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MP: A Brief History

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I grew up in Northern California as the son of an Arkansas-born British and Swedish car mechanic who enjoyed building race cars and driving them in amateur events on the weekends. Many of my earliest memories–somewhere around 1974 or 1975–involve motor races at Sears Point, Laguna Seca, and an amazing childhood spent around the sport I’d eventually turn into a profession.

In 1986 or so (above, in awesome shorts), I started helping a family friend, Mike McHugh, who raced locally and in the SCCA Pro Super Vee series, where my introduction to open-wheel racing as a young and talentless mechanic began. I somehow transitioned that apprenticeship into paying jobs as a racecar mechanic in the Bay Area, got my first gig with a pro team at Sears Point in 1989, and went on an amazing ride for more than a decade. I also loved photography and brought my Canon AE-1 on every trip. The reason I have thousands of shots from participating in IndyCar, IMSA, and SCCA events from 1986 on, and so few of myself from that era, is I was on the wrong side of the lens…

From my time with McHugh in Super Vee, I’d work my way up through the junior open-wheel ranks as a mechanic, assistant engineer, assistant data engineer, and other general roles before graduating to IndyCar. That first introduction came in the Indy Racing League in 1997, followed by a brief spell in CART, and by the end of the 2001 IRL season–having spent half my adult life on the road, and with five Indy 500s under my belt in engineering or managerial roles–I wanted something different.

That ‘something different’ eventually led me to college, marriage, and my new career as a motor racing writer, reporter, and photographer. 2016 marks my 30th year in the sport and only on rare occasion has it felt like a job. Yes, I’m damn fortunate.

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Assembling the Tiga Formula Ford my father bought in crates for $3K. He then took the 1600cc Kent motor out of my stepbrother’s Ford Capri, and voila, we had a running FF…
2001 IRL, at an oval I don't recall, with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
2001 IRL, at an oval I don’t recall, with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
My first Indy 500 in 1997 with the great Angelo Ferro, owner of Genoa Racing.
My first Indy 500 in 1997 with the great Angelo Ferro, owner of Genoa Racing. I found the beret at a local thrift shop for a dollar and refused to take the thing off all month…

 

 

 

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Marshall Pruett