To Mario Andretti, loyalty and business savvy defined Carl Haas

Photo: IMS Archives

Some people in racing have loyalty, and some have business savvy. Very few have both.

Yet Carl Haas was one of those rare individuals in the “both” category.

As a team owner who also maximized his presence in the automotive and racing industries with his successful parts business, his work with Lola Cars as its exclusive American importer and Hewland gearboxes, Haas made a heck of a lot of money, but he repaid it in loyalty to the people that worked with him – many of whom for most of their careers.

As Mario Andretti explained, it were those key qualities that helped define Haas as a legend. Andretti drove with Newman/Haas Racing for 12 seasons. Haas died on June 29 at age 86, but the news was released today.

“He was good in every sector,” Andretti told NBC Sports in a phone interview. “He maximized every opportunity as you say, with his automotive business and parts, and representing companies… his being the Lola importer, and Hewland gearboxes and on and on. He connected with the sport.

“I first got to know him when Michael (Andretti) drove Formula Fords in SCCA! That developed my relationship with him. And so one thing led to another and it was instrumental in his relationship with Paul (Newman).

“I could always see the value. He was so determined to be the best at what he was doing and involved in, and he proved it over and over … he was always inspiring in many ways. He’d say, ‘How do we this the best possible way?’

“Yes, there was always a cost factor. But he never backed off of something meaningful that would make the difference. He always got the best possible people to do the key jobs. All of his success was attributed to his formula… and there was no one better in that respect, in my opinion.”

There’s a lot of turnover among crews in racing today but for Newman/Haas Racing, based in Lincolnshire, Ill., many of its crew were Newman/Haas lifers – 20-plus years in many cases.

“People that work for him will tell you this about his loyalty: he was very, very loyal to them,” Andretti said. “He may not have always known their names!

“But you look back at the careers of the top mechanics we know, who are still active today. It’s 20, 25, or 28-year tenures with this man. You don’t keep that quality of people unless they’re hugely appreciated and taken care of, and given opportunities to excel. Carl provided that all along. To me, that was an exceptional quality.”

Newman/Haas never won at Indianapolis and despite its 107 wins in North American open-wheel racing in its run from 1983 through to 2011, it was one of the rare unchecked boxes.

Setting aside the frustration in the ‘500, Andretti recalled how Haas’ trademark unlit cigars provided cannon fodder for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s some would say legendary, some infamous, “Yellow Shirt” security staff.

“We always laughed with him, and fortunately, he had a good sense of humor as well,” Andretti said.

“I used to love the fact of testing at Indianapolis, and he’d be nervous and chew his cigars. Then he’d throw them out.

“At the old grass strip by the pit wall, he’d pitch his cigars, and during lunch, the ‘Yellow Shirts’ were all diving for those $100 cigars! All they needed to do was chop off what he chewed! So we had funny stories like that.

“There’s plenty more to tell and that’s why there was a very serious side. But there was a light side that kept everyone in a jovial attitude if you will. You could never stay mad at Carl. You’d move on. You never dwelled. You could have a disagreement, and five minutes later, you’d have a cup of coffee.”

Andretti said Haas, like Newman, was like family to him.

“It’s tough and no matter how much you prepare you’re never ready… it’s a family member,” he admitted. “We were like family for so many years. Fight so many battles together. You appreciate the human side of him and become so attached.

“Because of an illness he’s been out of sight for several years, but when you lose him, it’s always a shock. It’s inevitable.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
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Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor “It is great for to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”