The disruptions caused by current shutdowns reach into every corner of the racing industry. RACER.com is sharing stories of how different entities in the sport are tackling these unprecedented challenges in a special series called The Lockdown Diaries.
The Andretti Autosport NTT IndyCar Series team has made significant alterations to its work schedule in reaction to the COVID-19 virus.
Starting today, the Indianapolis-based team, which fields five Honda-powered entries and boasts a workforce of 140 employees, has implemented a new rotation system where no more than 10 crew members assemble to work on the shop floor in one daily shift. A different group of 10 mechanics will take Tuesday, as most of the vast operation, including its management, operations, and engineering groups, work from home.
The 10-person plan, which was meant to continue through the coronavirus shutdown, will end in the middle of the week after Indiana governor Eric Holcomb issued a new shelter-at-home order that begins on Wednesday. Although businesses offering essential services will remain open in the state, racing teams are not part of the exemption list.
With every IndyCar race through the April 26 event at Circuit of The Americas taken off the schedule, a testing ban in place until at least May 10, and more race postponements or cancellations expected, Andretti Autosport has also modified its to-do list to contain nothing other than priority items for its limited on-site staffing program.
Among the leading items on the list is rebuilding the No. 88 Honda transporter and pit equipment that caught fire on the way to St. Petersburg. The Andretti crew will make whatever progress they can until Wednesday.
“We’re tackling it from two points of view,” Andretti COO Rob Edwards told RACER. “First is the health of all employees. For all who were at St. Pete before it got cancelled, they weren’t in the shop last week to provide a buffer in case anyone was sick. For the people who were at the shop last week, they were there Monday and Tuesday, and we shut everything down for everyone on Wednesday while we put a bigger plan together.
“This is as much a mental health plan as it is physical. It’s tough for our sport and others; we’re driven, by nature. We want to turn up every day and compete. That’s why we do this instead of other jobs. So we want to protect them, and our approach is following that, and the CDC guidelines.
“We’ve told all who feel sick to stay away, your job’s not in jeopardy. It’s helping us and your teammates. Trust your teammates, and if you’re sick, you have a duty to share that with us to protect everyone in the company.”
For the 100-plus Andretti IndyCar employees, and the other teams in the series, sitting idle has been an immense challenge.
“As management, we’ve had and seen the whole gamut,” Edwards added. “We get the texts daily emails from people saying they’re going crazy and want to work. So we’re starting a new plan today with 10 people per day, but that’s now coming to an end in about 48 hours. We have a duty here to follow guidelines, and we’ve already identified as many functions as possible to have people working from home as we speak.”
Due to its size and operating expenses, Andretti Autosport has taken a proactive approach to its finances in an effort to safeguard the company during a shutdown that has no immediate end in sight. As a result, all employees have taken a pay reduction to ease the strain being experienced by the organization.
“The good news is the big teams have more funding news, but the counter to that is the big teams have more people,” Edwards said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint, and maintaining the health of the team is the second need. Nobody knows if this is an eight-week, 10-week, 12-week scenario, or more, so we’re doing what do we need to maintain our infrastructure and have it be totally intact when we return.
“The goal is to make sure our resources aren’t fully consumed in eight weeks if it ends up being 16 weeks, or whatever. We’d love for the Indy 500 to go ahead as planned for May 24, but what if it’s July 24? Looking after the health of our employees, and the company we all work for, is paramount for everyone.”