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IndyCar engineer contributes to U.S. bobsled squad

Feb 3, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

Steve Holcomb, Chris Fogt AP

An open-wheeled IndyCar and a streamlined bobsled may seem worlds apart, but for David Cripps – a former engineer for IndyCar Series team Panther Racing that’s now helping the U.S. bobsled team in Sochi – his new job isn’t much different from his old one.

“My responsibilities are very similar to an IndyCar race engineer. I am basically responsible for the performance, reliability, development and day-to-day running of the sleds,” Cripps told IndyCar’s official website ahead of training runs in Russia. “There has been a fairly large amount of development upgrades coming up to the Games.”

Cripps knows a thing or two about making things go fast. He helped take Panther’s No. 4 National Guard Honda (now Chevrolet) to four consecutive runner-up finishes in the Indianapolis 500 from 2008-2011 with three different drivers – Vitor Meira (2008), late two-time “500″ champion Dan Wheldon (2009-10), and American racer J.R. Hildebrand (2011).

And he’s not the only IndyCar Series link to the U.S. bobsled effort. Richard Laubenstein, a former member of Penske Racing’s legendary open-wheel team, works directly with Cripps as a sled technician. Another IndyCar team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, has provided steering upgrades for six of the team’s two-man sleds.

Steven Holcomb and Co. will be searching for the first U.S. Olympic medal in the two-man competition since 1952 in addition to trying to defend their four-man gold from Vancouver in 2010.

Cripps’ move into the world of winter sports began after leading a tour of Panther’s garage at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park in 2012 for officials from USA Luge. That led to Panther installing telemetry on one of the luge sleds for a test in early 2013 at Lake Placid, New York.

Then, after officially parting ways with Panther last June, Cripps became a permanent member of the U.S. team through the Olympics. So far, he’s enjoyed what he calls the “invigorating challenge” that’s come with learning a new form of racing.

“So far, this has been an amazing adventure and the best is yet to come,” he added. “It truly has been an honor to work with such an amazing group of athletes and coaches. Their level of effort and dedication is commendable. I think we will be assembling one of the strongest pit crews ever for this year’s Indy 500.”

The bobsled competition begins Feb. 16 at the Sanki Sliding Center, with medal events on Feb. 17 (two-man), Feb. 19 (women’s), and Feb. 23 (four-man). As for the IndyCars, they’ll return to NBCSN on Apr. 13 with their second race of the season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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