Thirteen Indy 500 entries are set to participate in Friday’s Pit Stop Competition, and once its over, a lesser known tradition will take place in Gasoline Alley.
“What used to happen was, we had a whole garage-wide mechanics party, and a few good people tried to pick up it, but it went away,” IndyCar technical director Kevin ‘Rocket’ Blanch told RACER. “So five or six years ago, I thought, ‘let’s just try to do a giveaway for the pit crew that participate in the pit stop show’. So I started talking to everybody that might have some interest and Firestone, Chevy, Honda, all the teams, they all jumped on board. Then they got their sponsors to help out. The first year, we had $27,000 in giveaways. Second year, we got that to $47,000, and the last year before COVID, we got to $52,000 worth of stuff.”
With the return of full crowds and full participation in the Pit Stop Competition, Blanch says the response from prize donors has been remarkable and he hopes more will join in to expand the offerings inside the 54 piles set aside for the tire changers on each car and an extra helping or two for the winners.
“We’ve had some mechanics walking out of there with $5,000 worth of stuff, so we just want to keep growing that amount because they all deserve it,” Blanch said of gift piles laid out in a secured garage.
“Thomas Decker from United Race Parts, who does all the wheel guns and hoses for everybody, he decided to take one of these $8,000 wheel guns, paint it gold, and call it the Golden Gun giveaway, and that’s only one of the great things people are doing. Mission Foods is sending a ton of items. Firestone’s giving away sets of tires. Honda have us a generator to give away. We have tons of gift cards. Some people have given us cash to put in the piles.
“Jimmie Johnson’s all in with gear. Scott Dixon, too, and more drivers and teams are putting in a bunch of stuff. I’ve got a helmet that was signed by everybody that ran in the Grand Prix. I’ll get one from the whole starting field at the 500 signed. I got a green chair from up in the Turn 1 bleachers with the authenticity plaque on it, and I had Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt and Helio [Castroneves] sign it. AMR has given us a 70-inch television to give away. Ed Carpenter brought $500 gift bags from Sonax and then they just came over today and gave us another $1,000 worth of gift cards. I could go on all day.”
For some of the more valuable items like the Honda generator and signed chair, Blanch will hold a raffle to give the 50-plus mechanics an equal shot at scoring the biggest prizes.
“There are some big things in there for them to take home, so some of the luckier ones will get some really good stuff,” he said. “I think we’ll be over $60,000 of giveaways when we’re done.”