Cross the “find a commercial chief” box off IndyCar’s parent company offseason checklist.
Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of IndyCar’s parent company, has confirmed two new hires to his leadership team and organization. C.J. O’Donnell joins up as Hulman Motorsports’ chief marketing officer, with Jay Frye the new chief revenue officer for the company.
Hulman Motorsports is the overarching name for all of Hulman’s motorsports properties, which includes IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“We’ve set a new strategic direction for our motorsports entities, and Jay and C.J. are both top performers who will help us take big leaps forward,” Miles said in a release. “Among their immediate goals are to add sponsors for INDYCAR and IMS, improve our level of fan engagement and develop strategies to build alignment among our teams, drivers, venues and sponsors. Our team is in place, and there’s no offseason as we prepare for 2014.”
O’Donnell has marketed various brands within the Ford Motor Company and Frye has worked as a high-level executive for several NASCAR teams, most recently Team Red Bull and MB2 Motorsports. Frye’s biggest achievement, perhaps, was that as chief executive officer and general manager, he negotiated what was an industry-first – a sponsorship/ownership package with The Valvoline Company.
O’Donnell will lead a combined team of INDYCAR and IMS marketing and communications staff, while Frye will lead a combined team of INDYCAR and IMS sponsorship sales, licensing and account services staff. IMS suite and hospitality sales will remain an IMS function under the direction of track president Doug Boles.
We’ve written previously that under Miles’ overall leadership, with several other leaders that report directly to him, that he’s “getting his guys in place.” The offseason reorganization is now officially underway with these hires formalized.
MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.
Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
- 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
- 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish
Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.
While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.
Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.
Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.
In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.