Hull & Knarr helping Scott Anderson make his way in MRTI

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Often times it’s behind-the-scenes organizations or people who make drivers’ racing dreams – and careers – come true.

One such example is Hull & Knarr, a company that features a team of engineers who specialize in tax credit and audit defense practices. David M. Hull, CPA, is the managing partner; Brad Ferrell is the director.

The company has helped support Scott Anderson, who completed his fourth season on the Mazda Road to Indy this year and second in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and this year raced with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Anderson, who’s managed by Derek Daly, shifted to Schmidt Peterson for 2015 after overachieving as a rookie on a single-car team with Fan Force United in 2014. The Colorado native moved to a four-car team; at present, he’s not sure of his 2016 plans but seeks to continue once more in Indy Lights.

Ferrell explained how he and Anderson got connected, as they came together when Anderson was driving with Fan Force United.

“We knew Chris Williams and Tyce Carlson that owned Fan Force United (FFU),” Ferrell told MotorSportsTalk. “Scott happened to be their driver at that time. We immediately hit it off with Scott and his parents, and stayed in touch after the 2014 race season.

“Leading up to the 2015 race season, the Derek Daly Academy began outlining what a race sponsorship agreement would look like for Hull & Knarr. Additionally, DDA helped secure a position for Scott to drive the 2015 Lights season for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

“Becoming a sponsor significantly increased our presence in the paddocks and subsequently built our relationship with Sam Schmidt and his SPM team.”

For Schmidt, the Schmidt Peterson co-owner along with Ric Peterson, establishing business-to-business relationships is one of his key goals for his team. Having known Daly for a while and witnessed Anderson develop, he was keen to bring those two – and Hull & Knarr – on board for this past season.

“The Hull & Knarr program was introduced to SPM early 2015 understanding that it takes more to get to the top level than just talent unfortunately,” Schmidt told MotorSportsTalk.

“Scott is representative of what the Mazda Road to Indy is all about: a natural progression through the ranks of open wheel racing. The step from F2000 to Indy Lights in 2014 was a tall order, but he did an excellent job transitioning with a small team. In 2015 with additional information and teammates to draw from, he has become more consistent and should be competing for podiums in 2016.

“Kudos to the group at Hull & Knarr for taking an aggressive stance and working hard to grow their business through motorsports. They have done everything they have said they would and more, which of course is a rarity in business today.”

Anderson improved his overall performance in 2015, with eight top-seven finishes doubling the number from four in 2014, although due to the increased overall competition level with the new Dallara IL15 Mazda, he actually finished one position lower in points.

Nonetheless, Anderson’s year had its highlights, notably third place in the Freedom 100 to secure his first Indy Lights podium and arguably the pass of the year on Jack Harvey and Ed Jones, three-wide, into the Keyhole at Mid-Ohio.

Anderson – who’s an example of a young American driver trying to make it on the Mazda Road to Indy – explained the value of B2B relationships from the driver’s vantage point.

“After years of trying to make other sponsorships happen, (working with) Hull & Knarr almost feels easy,” the 25-year-old told MotorSportsTalk. “It’s much easier to show a company I’m approaching the benefits of partnering with Hull & Knarr, rather than try to make somebody outside of the racing world somehow understand how they could fit in. This is a much more obvious, simple way to approach to companies.

“They’re also just a great group of guys to work with. Doing business with them feels more like hanging out with friends, and we have similar passions outside the racing world. I’d say I’m pretty lucky to have a partnership that is so effective yet fun to be involved with.”

Ferrell praised Anderson’s work ethic and growth within the Mazda Road to Indy.

“As an athlete, Scott is one of those guys that excels at everything he’s passionate about,” he said. “Whether skiing, cycling or racing he always finds his way to the top of the talent pool. Most importantly, Scott is an example of a humble, talented kid, from a great family, that is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to continue chasing his dream of becoming a driver for IndyCar.”

For Daly – who’s furthered many young careers through his academy and who of course has his own son, Conor, rumored to be finally breaking through for a full-time IndyCar seat in 2016 – seeing the benefit of all partners work together proves another success story. He’s worked with Anderson for four years.

“(Getting them in) made sure they had some skin in the game, important to any good partnership,” Derek Daly told MotorSportsTalk. “Then it was a matter of opening them up to the paddock. H&K can demonstrate to clients that if they want to use motorsports as a marketing platform, H&K can help fund that program with securing research tax credits. That is a portion of that newfound money can then be applied to the race budget. And a race budget at any level of competition as this is about the commercial work, not just the on track action.”

Daly’s Derek Daly Academy seminar for prospective young drivers and their parents will take place at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Performance Racing Industry trade show, in Room 240. The event is open to those even without a PRI Show credential, and was moved to a Saturday to allow more youngsters to go.

On the whole, Ferrell wants to see Hull & Knarr’s motorsports program continue to grow into 2016.

“We were officially introduced to the motorsports world several years ago through our friend and client Andrew Heard of Xtrac,” Ferrell said. “Andrew had seen the positive cash flow impact that our service had in the cycling world and suggested Hull & Knarr help the rest of the motorsports world like we had helped the cycling world.

“While most race teams are not profitable and therefore can’t use the research tax credits we could find them, many of their sponsors and suppliers can benefit greatly. It was both Derek and Sam, that saw the value in having us help sponsors “find” additional funds to funnel back into their sponsorship programs.

“Because our professionals are engineers, Hull & Knarr is able to more accurately define and expand the footprint of a company’s qualified research. The output of this approach becomes our ability to consistently increase a particular company’s Research Tax Credits over what their accounting firm typically finds. The increase becomes the ‘found’ money that sponsors can flow back into their sponsorships.”

As ever, more money and more partnerships in racing are a good thing, so we’ll see how this continues into 2016.

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”