Scott Roembke dies at age of 51

Updated: September 10, 2012, 8:52 PM ET
By John Oreovicz | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Scott Roembke, a key figure in building Bobby Rahal's racing operations and a part of two Indianapolis 500 winning teams, died over the weekend at a Cleveland hospital. He was 51.

After receiving a heart and lung transplant, Roembke was well enough to return to Indianapolis this year to work with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Michel Jourdain Jr. But his health again took a turn for the worse this summer, which led to his sudden death.

"Scott was selfless when it came time for the betterment of the sport and the sport is now poorer for his passing," Rahal said in a statement. "Our prayers and sympathies are with his wife Darcy, son Chris and the entire Roembke family. Scott will always be a part of our team, now and in the future."

Roembke got his start in the racing business with Patrick Racing in 1986, training under legendary chief mechanic/team manager Jim McGee. He helped guide Patrick's transformation into Team Rahal in 1992, when Rahal won the CART-sanctioned IndyCar championship in his first year as an owner-driver.

An Indianapolis native, Roembke's fascination with the Indy 500 began at a young age. After school during the month of May, he would ride the city bus from his home on the east side to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the far west side.

After serving in the Air Force, Roembke broke into racing and served as assistant team manager for the Patrick team when Emerson Fittipaldi won the 1989 Indianapolis 500.

Roembke assumed even greater responsibility with Team Rahal (now known as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), rising to the position of chief operating officer in 2000. He also served as a race strategist and tactician for several drivers, including Bryan Herta, Kenny Brack and Danica Patrick.

Roembke was part of another Indy 500 win with Buddy Rice in 2004. His last IndyCar victory came with Ryan Hunter-Reay at Watkins Glen in 2008.

Roembke began suffering serious health issues in 2009. Though he cut back his travel schedule, he helped expedite Rahal's move into the American Le Mans Series as the factory BMW team in the GT class.