Elma native Ron Ruzewski has experienced racing from the high banks of Holland Speedway to the pole at this year's Indianapolis 500 and now this weekend seeks success in the Indy Car Series Camping World Grand Prix here.
Ruzewski serves as the Race Engineer for Team Penske and the No. 3 machine of driver Helio Castroneves.
Castroneves turned in the fastest overall practice effort Friday afternoon at 134.622 mph (1:30.1192), giving Ruzewski and the team a large momentum boost for today's qualifying.
Ruzewski will often be found on top of the pit box during practices, qualifying sessions as well as race day, glaring into a computer monitor seeking to communicate key recommendations that could lead Castroneves to victory lane.
In nine races in 2007 Castroneves has one win (St. Petersburg) and four poles, including St. Petersburg; Motegi, Japan; Indianapolis and Milwaukee. He has three top fives and six top 10s this season. Last season, Ruzewski's first with the team, he and Castroneves racked up four wins, five poles and finished third in the IndyCar standings.
"I did nothing formal in local racing back home but I did stuff at Holland Speedway with the Limited Modifieds and Late Models," said Ruzewski, a 1986 graduate of Iroquois High School. "Some friends of mine next door had some other friends that drove, like Mike Fiebelkorn and [brothers] Jim and Dave Lutz. I tinkered around and worked on the cars with those guys a little bit."
Ruzewski graduated from Purdue University with a degree in industrial engineering and a few years later worked for nearly a decade in the world of snowmobiles for Yamaha.
"Obviously growing up in Western New York I have a huge desire for snowmobiles and I got the opportunity to go to work for Yamaha," said Ruzewski, 38, who now resides in Mooresville, N.C. "Ultimately I wanted to get back in racing.
"I guess over the years, I know a lot of people in racing such as Tim Cindric, who's now the president of Penske, and we kept in touch. I went to a race a couple of years ago and he asked me if I'd ever come back and I'd said if the opportunity was right I'd consider it. A while later they had an opening and he called me up and we talked and here I am.
"I look at various computer programs that I or the team together have done to help determine what to do next. I look at data collected as well as on-track telemetry and match it up with the driver's comments. You're trying to stay ahead of the curve."
Castroneves is pleased with Ruzewski.
"Ron's a great guy and he's been super starting last year and I will do everything I can to try to get him a win here," said Castroneves. "He's an incredible engineer and we work together extremely well. Ron's always digging a little bit more."
Ruzewski knows that there is much more work ahead, not just for the rest of this weekend but for the remainder of the year.
"We're not where we want to be in the championship right now [sixth] or wins but hopefully we'll turn it around in the next part of the season," he said. "It's my home race and it would mean a lot to win here. My parents come here and I get to see some people that I know."
Following Castroneves as second-best in practice was Target-Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon at 134.563 mph (1:30.1587). Dixon has won this race the last two years. . . . Venezuelan female driver Milka Duno is not participating this weekend because of "various reasons that were not anticipated," according to a statement.