1983 Scecina grad helps Castroneves win 4th Indianapolis 500

Spread the love

Scecina alumnus Dave Sego ’83 was the Turn-3 spotter for Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves at the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. (submitted photo)










By Steve Heath, Special to Scecina

For Scecina Memorial High School grad Dave Sego, this past month of May was like no other.

He was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as usual, and working as a spotter for an IndyCar team, as he has done for over 20 years. But 2021 was extra special.

The 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be one he will never forget.

“It was like a fairy tale,” said Sego, a 1983 Scecina grad.

Sego was the Turn-3 spotter for Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves, who became just the fourth driver in history to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing four times.

On the 2.5-mile IMS oval, spotters are used in Turn 1 and Turn 3. Sego was stationed in Turn 3 at a designated area at the top of the grandstands located in the center of the turn.

A spotter is the driver’s eye-in-the-sky. Through radio communication, the spotter relays important information of what is happening on the track.

‘An awesome dude’

Castroneves has been an IndyCar fan favorite for years and achieved even more fame after winning Season 5 of “Dancing With The Stars.” Sego said Castroneves is every bit the persona seen on television.
“A super guy,” Sego said of the four-time 500 champ. “What you see is really who he is. It’s not made up. He’s an extremely genuine person.
“We went to the victory dinner (the Monday after the race) and, after everyone left, he brought all the people out of the kitchen. The servers, bartenders, he brought everyone that prepared the catering out to the start-finish line and took his picture with them. He’s just an awesome dude.”

Sego began spotting in 2000, when he linked up with friend Mark Dismore, who started seven Indy 500s from the mid-90s to early 2000s.

Sego, who runs Dave Sego Builders Inc., in Greenfield, Ind., got to know Dismore when he built the driver’s home.

Along with Dismore, Sego has worked with two-time winner Al Unser Jr. and, most recently, with drivers from Schmidt-Peterson Racing.

This was the first time in his 20-plus years he’s spotted for the race winner. He had come close in 2001, spotting for Dismore, who was leading the race until “he had a $2 part break,” Sego said.

Ironically, that was the year Castroneves won his first Indy 500.

Bob Perona, who is the driving coach and in charge of spotters for Meyer-Shank Racing, called Sego in September and told him they were going to have Castroneves driving for them in this year’s 500. He wanted Sego to be one of the spotters.

Sego had worked with Perona when Meyer-Shank was a technical partner with Schmidt-Peterson. The Meyer-Shank team is now aligned with Andretti Autosport.

“(Schmidt-Peterson) understood that this was an opportunity to work with a legend,” Sego said.

Mears was previous Turn-3 spotter

In his three previous wins, Castroneves drove for Penske Racing and had four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears as his Turn-3 spotter.

As a working partner, Sego said Castroneves was much like working with Dismore and Unser Jr. He called him an “old-school” racer

“He wanted important information, quick. Not a full conversation,” Sego said. “He wanted just to give him good information. When he was passing a car, he wanted to hear it when he was clear, and that’s really all he wanted to hear.

“When there was a wreck right in front of him in Turn 2, I told him, ‘Yellow, go low, go low, go low.’ We’re his eyes in the sky. What he can’t see. When somebody’s catching him from behind, and moving up on him, he just wanted me to give him information that he can’t see.”

Sego said there was one brief instance where he turned into a fan. Castroneves had just made a gutsy mid-race pass in Turn 3 on Conor Daly. After he cleared his driver, he had to add a “Nice!’

Which got a response of “Copy” from the race winner.

Though similar in the information needed, Castroneves was different from other drivers he has worked with in his pre-race approach.

Helio just wants to have fun

Sego said most drivers, on race day, like to be by themselves. That wasn’t the case with Castroneves.

“I walked him to the garage on Sunday at about 8:30 in the morning. I put all my stuff together and he came in about five minutes after I did, comes over to me, fist bumps me and says, ‘Look, we’re going to have some fun today. It’s all about having fun.’

“I’ve never been with a driver that was so upbeat. Most drivers on race day, they don’t want to talk to anybody. They don’t want to see anybody. They go hide. He comes up, and says, ‘We’re going to have fun today. It’s all about having fun.’”

As those that watched the race know, it was quite a battle to the checkered flags. Castroneves was fighting for position with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who was in just his second Indy 500. They traded the lead late before Castroneves took the lead for good with two laps to go.

“We had a strategy meeting at 10 o’clock in the morning before the race. It was two engineers, myself, the (Turn 1) spotter, Helio and the crew chief. We went over the race strategy, what we wanted to do.

“We didn’t want to lead the race. We wanted to stay in the top 3. We wanted to draft. We wanted to save fuel, make our last pit stops quicker and shorter. And, then, Helio said, ‘With two to go, I want to be the leader.’ And, with two to go, is when he became the leader. He did exactly what he said he was going to do.”

Exciting final laps

Though it went as planned, it didn’t take away the excitement of the final laps.

“The last two laps were pretty intense,” Sego said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of talking. It was pretty clean. I was talking more to the spotters next to me that were in front of us more so than Helio. I was telling them to get out of our way. We’re coming, don’t hold us up.

“I was calm as can be. Everyone was asking me if I was nervous. I wasn’t a bit nervous.”

It was just like Castroneves and the team orchestrated. It was a “fun day,” and an extremely fun month for the long-time spotter.

“We were packing up and leaving on Monday (after the race), I thought, it’s going to be really hard to top this weekend,” Sego added. “The weather was perfect. The car, they never made an adjustment the whole race, it was that good. The whole month was flawless.”


« Back to News