Team Penske’s John Haslett takes True Grit award
Once the drama of Bump Day for the 97th Indianapolis 500 is complete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the team managers, crew chiefs, mechanics, truck drivers, et al always head for the C&R Racing suite in Gasoline Alley to celebrate one of their own, as Chris and Debbie Paulsen’s “True Grit” Award is announced.
The True Grit award, given during the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 weekends, celebrates the achievements of a long-standing member of each community, INDYCAR and NASCAR. In the Indy car ranks, it’s been given out to many of my favorite people in the paddock, including Kyle Moyer of Andretti Autosport, Mitch Davis (Ganassi Racing), Rick Long of Speedway Engines (which builds the Firestone Indy Lights engines), Penske Raing’s Rick Rinaman, AJ Foyt Racing’s Craig Baranouski, Owen Snyder Jr (who’s worked just about everywhere), former Newman/Haas employees Tim Coffeen, Tim Homberg, John Tzouanakis, the late Davey Evans… ah, I could name ’em all but you get the drift.
This year’s award, along with a $5000 check and plaque, went to John Haslett of Penske Racing. Haslett joined the team in 1981, fresh out of the military, and has been part of that crew ever since. That’s a long time! John has most recently worked in tire preparation for the No. 3 Penske entry driven by three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves; he also drives Roger Penske’s office/trailer, known as RP1 and is the back-up fueler for the pit crew.
Haslett always has a smile for everyone, no matter the pressure, and a great attitude, making him quite deserving of this award, which is given to a crew member who possesses “the ability to overcome adversity and embody the excellent qualities of such a highly skilled trade,” C&R Racing’s press release said.
“I started working in racing when I was just 22 years old,” Haslett said. “I was green as green can be, fresh out of the U.S. Navy. My first year at Indy, I was working on Bobby Unser’s car – we won that race and I have been hooked on racing ever since. It is the best feeling ever to help win the 500 for Roger Penske and I’m grateful to be acknowledged for all my efforts.”
Photo and Words By Anne Proffit