Preparing a racecar throughout the month of May at Indianapolis is a tedious, thankless process, but it can pay dividends both for a driver and those behind the scenes.

A team makes hundreds of minute, but time-consuming, changes to the car in search of the extra few miles per hour needed to make the field of 33 in qualifying, but what happens when, no matter what adjustments are made, no speed gains can be found? How can the focus be kept on the greater goal, and prevent frustration and dissension from setting in?

That's the dilemma Dreyer & Reinbold chief mechanic Dan Miller faced as the team that fields popular driver Sarah Fisher struggled to find acceptable speeds throughout the opening week of practice for the 2003 Indianapolis 500. Yet Miller kept his crew zeroed in on the task at hand and Fisher was able to qualify a consistent 24th on the first day of time trials.

For his efforts in guiding the #23 crew this month, the 41-year-old Miller has been named as the winner of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award by members of the Clint Brawner Foundation.

"Dan had his hands full since the first day of practice, but he never let the situation get the best of him," said Dale Harrigle, the Firestone Racing project engineer who presented Miller with a $5000 cheque and Brawner award plaque during a ceremony on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's famous yard of bricks during Carb Day.

"He kept at it and used every bit of guile and skill to help the team and driver improve. Those are attributes reminiscent of Clint Brawner and proof Dan Miller is a deserving winner of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award."

Miller is the 17th award recipient, determined annually by a distinguished committee of race veterans that selects the Indianapolis 500 chief mechanic who 'exemplifies the mechanical and scientific creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise' of legendary namesake Clint Brawner. The late Brawner was chief mechanic on winning cars in 51 AAA and USAC national championship races, and guided six season champions.

Firestone Racing sponsored the Brawner award for the seventh consecutive year in 2003 and, in addition to the cheque and plaque Miller received, his name also will be inscribed on a permanent trophy located inside the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.

"It's a great honour to receive the Brawner award for just doing my job," Miller said, "To be mentioned in the same breath as the great Clint Brawner is honour enough, and to be added to the tremendous list of this award's past recipients is humbling."

Miller earned the award the hard way this month. He and the rest of Fisher's crew didn't let the fact they were running the underpowered Chevrolet engine disrupt their efforts. Then, once the car and driver peaked in the 225mph range during practice - while the front-runners were cresting 230 - instead of giving up, Miller and company put their heads down and worked that much harder.

"We've tried so many things and it's just been the same [speed]," Miller said, "The car ran good, we didn't have any trouble mechanically, but we never went any faster. We set a speed and stayed there."

Miller has been coming to Indy since 1989, when he latched on with the old Shierson Racing team from his Michigan home. He relied on those years of experience to try everything imaginable to squeeze more speed out of the car, and to prevent frustration from setting in within the confines of the garage.

"It's been challenging," he admitted, "It's a small group, so we don't have to worry about many outside influences. I just relayed old stories and told them it doesn't really change our job - the car prep and what we do stays the same for the most part. I tried to keep on an even keel and explain to them why we're doing things, so that they know we're not out there flogging at a dead horse."

Fisher was the slowest of 24 opening-weekend qualifiers, meaning she and the crew nervously waited out the final weekend's results before safely fitting into the starting grid. Miller believes the car will be good to go on race day. His driver, Fisher, knows her chariot will be immaculately prepared as well.

"They have the attitude that it doesn't mean you leave every day at six o'clock," he said, "Whenever the work gets done is when you leave. If there's a problem, you work until it gets done. That's why we do so much with what we have."