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By B. Scott Mohr
One of Derich Cutshaw’s first memories of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is cheering for Buddy Lazier to win the Indy 500. Fast-forward two decades and the 25-year-old is serving as the data engineer for Lazier’s car at at the IMS.
“This may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I’m enjoying it,” said Cutshaw, who is taking a brief leave from his normal job with Primus Racing, a team in the Formula 4 Series. “I’ll really be rooting for Buddy this year.”
He became acquainted with Lazier through Primus Racing as Lazier’s son, Flinn, raced for Primus earlier this year.
The deal almost didn’t come together. “I had told my bosses at Primus that there was a good chance that I could be on Buddy’s team,” Cutshaw said. But by Wednesday of last week he hadn’t heard anything and was thinking that the opportunity had fallen by the wayside. “Then I got the call at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The team had spent the earlier part of the week building the car. We didn’t run our first laps until Thursday.”
Although Cutshaw is charged with keeping tracking of fuel mileage and ensuring the engine is running correctly, “I think I’m capable of filling any role. I helped to develop the car’s setup, and I’m working closely with the engineers.
“I can pretty much tell by the data what Buddy is going to say after he makes a run.”
The main difference between IndyCars and F4 cars is the size. Because IndyCars are bigger, there are more processes to check out, said Cutshaw, who is one-half of the crew at Primus. His partner in crime is longtime friend Nick Denny, who serves as chief mechanic for Primus.
“You play a larger role on the small teams, and I like that,” said Cutshaw, who graduated from Franklin Central High School and IUPUI, where he earned a degree in motor sports engineering.
The role that the duo play at Primus is likely to expand. That’s because the owners are thinking about transferring ownership to Cutshaw and Denny in about three years.
“They see a lot of potential in us; they like what they see.”
Primus Racing competes six weekends out of the year with three races on each of those weekends.
“But there’s really not an offseason,” Cutshaw said. “We test in the winter and when we’re not racing.” However, the league sets a limit on testing to keep costs contained.
To keep their skills sharp, Cutshaw and Denny race go-karts and work on them whenever possible.
Lazier, who won the 1996 Indy 500, qualified 30th for Sunday’s race. His speed of 223.417 is about 9 mph slower than pole sitter Scott Dixon, but that’s not a problem for Lazier Racing Partners.
“We were running about 220 today (Monday); I know we have about 3 or 4 more miles per hour. Buddy is pretty happy with us. He is laid-back, and I enjoy working with him. He has a lot of faith that we will make the right decisions. He knows we will have a good race car Sunday.
“Our goal is to stay on the lead lap and finish the race. Realistically, a top-20 finish is achievable. I think Buddy is shooting for that. But anything is possible in racing.”
Cutshaw, son of Danny Cutshaw and Kathy Cutshaw and the brother of Rachel and Krystal, said the experience has been rewarding because his hard work, studies and knowledge are paying off.
After Sunday’s race, it’s back to Savannah, Ga., where he and Denny will resume testing on their Primus car.
Life on the road can become mundane. “You see the inside walls of a lot of hotel rooms and a lot of racetracks,” Cutshaw said. “You really have to want to do this. That’s what makes motor sports so special. The people really want to be here, and that makes it one of the most fun jobs in the world.”
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