Perry Melneciuc has finished on the AMA Pro 250cc Grand Prix podium as a rider, he has worked as a factory mechanic for several manufacturers involved in AMA Pro Superbike racing, and as a team owner he has won the Daytona 200 – America’s most famous motorcycle road race.
Now, as of Sunday, May 30, Melneciuc can add Indianapolis 500 race winner to his resume as he was part of the pit crew that helped Helio Castroneves drive his AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda-powered car to victory in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.
“Everything went fantastic,” Melneciuc told Roadracingworld.com. “No drama in the pit stops. The strategy was perfect. Helio was the absolute master of knowing where to be when, and he was probably the best at maintaining the lap time that they wanted him to do as well as conserving fuel at the same time, which is really important to do. It saves time during the pit stops, because you’re adding less fuel, and at the end, you can use a different map that uses more fuel when other guys can’t do that.”
After a career racing in the AMA Pro 250cc Grand Prix class, including some visits to the podium, Melneciuc transitioned to being a professional mechanic and worked for some of the top factory AMA Superbike programs with Ducati, Honda, and Kawasaki.
Melneciuc then started his own race team called Project 1 Atlanta (P1A), got pole position for the 2011 Daytona 200 with Jake Zemke, and won the 2012 Daytona 200 with Joey Pascarella riding a P1A Yamaha.
During this same time period, Melneciuc kept having more and more contact with race teams located in Atlanta, Georgia, wanting his services, and he eventually joined Panoz Racing to work on the Panoz DeltaWing prototype in the American Le Mans Series.
After four years at Panoz, Melneciuc joined Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) as a fly-in mechanic working on its sports car program primarily as a mechanic and driver change assistant, a person who goes over the wall during pit stops to help with driver changes during long endurance races. In that role, Melneciuc helped MSR win the IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) Championships in 2019 and 2020 while also helping with the team’s growing IndyCar program.
In 2021, Melneciuc is working on Castroneves’ six-race IndyCar program as well as MSR’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship #60 Acura ARX-05 program.
During the 2021 Indianapolis 500, Melneciuc was part of the over-the-wall pit crew servicing Castroneves’ car during pit stops.
“My job was tear-offs,” said Melneciuc. “They came up with this new canopy for the cars to protect the drivers. There’s two windscreens, a left and a right, and there’s tear-offs on those. My job was to do the tear-offs.
“The car comes in, I take one step, lean over and grab the tear-offs, left and right, step back, don’t move, and it’s usually a five- to five-and-a-half-second pit stop for fuel and tires. The biggest thing was not to be in the way of the front tire changer or the fueler. It’s pretty tight because there’s three of us in that small area, but I’m really lucky with long legs and long arms.”
Asked which gave him a better feeling, winning the Indy 500 or winning the Daytona 200, Melneciuc said, “I have such a smaller part in the outcome in the IndyCar thing because there’s just so many people [18 crew members] for one car. So, I have to say the Daytona 200 win because I was more in control of steering the ship, if that makes sense.
“Here, I had a job, and I executed my job just like everyone else. But doing the Daytona 200, Kellee [Melneciuc’s wife] and I were more in charge of all the little pieces and making sure that they all fit.
“I hate to say it, because they say the Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world, but for me winning the Daytona 200 was more special.
“You guys know my heart’s in two wheels. I love it. I dig it. I wish I could still ride. I’m too old now. I wish I could still be involved. But this is the next best thing.”
For those wanting to follow Melneciuc, he said he will be in action again this coming weekend during the IMSA races in Detroit and his next IndyCar race with Castroneves will be in Nashville, Tennessee, in August.