 car! Believe me, we had done several open mic nights and sets of blues since that first meeting so it was quite a surprise seeing him performing his day job. We engaged a bit and neither of us had any idea that he would be involved in the most memorable Indianapolis 500 finish in its 100th running. Everybody knows how that ended so I have no need opine here. I do, however, want you to get to know a little more about the guy they call Grant Bentrud. So, without further ado, a quick “A Baker’s Dozen Probing Questions and BS With:”

 

A Baker’s Dozen Probing Questions and BS With: Grant Bentrud

  1. What’s on your music playing device?
    Tony Joe White, Waylon Jennings, Shelby Lynne, Roy Buchanan, The Allman Brothers, Climax Blues Band, Mountain, Jessie Winchester, J.J. Cale, mostly artists that started in the sixties and seventies, they seem to mix country, rock, soul and blues into their sound.

 

  1. When did you first turn a wrench?
    When I was 12 my best friend’s dad got us involved in SCCA, he ran a Elva Mk VII in sports D class, we crewed for him at Road America, Donnybrook which is called Brainered International Raceway now. My dad got his first snowmobile when I was 7 and I did alot of wrenching on those when I was teenager.

 

  1. How do you rally the troops when the shoe wads it up in turn 3?

We got a great group of guy’s, we don’t think twice about getting our hustle on to get the car back on the track, it’s what we do, we’re proud of it!

Headed off to work

NAPA 90

4. Tell us a story about who it was that helped you the most to get to this position?

The Archer Brothers in Duluth Minnesota gave me my first job on a professional team, we ran in SCCA Trans Am and World Challenge. They were great, we would start every morning with a meeting in the conference room and they wanted everyone’s input, made us feel like we contributed more than just turning wrenches.

5. You have a very interesting off season hobby, don’t you?

My son and I race vintage snowmobiles on an ice oval track up in Michigan, it’s a 5 race series in January and February, it’s a blast!

winter-hobby

Warming up at 10 below?

 

6.  Do you have any siblings? What is the meanest thing you did to them as a kid?
I have 3 sisters and 1 brother. My brother, being the youngest probably got the brunt of meanness, but he was a sturdy kid and I think he handled everything that us older kids gave him pretty well.

Speeding into turn 1 with a severe push

Speeding into turn 1 with a severe push

 

7.   What is your favorite track to race an Indy car at?

There’s no place like Indy! It’s in a league of its own, but after that I would say the classic road racing tracks like Road America and the Glen, Sonoma to name a few, they’re made for racing and have an amazing history of cars and drivers and I just feel at home in places like that

7.  I know that in addition to blowing a harp, you also strum a little guitar. Anybody else in the paddock that you have jammed with? Who are they?

Aleshin plays guitar, I’ve asked him to come to jam night and he seemed interested, but no I haven’t had the chance to jam with anyone else in the series.

mechanics

9.  At what point in the race did you feel your team had the 2016 Indianapolis 500 win wrapped up and in the bag?

Well up until the last few seconds it seemed Munoz had a chance to catch us, we were coasting and he was full throttle! So it was a big relief when it was obvious that he couldn’t catch Rossi.

10  Who is the funniest guy or gal in the paddock?

Hmmm I don’t know of anyone getting offers from SNL

11.  In an earlier conversation you mentioned that you enjoyed sports car wrenching. Why?

Well my first several years in racing was with tube framed cars and I really enjoyed the fabrication that was needed, with the carbon fiber Indy cars I don’t get to do a lot of fabrication.

12.  Blues, Rock or R n B music. Which one rates highest on your list?

The bluesy sound of the Allman Brothers playing Stormy Monday is number 1.

13.  I hear that you are a Veteran. How was that experience?

It was such an honor to swear in and have the opportunity to serve my country, even though it was over 30 years ago I’m still honored to have that experience. I’m still in touch with some of the guys I served with.

speed

Shew! I had no idea that wrenching for a race team had so many moving parts! It is also very fortunate for us that these man and women that toil so diligently pay some kind of serious attention to detail. Early on during the month of May in 2016 I had a chance to share with Grant that while I enjoy and appreciate the skills of say, a team strategist, a huge helping of my appreciation is heaped on the wrenches. You see, while a strategist may help win a race, the wrenches actually KEEP THE DRIVER ALIVE. Ponder that thought the next time you visit a race track of your choice. And remember, if you watch racing you are just a viewer. If you GO to a race track, you really are a fan. So the next time you are at the track, tip your hat to the guy or gal with grease under their fingers; they are helping keep someone alive!

 

 

As always, thanks for stopping by and we will talk to you next time!

 

GForcePaul

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