IndyCar team owner Michael Shank prepared to ‘take the risk’ in return

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When the current NTT IndyCar Series shutdown began on Friday, March 13, was talking to team owner Michael Shank in the lobby of a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.

That conversation was interrupted by a phone call.

In a matter of seconds, Shank’s face told the story. It was a look of disappointment, despair and concern.

Six weeks later, Shank remembers that call and his reaction as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“To be fair, sitting there in the hotel lobby, we didn’t take it as serious as I have with my guys today,” Shank told “I probably still thought it was overreaction on a lot of people’s parts, but we know now that is not the case.

“Thankfully, everybody on both of my teams is healthy right now. We haven’t done anything for six weeks other than to make sure the roof isn’t leaking at the shop, and the cars are up on jacks. We’re hoping to go back to work in a few weeks.

“We’re ready, man.”

There are signs that the curve is being flattened. Progress is being made in the ongoing battle against the potentially lethal virus that has shut down much of the world. But the progress may not be enough to allow large-scale returns to public life.

There remain far too many fatalities and new cases to say with any certainty when it is safe for large groups of people to gather.

Meantime, as the shutdown continues, jobs are lost, schools are closed, and families are struggling just to survive.

Shank understands both issues but believes at some point, the risk of returning to work has to be made.

“Absolutely, positively, we have got to get back to work,” Shank told “If there is some risk in that for all of us, then we have to take that risk. Our government cannot afford to keep us afloat like it is doing now.

“We are a small business. We applied for the PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loan, and we got it when we got in on the first batch. The team owners have talked about this. Some have gotten their money, and others haven’t.

“We can’t keep that up. We have got to get back to work. Whatever that looks like to stay healthy, then that is what we will have to do. Does that mean I’ll have to clean the shop three times a day and the trailers three times a day when we are on the road? Does that mean no fans for the first month of six weeks? That’s it.

“But if we don’t work, we’re going to lose a whole way of life for a lot of the industry.

“I get it. We’re being careful. Maybe it makes sense to wait a little bit. I’m on board with that. When do the cars need to be ready on the IndyCar side? Then we back it up two weeks to get back in the shop and get ready for that first race, that is what we will do.”

IndyCar is following all governmental procedures during this shutdown. Many of the teams are based in the Indianapolis area. Team Penske is located in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Dale Coyne Racing is in Plainfield, Illinois.

All three states have different “Stay at Home” orders.


Meyer Shank Racing took the leap of faith to run a full-time program in the NTT IndyCar Series this season with driver Jack Harvey. But like all teams in the series, it never got off pit road.

“Jim Meyer and I for the past three or four weeks have been looking at how to go forward and keep our partners in play and work with them,” Shank said. “They are hurting, badly. What do we have to do to make sure we keep that relationship? In our mind, what are we going to do to help them? They need help.

“We came up with a plan pretty quickly. I give credit to Jim Meyer on that one. He is built for this kind of stuff. Jim is a high-level CEO that thinks way outside and way forward. He helped us through it.

“We want to keep 2021 intact. For us, it’s 2021 we are talking about now. We want to get through 2020 and lose the least amount of money possible and move forward. Knock wood, we aren’t through this, but we’re in reasonable shape.”

Shank’s team planned on a full-time 2020 effort. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing were planning on increasing from an Indy 500 only effort to include races at St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

St. Petersburg is expected to return in October, but the Detroit doubleheader has been canceled for 2020.

With Roger Penske as the new owner of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this was going to be a “Renaissance season” for the series.

Instead, it has been forced into the modern-day version of the “Dark Ages.”

“We’ve had that conversation,” Shank admits. “For three and a half years to put this program through a whole schedule. It’s unbelievable the odds that this happened this way. I try not to get wrapped around the axle on that one. We just need to keep everyone going forward. We’ve done everything we could do for our health and plan and have to get back at it. We are in reasonable shape. There are other teams that are worse off than we are, so we have to be thankful we’re in as good a shape as we are.

“I got a little bit lucky two or three years ago when my wife and I decided to sell a chunk of the business to Jim Meyer. He makes us better. I’ve been in this for 26 years. We’ve lasted through 9/11 and through 2008-2009 on our own. I’m glad I had Jim to prepare for this one. I think that our little business survives. We have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C and let’s get onto it.

“Jim does not pump money into this business every month. This business pumps money into this business every month.”

Shank is operating on wise business sense, a smart plan, faith in the almighty and faith in Penske’s leadership.

“Roger Penske has great vision,” Shank said. “I’ve had four team owner conference calls since this first started and I’m always feeling better when I get off the phone. Even if it is just ideas of what he wants, that gives me hope. When I get off the phone, I’m pumped up. I want to do what my share is. Roger is a great communicator and I’m learning that quickly.

“We’re in good shape. Now listen, I’ve had some bad days, but right now it feels like it is heading in the right direction. Hopefully, that puts us on the right track.”

Just six weeks after that meeting in a St. Petersburg hotel lobby, Shank’s daily routine has changed. Instead of heading to his office at the team’s race shop, he does his work like millions of others in his home.

“I get up and I work out,” Shank said. “I’ve never been stronger in my life. I have a home gym. Then, I get on the phone and start planning. The first two weeks was all economics. It was financial modeling that I came up with Jim and I looked at it and figured out how to get through this. The first two weeks was Plans A, B and C and 2021.

“Once that settled, it’s staying super organized with my guys. Weekly engineering. Management calls. Staff calls and working with the plans on how to safely work at the shop and then phase more people in.

“The cars have not been touched. They are on jack stands. The truck drivers come in and start up the rigs and generators and makes sure everything runs, then they leave.

“That’s it.”

All Shank can do in the meantime is plan and hope.

“If we can just hold on, we’ll be all right,” Shank said. “If we can just hold on.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500