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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

IndyCar's compact schedule burning out team crews

June 16, 2015
KEYWORDS Sports Business

There have been a lot of complaints about the IndyCar Series’ schedule, which runs 16 races in five months.

One big complaint is that the offseason is too long. That, IndyCar insiders complain, leads to fan disengagement and lack of exposure during the long offseason.

Another is that the seven-month offseason prompts teams to lay off engineers, mechanics and other crew members. Some team owners simply can’t afford to maintain their staff during that much downtime.

No one is complaining about downtime now. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Following Sunday’s race in Toronto, CFH Racing co-owner Sarah Fisher said her crew is looking forward to their first weekend off in 10 weeks.

Veteran motorsports journalist Robin Miller calls IndyCar’s compact schedule “ridiculous” and “a monstrosity,” and says while the season is less than two-thirds over, “the men that wrench the cars are already fully knackered.”

Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar parent Hulman & Co., insists the schedule must offer racing consistently enough during the season to build a fan base and wants the schedule to conclude by Labor Day to minimize conflicts with the ever-popular NFL. He is attempting to add a race or two on the front end of the season to shorten the offseason. That, however, won’t solve the problem of overworking crew members during a tightly packed midseason schedule.

“This is the worst stretch in the 22 years I’ve been a mechanic on Indy cars,” one veteran mechanic told Racer Magazine this week. “The last time we had two consecutive days off was in April and we’ve all hit the wall. There’s never a break and you don’t have a chance to ever catch up.”

IndyCar engineers and mechanics work 12- to 14-hour days during the season and some crew members think the IndyCar season is leading to an unsafe situation.

“It’s lunacy. IndyCar talks about safety and it’s all on the backs of guys who work 12-hour days non-stop,” a crew member told Racer. “Everybody is worn out and dead on their feet, and that’s when mistakes get made.”

While NASCAR has just as packed a schedule—and arguably more so—than IndyCar, most of those teams have much bigger budgets and many more engineers and mechanics. Many teams have one crew to work on things in the shop and another to handle wrenching at the races.

It’s easy to suggest crew members who don’t like the working conditions in IndyCar can go find another job. Trouble is some of them are doing just that. Fixing passenger cars at the local dealership offers more regular hours for about the same—and in some cases more—pay.

IndyCar, with its tight schedule, appears to risk losing some of its best and brightest crew members, team officials said.

“There’s no way to have a family, you are never home,” a veteran IndyCar mechanic told Racer. “And they are killing us and everything good about what we love.”



 

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