The Paycheck Protection Program may not have saved any of the teams, but the economic stimulus offered to combat the COVID-19 pandemic certainly helped the little guys in the NTT IndyCar Series stay together.
A list posted Monday by the U.S. Department of the Treasury showed the various teams in IndyCar, NASCAR and IMSA that had been granted loans at 1 percent fixed interest for 2-5 years. The amount given was based on the businesses’ average monthly payroll for 2019. Two-and-a-half times that amount was loaned to help cover eight weeks of payroll. (See chart below.)
The teams of Meyer/Shank, Ed Carpenter, Dale Coyne, Trevor Carlin and A.J. Foyt each received between $150,000 and $1 million in April, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
“Two weeks into the pandemic, we didn’t know if we were out of business or we were going to be able to keep our sponsors. The PPP loan was a great thing because it made sure we stayed whole,” said Mike Shank, whose team had another impressive run at IMS last weekend with Jack Harvey.
“It was a way to keep my guys on the payroll, and I didn’t have to lay anyone off.”
Carpenter, the lone owner/driver in IndyCar who runs two cars full-time (and three at the Indianapolis 500), concurred with Shank: “It definitely allowed us to weather the storm. Our employees didn’t have to feel the heat that most of the world did, and it kept everyone home and safe until we were able to get going again,” said the three-time Indy pole-sitter. “It was definitely important for us and very valuable for our industry.”
The loans were mostly for payroll, rent and fixed expenses, but also helped make up for the loss of any sponsorship.
“It was very helpful to us because we had some sponsor fallout from COVID; it helped make that up and keep everyone employed at full pay,” said Larry Foyt, who is running Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Dalton Kellett and Sebastian Bourdais this season for A.J. Foyt Racing.
“We’ve got Tresiba, K-Line Insulators and ABC Supply on board as primary sponsors,” Foyt continued, “but the one-off deals started going away because they had a large hospitality presence and, obviously, we haven’t had any fans yet.”
Coyne, meanwhile, is the king of survival as he’s been competing for four decades on small budgets and creative thinking.
“The loan was helpful but it didn’t save the season,” said the car owner for Santino Ferrucci and Alex Palou whose crew numbers 20 compared to the Big Three which all have triple figures. “I was paying my guys 100 percent all of the time before PPP but it got us through a couple months.”
One of the more honest members of the IndyCar paddock, Shank is totally transparent about where his PPP money went.
“I used every dime on my payroll and it’s all gone. Mine is an easy paper trail,” he said with a laugh. “And I’m not embarrassed by it; I’m thankful it was available because it’s been very favorable to some of us.”