Indianapolis has a new home team making its way through Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.
Abel Motorsports and its driver, Jacob Abel, who has adopted the city as his home while attending college, is the rising team making its mark in open-wheel racing.
Abel Motorsports is a family-owned and operated race team, and it is based in the Town of Speedway a short drive from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is located across the street from Juncos Hollinger Racing, an NTT INDYCAR SERIES team.
SEE: Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Race Information
The Abel race shop also moonlights as the family’s construction business. Abel Construction. The construction company's headquarters is in Louisville, but when the family decided to go open-wheel racing and came to Indianapolis, a location was found in the backyard of IMS.
Abel’s father, Bill, runs the construction business on a day-to-day basis, and he also has a foot in the door of the race team, as does his son. However, the Abels hired former Belardi Auto Racing team manager John Brunner to manage the team in an effort to remove family emotions.
“It's a really cool dynamic how it works, and it makes it so that me and my dad don't argue as much, which is how it used to be,” the younger Abel said. “In the team's early days, (Bill) was running everything, and I wanted to run everything. I had ways I wanted to do it, and he had ways he wanted to do it, but John has a little bit easier time just telling me to shut up and drive the car.”
Abel, a native of Louisville, has been racing since 2015, and he credits his father as the reason he is pursuing a career as a race car driver. His first race was in go-karts, and in 2017 he transitioned to single-seater formula cars. That’s when the race team was formed and they entered the F4 United States Championship to support his budding racing career.
Two years ago, Abel moved to Indianapolis to further pursue his racing career as well as attend college full-time at Butler University. He is studying marketing, which cements his place in the Indianapolis community for the next few years.
“My dad's love for racing and motorsport in general is what kind of sprung on everything,” Jacob said. “And we're bringing a lot of those values from the family company over to the race team and running them very similar in a way. It's a little bit more laid back than some other teams that are a little bit more high stress.
“That's not saying that we aren't serious about things either. Anyone will tell you that I'm just as hard on myself as anyone ever has been on me. So, I want to do well, and I think everyone here does. We're very competitive.”
As time goes on and Abel learns from his classes at Butler and in the real world through the family team, he is hoping this experience will help him take charge of the family business one day, hopefully as an owner-driver competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. But at a minimum, he wants to lead the race team.
“Obviously, it’s Abel Motorsports; it’s my family’s team,” he said. “Maybe one day I implement some of that business stuff and take over the team. I don’t think it hurts to have marketing and business experience in any part of the world.”
For now, Abel’s focus is on school and racing, the latter of which has taken on a bigger lift this season as Abel Motorsports moved to Indy Lights, and he is a series rookie himself.
Abel is coming off a full-time run in Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 and 2021. In 2019, he scored two top-five and 11 top-10 finishes en route to a ninth-place finish in the season standings. Last season, he finished sixth in the championship with two podium finishes, both thirds at Road America and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
So far this season, the team has shown speed as it works out the kinks and become an established Indy Lights team. Abel has scored top-10 finishes in both races this season. He is coming off his career-best performance at Barber Motorsports Park where he finished sixth.
“I feel really good,” Abel said. “I've never really questioned our pace at all. I feel like we should be about a top-five race car. I think that's kind of our goal for this whole year. We just want to learn as much as we can.”
Next on the schedule is this weekend’s home race, a doubleheader at IMS. Abel has raced on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course four times, all in Indy Pro 2000. He has finished sixth and seventh twice each.
Indy Lights Race 1 takes place Friday at 5:35 p.m. (ET), while Race 2 will take the green flag at 1:20 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. Both races can be seen live on Peacock Premium, NBC Sports’ live streaming service.