There are many backstories in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Race engineer Garrett Mothershead of Andretti Autosport is one of them.
The 52-year-old chief engineer for Marco Andretti has been around the INDYCAR paddock for quite some time, coming to the series in 1995 after working with a Trans-Am team. Mothershead first worked for Dick Simon Racing, which at the time was INDYCAR's version of Dale Coyne Racing: A small team that could make a lot happen.
After two years with Simon, Mothershead went to PPI to work on Toyota’s program. He joined Bobby Rahal’s CART team before moving over to Stefan Johansson’s Champ Car Series team. After that, he moved over to Team Cheever, working with driver Alex Barron.
From there, it was a six-year stint with KV Racing before moving over to Andretti Autosport, where he has worked with Andretti and Carlos Munoz.
“Marco and I have known each other for a long, long time, and we actually worked together in 2013,” Mothershead told NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “That was one of his better seasons.”
That was a season where Andretti started off fast with a podium finish in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg. After two seventh-place finishes at Barber and Long Beach, Andretti finished third on the streets of Sao Paulo and fourth in the Indianapolis 500.
Andretti had two more fourth place finishes at Toronto and Sonoma to give him 13 top-10 finishes in 19 NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts. Andretti led the points standings after the Indianapolis 500, was fourth in the standings entering the next-to-last race of the season and finished fifth in the standings in 2013.
That remains his best points season of his career that began in 2006.
Mothershead is hoping to devise a way to get Andretti better results.
“Naturally, he has a lot of energy and a lot of pressure he puts on himself,” Mothershead said. “The big thing for me is to relieve some of that pressure and try to deliver him a consistent product that will get the job done every week.
“The talent level has never been a question mark. It’s getting into trouble throughout the weekend and blind alleys and so forth.
“The biggest thing is consistency and getting off to a smooth start. He goes in spurts where he gets it. We just have to get into that groove and hold it there. The big thing we are going to focus on is Sunday and not get so tied up on the rest of the weekend. It’s about being consistent and delivering him a car where he can get it done again and again and again.”
As part of a five-car team, there are many advantages, and a few disadvantages, to other teams. There is much more data and engineering that can be shared. But what works for Alexander Rossi might not work for another driver.
“It’s a challenge and a lot of it, you apply your personal filters,” Mothershead said. “There is way more information than you can digest in a period of time.
“When you have a group this size and you have to get through five guys going through their debriefs, you learn to be very specific and get to the point.”
There is also not as much conversation because much of it is known, such as details about springs and settings and other details. It is more about getting involved in nuances of each car and each driver.
“If this sport was as simple as talent, then we would be running track (and field),” Mothershead said. “All you would need is a pair of shoes. But it is much more difficult than that.
“It’s about business. It’s about putting relationship and it’s about putting together your deal as a driver and as a team. This is a different sport than that. Part of the game is gathering those resources and putting them all together.”