Veteran Penske Engineers Get a Sweet Taste of 2022 Title

Veteran Penske Engineers Get a Sweet Taste of 2022 Title

Will Power will be honored on Saturday at the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES that Team Penske earned last weekend. A group of team members will stand with him.

Yes, Roger Penske’s organization is often featured at the sport’s post-season events, but it’s not a routine for everyone. Take Ron Ruzewski, for example. He joined Team Penske in 2005, and worked as Principal Engineer for Helio Castroneves for 12 years. Together they’ve won many races, including Gainbridge’s Indianapolis 500 in 2009, but they haven’t raised the Astor Cup to the challenge despite many close calls.

“I’ve always been a bridesmaid,” said Rozewski, who is shown above speaking with Bauer.

Ahead of the 2019 season, Ruzewski was promoted to Managing Director of Roger Penske NTT INDYCAR SERIES, responsible for almost every detail of every car on the team’s fields. He co-starred in Joseph Newgarden’s Series Two glory that year, but it wasn’t the same experience he had this year.

Ruzewski was the Power strategist, a role that Penske once filled. Every racing decision about the weekend that includes Team Penske’s #12 Verizon Chevrolet this season can be traced back to the Purdue University graduate from Western New York. Imagine what it felt like, a 53-year-old father of two who started his racing career in 1990 and works as a data acquisition engineer for Scott Goodyear’s car at Shierson Racing, to become his first serial champion.

“In taking immediate control of (the car’s) fate rather than removing it one step, yes, that’s my first step,” he said with a smile. “It feels really good.”

Ruzewski isn’t alone in experiencing this feeling for the first time. He said that at least half of the men and women who have worked on the Power car this season are first-time champions. Among them: Trey Williams (interior front tire shifter), Adam Jarros (exterior rear tire shifter), Eric Crabtree (fuel), there are many others who support the safer side of the wall.

Yes, Team Penske wins championships with some regularity, but there are never guarantees in this competitive sport.

“That’s why I got everyone together after the race on Sunday before we all went our separate ways,” Rozewski said. “I congratulated everyone and said how proud I am to work with them. You made a point to say to those who have been here, like John Haslett who has been here for 40 years and (win) old hat, congratulations. But to all the newbies, you said you spoil what this is about ( Sports).You’ve got a taste of it, hopefully it’ll leave you hungry for more.

“It’s going to take a while for them to realize that there’s a lot of people going up and down that never get that chance, and some of them have been doing it for a really long time. You’re really hoping it sinks in, and they realize it’s a huge problem.”

Dave Faustino understands its size. His entry into motorsports began with the Formula SAE program while he was a student at Rutgers University. His first taste of professional racing came at Formula Mazda, then the Atlantics. In 2005 he joined Conquest Racing’s Champ Car team before moving to Team Australia, owned by Derrick Walker, for 2007. Walker appointed him to the Power Car.

Bauer and Faustino have worked every but one season since – that was in 2009 when Bauer was initially a replacement for Castroneves and then a part-time driver for Team Penske. Which means when Power broke Mario Andretti’s record for the lead last weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Faustino deserved his share of the limelight.

Faustino was the lead engineer for 65 of the Power’s 68 poles in the series. Exceptions: 2006 at Surfers Paradise and the poles in 2009 (Long Beach and Edmonton).

“I’m sure there is no essential book for race engineers,” Faustino said with a laugh. “Maybe he would do it with any (engineer) because his talent is very high and he knows what he’s doing, so I wouldn’t say that (the record) is because of me. But it’s good to be a part of it.”

Team Penske stayed overnight in California after the Firestone Grand Prix in Monterey on Sunday, and Faustino noticed how refreshing the celebration felt. After all, it was the team’s first championship in three years, and adjustments to the organization’s sports car program, particularly among engineers, confused the staff more than usual.

In short, this was a new group, definitely different from when Bauer and Faustino celebrated their first title in 2014.

“Looking at the reactions, I felt like I did when I joined this organization,” Faustino said. “You don’t really know if you’re going to get a chance to work with a good driver or have a chance in a championship, no matter how good you are. Opportunities don’t come often.

“I’ve definitely thought about it, and I’ve definitely noticed the way (others) reacted to it. I hope it’s something they carry with them, that they feel like I’m a champion; we’re a championship team, because that means something.”

Ruzewski said that Penske’s team performed like a championship organisation in 2022. Not only did its three drivers finish in the top four of the standings – Newgarden took second, Scott McLaughlin fourth – their crew also finished in the top four in stopping efficiency.

“It amazed me that we were able to do this,” Rozewski said of the two accomplishments. “It also proves to me that we are doing something right in all aspects – training our staff, preparing our cars, the drivers we have, the tools provided for them, the pit stop for the implementing crews. It’s good to know that what you’re doing is working.”

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