By Steve Wittich
If a Thursday night Dale Coyne Racing team-building event is any indication of things to come this weekend, Sebastien Bourdais has not lost his competitive streak during his nine-race layoff.
After 18 grueling holes on the challenging North Course at Gateway Fun Park, Bourdais and Larry Zelesnik, the team’s sub-assembly specialist, found themselves tied at the top of the Dale Coyne Racing First Annual Mini-Golf Classic leaderboard.
Suggestions of an air hockey match, a Skee-Ball tournament, and a round of Pop-A-Shot to determine the winner of the inaugural Ed Jones Cup were rejected by tournament organizer Karina Redmond, and despite the encroaching darkness, Zelesnkik and Bourdais would decide this battle in a sudden death playoff on the links.
After the playoff was announced, a throng of onlookers, who were clearly in Zelesnik’s camp, quickly surrounded the difficult first hole.
Bourdais chose to go first, his deftly struck tee-shot was straight and true, and his ball travelled up and over a hill directly towards the cup. The driver’s ball travelled directly over the cup, bounced off the back wall and tracked back towards the hole. Just as Bourdais began to raise his arms as it looked like he’d score a coveted hole-in-one, his ball stopped short.
With the door flung wide-open for a potential first-hole victory, Zelesnik confidently addressed his ball and smoothly stroked his putt towards the cup. Similar to Bourdais’ shot before him, Zelesnik’s ball tracked towards the hole, bouncing over the cup, and bouncing off the back wall. Unlike Bourdais’ shot, Zelesnik’s ball travelled the entire distance to the cup, dropping into the hole as the crowd cheered loudly.
The genesis of the team building event was a Mid-Ohio mini golf round between Jones and his engineers Michael Cannon and Michael Armbrester. Jones won, but his timing stand wasn’t convinced about legitimacy of the victory, and called for a rematch.
Public Relations guru Redmond quickly saw an opportunity for a night of team fun and bonding and organized the event for this weekend.
“It’s good to get to get the crew out together where they are doing something that takes their minds off of their jobs, and everybody can just have a good time together,” explained team manager Darren Crouser. “It’s helpful, and takes the pressure off of everybody with all the guys getting to hang out with him (Bourdais) again.”
“You saw all of the team there, and it was good to get together with everybody and have a good time,” agreed Bourdais. “We’re an easy going team. We have good spirit with everybody. We weren’t being very serious about it… well, somebody got very serious about it. (Bourdais grins, and smiles at Zelesnik.)”
After the round, the Dale Coyne Racing crew explored the arcade, and somewhat predictably ended up playing the games you might have expected them to gravitate towards. Sixty-something spotter and former Indy car driver Pancho Carter quickly found the oldest game in joint, Skee-Ball. Roy Wilkerson, a Hoosier born and bred car chief, not surprisingly made his way to the Pop-A-Shot. Forty-something Craig Hampson, Bourdais’ race engineer, made a bee-line to pump-quarters into the Galaga machine. Finally, everybody under the age of 35 looked around at the arcade games with confusion, amazed that people actually left their houses to play the games they could play on their TV.
Plans are already afoot for the a bigger and better second annual tournament at the same place next year.