First in a series looking at IZOD IndyCar Series championship runner-up Helio Castroneves through the eyes of those around him at and away from the racetrack. Today, engineer Jonathan Diuguid talks about a transformation.
Team Penske engineer Jonathan Diuguid says he generally knew what to expect when he plugged into IndyCar Series veteran racer Helio Castroneves for the 2013 season.
There's the room-illuminating personality, the professional who effuses passion and the driver seeking to further hone his race craft on the diverse set of circuits in an effort to claim first series title.
"We all sit in the same truck, so it wasn’t necessarily completely new," says Diuguid, who moved from race engineer for the No. 2 car with driver Ryan Briscoe to the No. 3 car to work with the three-time Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner.
That freed technical director Ron Ruzewski to look at the big picture of the two-car team and the 19-race season. Still, the transition was a bit of an eye-opener to Diuguid, who joined Penske Racing in 2005 as a member of the sports car team and was a data acquisition engineer for the 2010 and '11 seasons with Briscoe.
"Helio approached the season very open to setup suggestions and there was an open line of communication right away," said Diuguid, who worked with Castroneves for the first time during a February test at Sebring International Raceway. "A lot of times he comes up with ideas that he wants to try and sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t.
"That’s one of the biggest differences I saw is he’s started to concentrate on changes we’re making in the car and make suggestions during the season, especially on the street courses where the practice time is limited. His involvement with the setup of the car this year has helped a lot."
Strong results flowed throughout the season, with Castroneves the runner-up in the opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, winning at Texas Motor Speedway and posting 16 top-10 finishes overall. His bid for a series title fell 27 points shy to Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Team Penske will field a three-car team for the 18-race 2014 season with Juan Pablo Montoya joining Will Power and Castroneves. Though data is shared, each entry is encouraged to approach races with what works best for that particular driver.
"It’s one of the things I tried to do with Ryan last year and Helio this year," Diuguid said. "Because Will is strong on a lot of these courses it’s easy to get pulled into ‘Hey, what is Will doing?’ because he’s so strong. But Will drives differently from these two guys so what works for him may not necessarily work for them. We wanted to concentrate on having Helio describe what the car is doing, where’s he’s struggling and approach it from that aspect.
"His general focus this year (was to get) what he can get out of it and go on, which is a big difference from the past where he sometimes pushed too hard and made a mistake once or twice that affected his championship. The focus to know when not to take the risk is the biggest difference."