The ripples of the disruptions caused by current shutdowns reach into every corner of the racing industry. RACER.com will share stories of how different entities in the sport are tackling these unprecedented challenges in a special series called The Lockdown Diaries.
Spread across their two shops, Larry Foyt reckons the A.J. Foyt Racing NTT IndyCar Series team has 40 employees to look after. The figure swells to 50 when it’s time to go racing once the fly-in support group arrives.
Taking the dual fronts into account, both in Waller, Texas, and Indianapolis, Indiana, plus the other 10 team members who complete the team’s presence from St. Petersburg to Monterey, it’s a significant group to manage in a time of COVID-19 crisis.
Foyt, the longtime team president, has opted for simplicity in dealing with his staff and the possible effects of gathering to work as the coronavirus spreads.
“The most important to me was the health of our guys, so the shops are closed for everyone right now,” he told RACER. “After St. Pete was cancelled, I just wanted them to get home and just make sure from the traveling, no-one has any symptoms and everybody’s feeling good and healthy. And obviously, it will probably be another week that they won’t be in the shop while we just give it that 14, 15-day period to make sure everybody’s doing well.”
The team’s financial composition underwent heavy change during the off-season after ABC Supply, Foyt’s primary sponsor for 15 years, decided to step back from racing, barring the Indy 500. It led the team to seek and sign three new drivers, pursue new streams of sponsorship and income, and search for ways to satisfy an imposing annual budget figure.
Although the team, like half the IndyCar paddock, is walking a tight financial line, continuing to spend on their veteran workforce is the main priority for Foyt.
“This is obviously uncharted territory for a lot of us, but we’re not planning on laying anybody off or anything like that,” he said. “We’re just keeping everybody at home, but we’re definitely still in business. Been in touch with all of our sponsors and partners, and everybody understands and is very supportive, and is dealing with their own measures at their companies. It’s just such a unique situation for everybody.
“Our initial thought is when we come back to work, because right now, our schedule looks like the month of May would be that first opportunity, is we will start working on the month of May cars. We still have a lot of time. Got all of April, and we were going to get those cars ready while we were racing anyway, so we’re used to that, as well, so this takes some pressure off travel-wise to get our Speedway cars done. But right now, we want everyone home with their families, and we’ll get back to work when the time’s right.”
Atop the team, Foyt will remain busy in the weeks ahead as he says close with the team’s partners, sponsors, and drivers to chart whatever roadmap IndyCar might follow. Few believe the Indy 500 will escape the nationwide lockdown, which would throw the sport’s biggest race into the same category as Long Beach and other stops on the 2020 calendar that will need to be scheduled for a later date.
“I know that the Penske Group wants to add some races on the backend to try to get us closer to the most racing we can do,” Foyt said. “I know they’re committed to that, and they’re going to do the best they can. So we’ll just see. So much of this right now is unknown. I believe all the team are very comfortable and are reassured, with Roger steering the ship, that the right decisions will be made. And the best thing for all of us.
“For me, this is so much bigger than IndyCar. This is going to affect so many people across the world and so many small businesses. It truly is a scary time, but I think we just have to realize it’s not going to be forever. There’s going to be a small period that we just all have to get through and then as soon as we can hope for, get life back to normal.
“I’ve spoken with all our partners personally and I think they’re all onboard with us. Time will tell, but I think everyone will have to work together to deliver on what our deliverables are for those partners. But it’s great that Roger’s a team owner. He understands exactly what we’re all going through, and being a great businessman, I think everybody knows that we’ll get through this and racing will go on. Just a little bit delayed.”