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Sam Memmolo


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was founded in 1906 by Carl Fischer, a pioneering auto dealer. Most folks will recall the first race at Indy as being the 1911 Race on May 30th of that year, won by Ray Harroun. That was the first 500, but in reality, the first race was on August 19, 1909. This race was only 5 miles long, and was won by Louis Schwitzer in front of 12,000 spectators.

World War I disrupted the race schedule and then the depression of the 1930’s took its toll on auto racing in general. When the United States entered World War II, the race was cancelled until 1946. The Indianapolis 500 has been run every year since 1946 without interruption. In order to really grasp the unbelievable aura of the Indianapolis 500, one must be there and experience it all first hand.

The month of May is a special time in the city of Indianapolis. Some of the world’s finest race cars and racing teams descend upon the city for the annual running of the world’s largest motor racing spectacle, the famed Indianapolis 500 run at the “Brickyard”. People from all over the world come here for pre-race festivities, and the city is alive with race fans, teams, and spectators. There is an almost month long party leading up to this Memorial Day weekend classic.

Sam & Diana experienced their first “Indy 500” in 1994, and had an incredible time as Sam & his co-host took their “Shadetree Mechanic” 1923 Total Performance T-bucket through the city streets as they drove in the famous Indianapolis 500 Parade. They shared this parade with lots of racing greats like Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser Sr., and tons of celebrities.

They also got to see their first Indianapolis 500 from some great seats just above the pits.

Now it was time to return to “Indy” for a look at behind the scenes pre-race activities. In May of 2006 Sam traveled to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on behalf of Two Guy’s Garage to visit his friends at Lincoln Electric. Lincoln has been the official welder of The Indianapolis 500 the last 16 years. Lincoln Electric provides the services of some of the best welders in the world to assist the IRL teams with trackside repairs.

In years past, teams were allowed to weld in the pits using their own talent and equipment. That was inherently dangerous due to all the flammable fuels and materials in close proximity. Several years ago, the inevitable fire occurred in the pits as a result of sparks from the welding process. That fire prompted track officials to institute a ruling for safety’s sake. The ruling designated that all welding would take place in one specially designated area of the garages, and no welding was allowed in the pits, or anywhere else on track property.

Lincoln Electric and Indiana Oxygen set up a garage specifically designed to handle that task. Over the years, the Lincoln Welding / Indiana Oxygen Garage has become one of the tracks “Must Visit” and “Most Popular” spots, and of course a great place to hang out with some of the sports past and current legends. This was truly a privilege and an honor to be invited to “hang out” with the “Greats” of auto racing.

Sam & Bryan, (the director of Two Guys Garage TV show on “SPEED”), were assigned the job of shooting a complete Two Guys Garage TV show there. This show allowed Sam & Bryan to bring the viewers a “behind the scenes” look at how Lincoln Electric and their people assist some of the world’s best racing crews in maintaining and repairing these precision race cars. The only sad part was that Sam had to leave his close friend and TV co-host Dave McBride back at the Two Guy’s Garage to hold down the fort.

Once they arrived in Indianapolis, Sam & Bryan were met at the airport by Kevin Judge, vice-president of Sales and Marketing of Brenton Productions, and whisked off to an incredible dinner with the staff from Lincoln Electric.
Mickey Holmes (Lincoln Electric’s Motorsports Marketing Guru) was a gracious host, and his staff did a wonderful job of selecting the perfect meal.

It was a working dinner as they discussed the shoot schedule for the following day. There Sam was able to meet some of the new people on staff, as well as old friends like Wyatt, Dennis, and Carl. Sam also managed to get through an entire dinner without getting anything on his shirt. Probably a new personal world’s record for him.

Early the next morning, Sam, Bryan and Kevin made their way to the track. It was cool and misty, as much of the month had been so far. The many days of rainy weather delayed lots of testing and practice, so race teams were making the best of the inclement weather by tuning and adjusting their race cars. Upon arrival at the garage, Bryan swung into action setting up lights and all the other necessary TV gear, as Sam relaxed, looked over all the welding gear, and drank coffee with the guys.

Now it was show time! Wyatt Swaim of Tigdepot.com, and Dennis Klingman, the manager of Technical Training Welding Technology Center for Lincoln are two of the best in the business. They, along with Carl, Mickey, and a group of consummate professionals run an organization that provides incredible welding expertise and experience to the IRL Teams. In concert with the aforementioned folks, Dave Upton at Indiana Oxygen makes all these magic tricks possible with a constant refueling of highest quality welding / shielding gases, and welding supplies. It‘s always a pleasure to see the synergy of two great partners in action.

During the show, Sam & Bryan worked with Dennis and Wyatt as they welded up some Inconel Headers, and a host of other exotic metals as race team members scrambled for last minute modifications and repairs. All of this for absolutely no charge! Wyatt even made Sam a belt buckle, welded up in style, and then polished to perfection! Talk about a signature!

There was even an entire Indy Car in the garage for some welding. These cars are truly an art form, as well as very sophisticated machinery sporting lots of lightweight and exotic materials.

Here’s how it works in the welding garage. Teams can bring parts over for welding repairs or modifications. Sometimes the welders are even called upon to fabricate entire components like an oil tank or maybe even some type of cooler.

Parts are welded on a first come first serve basis on the bench, but all bench work comes to a screeching halt when a team rolls in a complete car. Dennis, Wyatt, Carl, and whoever else is on duty will stop what they are doing on the bench, and then jump right on the car, so the team can get the car back to their respective race garage for other tweaking and preparation.

Normally working at a quick pace, Dennis and Wyatt were slowed down by Sam’s constant barrage of questions, as they took their time explaining and demonstrating each process. Sam could never hope to find better mentors or teachers. They were slowed even to the point where Al Unser Sr. came by to see what was going on. Al questioned what we had been doing and why it was taking so long. He took a couple of humorous verbal shots at everyone involved, and we all had a great laugh. Sam took full responsibility for slowing production down.

Sam admitted that although he had an incredible learning experience, he had a very long way to go when it comes to that kind of welding skill. He also vowed to attend more of Lincoln Electric’s Motorsports welding seminars.
That may be easier now that Lincoln Electric has opened a new distribution and training center near Atlanta.

With Bryan’s direction, and Lincoln’s expertise, the camera was able to capture some great scenes of experts at work. This episode of Two Guys Garage gives viewers a look behind the scenes of one of racing’s greatest events. Sam also tried to be on his best behavior so he would be invited back next year! It was one of those lifetime experiences that he will never forget!

Be sure to check Two Guys Garage website for airdates and times, or go to “Speed’s” website.

www.TwoGuysGarage.com    www.SpeedTV.com

A special thanks to Jenny Ogborn of Lincoln Electric’s Photographic and Creative Services for the terrific photos accompanying this story.

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