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Meet the Crew: Matt Giese

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Matt Giese

Meet the Crew: Matt Giese

Tom Blattler
Ed Carpenter Racing
June 8, 2013

Matt Giese
June 8th 2013 - MATT GIESE, Logistics Coordinator

The Georgia native, who grew up in Illinois, worked with sprint cars for nine years before working for sprint car racing legend Steve Kinser on the World of Outlaws national circuit…. Most recently, Giese has been a member of Team Penske on the Charlotte-based IZOD IndyCar Series team…. Giese is a member of ECR’s "over the wall” crew during pit stops, handling the fueler position.

How did you get into racing?

"My uncle owned sprint cars and I started as a teenager helping his team with driver Randy Kinser on the weekends back when Indiana and Illinois had winged sprint car racing. We would travel around southern Illinois and southern Indiana. I did that since I was a little kid. My uncle quit racing then and a few years later I joined Steve Kinser’s team to help his son, Kraig’s, World of Outlaws program. That was my first professional racing gig, getting paid back in 2003. As a kid, I followed the sprint cars and our family went to the Haubstadt, Ind., dirt track a lot. I grew up in West Salem, Ill., so we did a lot of trips in the cars and trucks to the races. But I was an IndyCar fan too. I went to my first Indy 500 in 1991. I worked for the newspaper in the local county as a kid because my uncle owned the paper. I did photography and even some sports writing. I worked there from 14 to 21 years old. My dad was a mechanic and my mom was a teacher."

Wow, that is a big jump from local racing to the World of Outlaws circuit, how was that?

"It was straight to the Outlaws tour and I did about everything… driving the truck, general mechanic and anything that was needed. On that tour, everyone does everything. Once we did 117 racing shows in one year. The most I ever did in one year. That is counting North America and Australia. I went from Lonnie Parsons’ car out of Des Moines, Iowa with Tim Shaffer driving. I still follow the Outlaws closely and have a lot of friends on that circuit."

When did you get into IndyCar racing ?

"I joined Penske Racing at the end of the 2006 season. I went to Australia with Joey Saldana for the sprint cars and Joey’s dad, Joe Saldana, is Tim Cindric’s godfather. So Tim called me and he needed some help with the truck driving and pit stops. I was with Penske from the end of 2006 to the end of 2011 before I came to Ed’s team. I was on Sam Hornish’s car in 2007 and Ryan Briscoe’s car from 2008 to 2011. Roger was calling the shots on Ryan’s car back then. He would be the one telling the driver when to leave the pit box. Roger wanted that responsibility over the crew guys and I could understand that. Knock on wood, I’ve never been caught on fire or run over on a pit stop. Briscoe was really good on pit stops. He was spot on. He hit his marks every time. I knew I could plug the hose in every time.”

What was the biggest win for you at Penske?

"I’d say Texas in 2009. That was a good race and Ryan was outstanding that day.”

How did you get the opportunity with Ed Carpenter Racing?

"Derrick (Walker) called me first. I had basically left Penske at that point and I was looking around anyway. I talked with Andretti, but Tim (Broyles) had come to Ed’s team at that point too. I was getting married at the time and I was in Jamaica at the time. So I didn’t have a chance to get up to Indy right away. So after my honeymoon, I looked at my phone and it was Derrick again. So that is how I came to ECR. Ed is a good driver and an old sprint car guy.”

How is it being a fueler on an IndyCar team?

"I actually was thrown into the position at Penske because the previous fueler had left. But I was able to do a lot of practice. It’s basically a Go or no Go situation as a fueler. It was tough at first but I was able to work through any troubles. The thing at Penske is they do a lot of practice and that is how I learned. The real trick to fueling is that it is finesse rather than brute strength which a lot of people get confused. Being taller is an advantage (6’4”). On the old car, it was a big deal. But with the new Dallara, it does help. It’s the way the under tray sticks out from underneath the car. And being taller helps you because you can’t get as close to the car now. I put my foot underneath the under tray. But you can’t leave it there because your foot will get smashed when the crew drops the car. This new car is so much wider now.”

Do you need to be athletic to do the fueling now?

"The hose is about 100 pounds. But the key to the job is more about your feet than your hands. The foot work is a big deal on fueling. People don’t really see that because it happens so quickly. For a full 18 and a half gallons, it takes just over six seconds. The new car doesn’t fill as quickly as the old car right now. The fuel and tires now are about the same time for the pits. So if you have a miscue, people will see it. In high school, I played all of the sports. We had a small school, only about 300. So I played football, basketball and baseball. In football, I played outside tackle on offensive and defensive end and long snapper. I was a power forward in basketball and first base in baseball. We made it to the playoffs in football in 1997, 98 and 99. Prior to that, we hadn’t won a game in nine years. In basketball, we made it to the Super Sectional. We got to play in Champaign in Assembly Hall. So that was neat.”

Let’s talk about driving the truck. It has to be tiring?

"Yes, it is tiring. Legally we can only drive 11 hours per day. I don’t really mind the driving. It is tough sometimes with the monotony. But I have been pulling some kind of race car since 1995. So I am used to it. Even when we race locally, we raced three nights a week and sometimes four nights. We won three track championships in one year with my uncle’s car. We used to have tracks within 300 or 400 miles of our home. So we went a lot of places when I young. It was a great experience for a kid like me. I still love that kind of racing. Of course, I’m glad I came to Ed’s team. The win at Fontana last year was really great. And the pole at Indy was awesome too.”

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