He’s backed three Andrettis (Jarett, John and Marco), two generations of Herta, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, Sammy Swindell, Bryan Clauson, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson and Alexander Rossi – to name a few. His cars have competed in IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, IMSA, World of Outlaws, USAC, All-Star, ARCA and Indy Lights – racking up over 1,000 wins in 55 different divisions.
From a wide-eyed kid who got hooked on sprinters at Carrell Speedway in the late 1950s before forming a bond with one of auto racing’s famous families, Mike Curb is now in his fifth decade of sponsoring race cars and is being honored at this weekend’s IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“My dad really got Mike hooked when he promoted Carroll Speedway and then they spent every Saturday night together at Ascot Park in the 1970s watching CRA sprints,” said Cary Agajanian, whose father J.C. was a longtime race promoter and IndyCar owner. “He kept saying he wanted to do something more, so Dad said sponsoring a car was a good entrée and I think the first guy he sponsored was Brad Noffsinger.
“The first time Curb-Agajanian was on a car at Indy was 1983 with Ken Schrader and Dad was very ill but still came for May. Schrader crashed so Michael Chandler came to Curb about sponsoring his Rattlesnake Racing team and Curb went to my father and that was the beginning of what’s been a great partnership.”
Aggie died in 1984 but Curb approached Cary about continuing their relationship and now it’s the longest-running sponsorship in all of motorsports.
“Mike was a boy genius in the music business and the president of MGM Records when he was 21 or 22 before branching out and starting Curb Records,” continues Agajanian, who has legally represented some of the best racers in IndyCar/NASCAR/USAC for the past 40 years. “But he’s got a special knowledge of racing. He can recite the winner of every Indy 500 and probably second and third as well. But his love for grass-roots racing is what is really astounding. I think a lot of successful businessmen would gravitate towards F1 or IndyCar but he’d rather be a midget or sprint car race.”
Bryan Herta is beyond grateful that Curb enjoys open wheel and it was an early relationship with Cary that set the wheels in motion for one of Indy’s great stories.
“My relationship with Cary goes back to when I started racing go-karts at Ascot Park,” said the former CART winner and Lights champion. “As I was moving up, Cary managed me and helped me out. In 2011 I was putting deal together to run Dan (Wheldon) at IMS and looking for money. I called Cary. He said been entering cars at Indy with Mike for years. He liked the idea and signed up. It was the last piece of puzzle to put that Wheldon deal together. We won Indy and Mike has been supporting us ever since, even when we moved to IMSA he joined us.
“But without Mike Curb and Cary, I don’t think we do the 2011 Indy 500. My life and our team looks a whole lot different.”
Herta partnered with Michael Andretti and they captured the 2016 Indy 500 with rookie Rossi before Curb-Agajanian backed Colton Herta in Lights in 2018. They’re helping sponsor Marco Andretti again in the 2020 NTT IndyCar series in the legendary car No. 98 — which has four Indy 500 wins.
“I can’t think of anyone who has done more for motorsports than Mike,” said Herta. “This being his 55th year, we wanted to honor what he’s done and thank him and give him credit. So we put a larger Curb logo on the rear wing.”
Curb and Agajanian are joined at the hip in this endeavor and while neither will be at IMS this weekend, you probably wouldn’t see the former anyway according to his partner: “Mike doesn’t want any recognition, he just stands back by the fence and observes but he does love racing.
Herta appreciates Curb’s passion and knowledge.
“I see him once or twice a year and he always comes to Indy but keeps a low profile. He comes to the grid, we take photos and spend a little time the night before the race. But he’s a racer — he sees everything and he voraciously embraces all forms of racing. I just feel honored he stays with our team.”