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Meet the Couple Who Mortgaged Their Home to Start a New Race Team–and Won the Indianapolis 500



Mike Shank had bootstrapped his method by means of motor racing since he was a teen. Restoring previous automobiles to promote for a revenue. Working as a line mechanic at a Mazda dealership to qualify for a mortgage for his personal racecar. Building a area of interest enterprise prepping racecars for newbie fanatics. Running his personal race group that competed on the decrease ranges of the game.

The subsequent step up? IMSA — then known as Grand-Am — the premier sports activities automotive sequence within the nation.

“My wife, Marybeth, and I, we’re very Midwest,” Shank says. “We both grew up working. No trust funds. We survived by being tight and hitting our marks.”

Problem was, their hard-won bootstrapping expertise weren’t sufficient; launching the brand new group required important capital. Bolstered by a nudge from sequence chairman Jim France, who was keen so as to add high-potential groups to the competitors, Shank and his spouse mortgaged their residence to go sports activities automotive racing. 

Lean years adopted; as Shank says, repercussions of the 2008 monetary disaster “almost killed us.” But, in 2012, Shank’s group gained IMSA’s premier occasion, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. “It’s vital for a team in any motor sport to have a connection to an OEM,” Shank says. “Winning the Rolex 24 earned us respect from the big automobile manufacturers.”

Shank leveraged that credibility to enter the 2017 Indianapolis 500. While his automotive did not end the race, the expertise gave Shank the boldness to show a one-off experiment right into a full-season effort. 

That self-belief paid off final yr when Shank and driver Hélio Castroneves gained the 2021 Indy 500. 

Self-belief, self-awareness. In 2018, former Sirius XM CEO Jim Meyer grew to become a co-owner. Shank and his spouse are distinctive operators; they know the best way to run a race group. Meyer introduced a wealth of connections and advertising savvy. His son Tim is head of enterprise improvement. Then, in 2021 Meyer Shank Racing offered a minority share of the enterprise to Liberty Media.

“We shored up our ownership group,” Shank says. “We shored up our marketing side. We now have six major corporate partners. We have a factory-funded sports car team. We’ve built a monster … but kept the same style, intensity, and fiscally conservative approach.”

All of which may make Shank’s success appear inevitable in hindsight.

But that is by no means the case: Success is at all times earned, by no means assured. Building a race group means overcoming the traditional startup chicken-or-egg dilemma: Without sponsors, you’ll be able to’t go racing, a lot much less succeed — however with out success, you’ll be able to’t land sponsors.

“Everyone says they do this,” Shank says, “but all we focus on is results. If you do, everything else happens. Our team, at every position, is made up of exceptional people with similar principles and work ethics … and we all agree to go forward in a certain way: one that brings results.”

That consists of drivers. Castroneves is such a beloved determine within the sport that Shank does not need to promote him to sponsors; largely, Castroneves sells himself.

“I don’t know what will happen (to his popularity) if Hélio wins his fifth Indy 500,” Shank says. “He’s already like the Tom Brady of our sport. You can’t overstate his importance in our world.” 

The identical is true for Simon Pagenaud, Castroneves’s teammate. Pagenaud was the sequence champion in 2016 and gained the Indy 500 in 2019. 

In brief, Shank does not search for drivers who carry sponsors — or household cash — with them. “We’re strategic about it,” Shank says. “We think it through. Ultimately, we hire who we want to drive our cars, both for their talent and for their appeal to partners.”

Add all of it up, and Mike and Marybeth Shank are the quintessential entrepreneurs. They began a enterprise based mostly on doing what they love. They overcame a lack of funding with onerous work and persistence. They took clever dangers. They introduced in companions who complemented their expertise and expertise. They constructed a tradition gifted folks need to be part of.

“Jim (Meyer) always says he retired from Sirius because he doesn’t want to work that hard,” Shank says. “But that’s bull. He works hard. Every single person on our team works extremely hard.”

Because, as each entrepreneur is aware of, onerous work is not an issue once you love the work you do.

The opinions expressed right here by Inc.com columnists are their very own, not these of Inc.com.



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