Pole to Podium: David Fitzgerald – Truckie, Fueler and Proud Canadian
Words: David Barr
David Fitzgerald is one of the nicest and most entertaining people you’ll find in INDYCAR. Many people in the pits and around the paddock have no idea that is name is David because everyone knows him as Foggy (after the cartoon chicken Foghorn Leghorn) which fits him perfectly. The long-time motorsports veteran fills many roles for Harding Steinbrenner Racing and for the first time in a long while he is solely dedicating himself to one team with one goal in mind – to win.
DB: You came upon your love of motor racing honestly with so much history around you at an early age.
Foggy: My uncle was a driver in the 1970s and was the second Canadian to run the Indianapolis 500 (Eldon Rasmussen). He built the car for Billy Foster from Vancouver who was the first to race at Indy. He built his cars so he could race the 500. I was 12 when I started helping and going to Indy. It just blossomed into a career.
DB: In recent years you have spent over 300 days a year on the road working different series. Now you are a part of the Harding Steinbrenner team for the rest of the season. What’s that like for you?
Foggy: You know, I have just been doing contract work lately. But with Colton I want to win again. They’ve (HSR) been chasing me all year to come but I had commitments with other teams. Some of those commitments were broken so that opened my schedule.
DB: Coming to a team mid-season means there could be some chemistry issues. Camaraderie with that team on and off the track is important right?
Foggy: I know almost everybody in this series. So, when I jumped into this team, I knew the guys. Guys I’ve worked with on this team – I have worked with five guys before. I’m 53. We’re an older team. Everybody knows what to do because you’ve done it for so long. If something does go crazy, everyone reacts. There’s no thinking just reacting. You know what the other guys going to do. I’m here all weekend. I’ll do practice on Friday; I’ll do some plugins in each practice session. I’ll plug in, just to get used to Colton and how he comes in that’s the toughest part is on the driver comes in and then when I go out and how they hit their marks.
DB: How do you practice being a fueler? How important is it to get some time with the driver?
Foggy: I’ve just done it for so long. that it’s just natural. I’ve done it where I was flown in on a Sunday morning, working with a racecar driver I’ve never even seen before, the first time I plugged in was the race. The driver relationship is important and something I can pick up in practice. Some drivers I’ve worked with are all over the place. They never hit their marks. When you have to wait that little extra, you know, a tenth or half a second to see where he’s going to stop can make or break a pit stop.
DB: When you plug in, how do you know when to stop and when not to stop? Are you counting in your head? How do you know?
Foggy: When we’re doing a full-fill, there’s a tube to that’s right near the car. And I’m watching that tube. As soon as the fuel starts coming out of the vents I pull. Then for two or three second fills they hit me with a hockey stick. And then I unplug.
DB: A hockey stick? A fueler from Canada? Who would have thought?
Foggy: I played hockey on my life. The stick is actually my daughters first stick!
DB: Fueler is just one of many things that you do for HSR. What’s a typical day like for you week of a race and weekend of?
Foggy: When we get to track in the morning, I do my trucking duties first. I make sure everything’s clean; everything is set up – ice and the coolers, drinks. Then it started getting tires ready, taking tire pressures and two sets of tires for a session maybe have a third one out there and then I give them what I call a suntan, you know, heating the tires.
I come back to the trailer, set up the pit lane, I get all of the guns, hoses, just make sure all the equipment is moved up, ready to go and then if I have to go get lunch, I need to figure out where lunch is and how to pick it up or something else to go get it you know, the Truckie knows kind of everything. It’s like Groundhog Day, every day is kind of the same thing but by doing this routine you help and try to eliminate mistakes and eliminate things breaking.
DB: Truckie equals roadie.
Foggy: Exactly! There are guys in a series who have been roadies in the music industry before they became Truckies. And one guy was a Truckie for 20 -years and he’s now the manager for Foo Fighters on the road. I have a buddy that’s the equipment manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL. You’re the first at the track or arena and the last to leave.
DB: It’s got to be cool to be in Toronto this week for you. I know you’re from Calgary, but you have family and friends on this side of the country. Let’s do a true or false about Canadians as we get ready for the Indy Honda Toronto.
DB: Canadians have a closet full of flannel.
Foggy: Definitely on the eastern side of Canada. Yeah.
DB: The other half the country has a closet full of denim.
DB: In the United States, the favorite condiment is probably like ketchup or hot sauce. Is maple syrup the favorite condiment of all Canadians?
DB: What is the craziest thing you’ve put maple syrup on?
Foggy: Ice cream.
DB: All Canadians are really nice people.
Foggy: Yeah! Of course!