IndyCar, teams look at solutions for labor shortage in pits
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Don Cusick and Beth Paretta left Indianapolis last May, they started planning a return. It took Cusick almost a full year to find an 11th-hour solution to run in the Indianapolis 500, teaming up with a partner. But the two burgeoning IndyCar teams with visions of full-time programs faced one big obstacle: A lack of crew members and engineers. “Going from 22 to 26 full-time teams, that’s a lot of people you'd normally get for these one-offs," Paretta said of the IndyCar Series, which is in something of a renaissance. Small, low-budget teams with grand aspirations have been the backbone for filling the traditional 33-car field for the Indy 500. Expansion across racing's many series has only made the competition fiercer.
“It’s great for the guys who are part of the crew because they’re making more money than they ever dreamed possible,” Cusick said. The solution for Cusick Motorsports was partnering with Elton Julian's DragonSpeed team. “We’ve kind of joked about it that it’s like Mr. Julian believes there are fewer younger workers to replace those retiring or leaving the business. Poaching by teams or series and rising costs are factors, too, especially with the desire for individual hotel rooms amid the pandemic. “It’s late hours and some of those guys seem like they live there, almost,” said 24-year-old Evan Knight, who spent two seasons with Arrow Schmidt Peterson before leaving in February 2021.
Dennis Reinbold, whose IndyCar team Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has competed only in the 500 seven of the last eight years and has two cars in Sunday's race, said his car dealerships also are struggling to keep mechanics and technicians. “We need to do a better job of looking for young people coming out of school and getting them involved," he said. Paretta Autosport's primary sponsor, KiwiCo, makes products that help children engage in STEAM or STEM educational programs. “The teams look at it often and there's been a half dozen or more people hired,” Frye said. But for now, IndyCar teams and other series must learn to cope with the reality. “It's the reason I decided not to do the Indianapolis 500, 100%,” Paretta said.
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3 Ways to Overcome the Driver Shortage by Increasing Visibility
- Know where your drivers are to plan more efficient routes.
- Keep an eye on assets to find more time.
- Get all teams on the same page to find force multipliers.
- Look at the driver shortage as an opportunity.