INDIANAPOLIS – The NTT IndyCar Series has a direction again. The biggest complaint over the past has been that it seemed like they were running by the seats of their pants. Nothing they were doing worked and nothing they did do made any rhyme or reason. It was separating the fan base from the paddock and no one could align on how to get this ship steered in the right direction.
Then came Jay Frye. I don’t think the series knew when they hired him just how much of an impact he would have really made. I’ve said this time and time again, Frye single handily saved IndyCar racing.
Not only did he get this ship back going the right direction, he’s steered it on the right path to where IndyCar is the best form of racing on the planet and one of the few sports in the world that’s seeing numbers trending up.
In a day and age where most metrics are falling across the board, IndyCar’s isn’t. That’s a testament to Frye.
The reason he’s so successful in this is because of his planning. In 2016, Frye instituted a “5 year plan” one that he jokes really is four years. As we sit here today, we’re nearing the end of the initial plan.
How would Frye rate that plan?
The fan base gives it a resounding A+. The paddock thinks highly of it to. Mario Andretti told me IndyCar is in good hands and finally gets it and that’s because of Frye.
What does the man behind the plan think?
“If you look at one of the goals of this plan was to recruit new teams,” Frye said on Wednesday at the Firestone announcement. “If you look at that as a data point of reference, I think it passed. Our goal was maybe two team and now we have six, seven, eight with more coming. I think that shows the plan is working.
“Also, the teams were a huge part in creating the plan and embraced it, even to a point where they’re showing it to their sponsors. At the end of the day, they can show them here’s the plan, here’s what we doing and where we’re going. I think it gives sponsors comfort and confidence to know that there’s a plan in place.
“We’re now to the point of executing it and to the cadence of how it works. This thing is just rolling right along.
“It’s hard to call it something else (other than a success) now. It’s the 5-year plan but it really goes through 2026. There’s the new plan, it goes through ’26.”
Frye notes that to him, this isn’t really a 5 year plan. This is actually a four year plan that has evolved into an 11 year one because the job is never done and they’re constantly adapting and changing.
“It’s funny because when we announced the 5 year plan it was 2017. That is only four years. Everyone was like no, no, it was ’16 when it started the plan. So ’16 was the first year but nobody knew about it. So, this plan we can call it something else but we talk about it so often it’s a 5 year plan and they know we’re talking about it, so it’s good.”
The initial plan ran through 2020. With that being next year, what’s next?
That’s why Wednesday’s announcement was so big. The stability of having a tire provider through 2025 is huge. There’s a new car and identity coming out for 2021, one that Frye noted last May will be “faster and louder.” The engine manufacturers and cars are locked in through 2026. A lot of the tracks are on board.
The five year plan was started from scratch, the next six year plan has a running head start. Frye, let me in on how these plans are run.
“It goes through 2026, so if you look at this year in the meetings, 20-percent of it is for next year,” Frye said on how it all works. “80-percent of it is for going forward. Going forward could be 2021 or ’26. So as we start getting the new engine, the new car, the new this or that, the bucket each year kind of populates and that’s how it rolls. So you look at 2022, if you look at that bucket, there’s only a couple of things in there right now. This time next year, that bucket will start to fill up. There’s things in the buckets that are red. That means that it’s not decided but it’s something on our list for next year to talk about. The teams are aware of that now. One of the things you don’t want to do is obsolete parts. That’s very expensive and very unnecessary if we manage it right. So, the teams know that at a certain point, we’re looking at doing something else. We talk about it and they know that it’s on the list. Then, we decide and we will run that part for one more year and they can run inventory on what they have, and for the following year it will be implemented.”
Just re read what he said there. When did IndyCar last have that kind of thoughtful planning? See why this is working. Frye, is a great leader and an even better person overall. I can’t say enough good things about Frye and him as a person as a whole and I know I’m not the only one that holds that sentiment.