Two Olympic bobsled members will crew Buddy Lazier’s car in Indy 500

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You might remember back in February during this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics that David Cripps, veteran Verizon IndyCar Series engineer, went to work for the U.S. Men’s National Bobsled team.

Cripps is now working with Buddy Lazier and Lazier Partners Racing this month, as engineer of that car. And he’s bringing two of his bobsled teammates with him.

Abe Morlu, from Boone, North Carolina, and Dallas Robinson, from Georgetown, Kentucky, join the LPR effort this month. Robinson competed in the Sochi Winter Olympics in both 2-Man and 4-Man bobsled competition. Morlu has competed in several world championship bobsled events. As a world-class sprinter, Morlu has also competed in two Summer Olympic games for Liberia, where he was born.

During the race, both will be over-the-wall crew members during the race on the No. 91 University of Iowa Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research Chevrolet. Morlu will change the right-rear tire and Robinson will refuel the car.

Additionally, both took two-seater rides with Mario Andretti on Monday, to gauge and compare the experience between being in a bobsled and in a car.

“That two-seater ride was awesome,” Morlu said, via IndyCar PR. “I got to take it with Mario Andretti too. You can’t ask for anything better. It was great. Those cars have so much downforce and so much grip. I was trying to check out the line Mario was driving. I play it on a lot of simulators and after getting to see the line from Mario I want to play the game again so I can break my record.”

That’s only the start for Morlu, as he plans to tackle one of racing’s most challenging feats next year.

“I am going to race Pikes Peak next year on a motorcycle – the race to the top,” he said. “So, this experience really got me ready for it. I was second guessing it, but going that fast in a car with Mario, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to do this.'”

Added Robinson, “The two-seater with Andretti was wild. I am very used to feeling vertical g’s pushing me down. In a bobsled you get five vertical g’s. But the lateral G’s in an IndyCar are something else. Vertical g’s push you down, with lateral g’s you are coming out through the side. You feel as though the back of the car, at any second, is going to come out. It’s amazing how tight they can handle. It was an amazing experience.

“I kept trying to lift my head up to look over Mario. That worked until we hit about 180 (mph) I was thinking I needed to put my head down. I thought, at any second, the back was going to come out. I’m going to be looking at Mario from the side at some point. It was pretty amazing.”

Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, is the oldest driver in this year’s field at age 46 and starts 33rd. But that sells short the team’s effort – it’s one of only two single-car entries in the race, and the lone Indianapolis-only team in the field. Lazier qualified at more than 227 mph.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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