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Different Types of High Speed Machine (and Operators) at Mazak

Will Power, IndyCar Series point leader, speaks to Mazak employees at the company’s Florence, Kentucky facility last Thursday.

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Will Power, IndyCar Series point leader, speaks to Mazak employees at the company’s Florence, Kentucky facility last Thursday.

Last Thursday, Mazak treated employees at its Florence, Kentucky Production-on-Demand manufacturing facility to a meet and greet with two of Team Penske’s IZOD IndyCar Series drivers. Luckily, I got to tag along. After touring the plant with Mazak president Brian Papke, drivers Will Power and Ryan Briscoe spoke to the employees and mingled with them afterwards, signing autographs, answering questions and posing for photos near one of the team’s sleek black cars.

Team Penske was in town for last Saturday’s Kentucky Indy 300 held just south of Mazak’s facility in Sparta at the Kentucky Speedway. Mazak has been a technology sponsor of Team Penske since 1994. The relationship is rooted in NASCAR, but has spread to include support of the team’s IndyCar efforts. Team Penske relies on Mazak equipment to produce key IndyCar components such as throttle return spring guides, front wing adjusters, remote clutch bleeders, suspension adjusting parts and brake balancing parts.

So how’d the blokes do at the race (both hail from Australia)? During qualifying, Power’s 217.829-mph average lap speed earned him a starting position on the outside of row 1. Briscoe qualified well, too, taking the 9th spot. Interestingly enough, it was another Team Penske driver, Helio Castroneves, who won the race. Power’s strong eighth-place finish, however, enabled him to hold on to the IndyCar Series points lead with only two races remaining on the schedule. Unfortunately for Briscoe, contact on lap 79 forced him out of the race.

I wonder how many average race fans realize the role that advanced machining technologies and practices play in the crazy-fast performance of today’s race cars. My guess is that not many do, even though they should. But a bigger question remains: Why can’t I have a name as cool as Will Power?