Darrick Dong, a friend and encyclopedic resource of technical knowledge to major North American racing series and teams, has died at 69 after a prolonged fight to prevent kidney failure.
A fixture in a variety of paddocks, Dong was most commonly found at IndyCar and sports car events providing support on behalf of the Performance Friction Corporation. Through nearly 25 years with PFC, the company’s director of motorsports would become an ever-present character on pit lane and in the paddock where Dong’s warmth and exceptional intelligence made it easy for mechanics and drivers alike find optimum solutions with their braking systems.
It was Dong’s problem-solving capabilities where he proved to be an invaluable asset. Thanks to 20-year stint with braking component vendor Tilton Engineering prior to joining PFC, the amount of experience made available to his clients was unrivaled.
When the NTT IndyCar Series found a need to improve and replace the braking systems that came with its spec Dallara DW12 chassis in 2012, Dong was asked to develop a new PFC brake disc and hat package in 2017. Under his direction, the complete changeover to PFC was completed in 2018 with a new brake caliper; the system remains in use today.
“It’s hard to find anyone who was more dedicated to his craft and his love of IndyCar was second to none,” series president Jay Frye told RACER. “We are incredibly fortunate to have worked with Darrick. There is no question that our paddock was a benefactor of his lifelong passion. He will be missed.”
For their efforts, Dong and his PFC team were honored with the Louis H. Schwitzer Award for Engineering Innovation and Excellence at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 2017 Indy 500.
With the constant presence of Dong and his readily identifiable short and tidy hair, black sweater vest bearing the PFC logo, and dark sunglasses hanging from a strap around his neck, the Californian brought smiles to those who were fortunate to know him.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Darrick Dong,” said IMSA president John Doonan. “All of us in the IMSA family will keep Darrick and his loved ones in our thoughts and prayers. Darrick has been an ever-present fixture in the paddock and garage area no matter what series or event. From all the top-level series to the very grassroots races, Darrick defined ‘customer service’ and ‘technical support’ throughout his career.”
In recent years, with the need for marathon hospital visits to receive dialysis as his kidney problems escalated, Dong was forced to adjust his schedule as all-day treatments, often taking place seven days a week, prevented constant travel to look after PFC’s clients. Prior to joining IMSA, while serving as Mazda’s motorsports director, Doonan chose PFC to outfit some of its factory race cars, including its race-winning RT24-P DPi, and like many in the sport, came to rely on Dong’s immense skills and friendship.
“I had the opportunity to work with Darrick for many years on the race team and racer support side,” he added. “He only wanted success to be the result for his customers. Darrick’s decades of support to teams and drivers, his contributions to hundreds of race wins and championships, and the example he set when it came to his professionalism is something we should all learn from and emulate. Our sport lost another ‘all-star’ this week. Darrick, you will be missed.”