Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan have shared many discussions through the years about life after driving race cars, and a recent one centered on sharing ownership of a race team, likely starting in INDY NXT presented by Firestone.
“Kanaan Castroneves Racing,” Kanaan called it.
Given the competitiveness of the Brazilians all these years, Castroneves might seek a different naming order, but the fact remains he’s interested in talks like this as he, like Kanaan, prepares for the financial needs of the future.
Castroneves stopped short of calling team ownership a “business” because, as he joked, the old saying in racing is the best way to create a small fortune is to start with a large one.
“But it’s definitely something I want to be involved with, some way to still be involved (with the sport),” four-time “500” winner Castroneves said of team ownership in some form. “For Tony and I, racing is our lives, and I know we can do it.
“Hey, we’ve got to do something.”
Like all athletes, drivers need to plan for life after sport, but it’s especially important as the present can change in a split-second. Graham Rahal calls that “the time when the music stops” and the checks for driving fast cars stop coming in. Therefore, plans must be made for the income stream necessary to maintain the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.
Some drivers already have started, some are planning to, many of the younger drivers are watching and waiting. For example, Pato O’Ward said he is in the “accumulation” part of his career, and he is still learning about the stock and real estate markets. For now, he is focused on expanding his apparel business from racing gear to more mainstream items.
Among Josef Newgarden’s businesses is a media company that services the needs of many of the active NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers and a new racing lifestyle and culture website. Since 2016, Castroneves has partnered with Roger Penske in a car dealership in Pennsylvania. Kanaan represents a simulator company. Marco Andretti invests in real estate. Will Power has a karting company. Until recently, pole sitter Alex Palou owned a coffee shop, which is why he crafts a mean latte. Rookie RC Enerson is a chief instructor of a driving school, a family business he helps operate. Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly have popular podcasts, among other ventures.
Rahal might be the most diverse of the drivers in Sunday’s race, starting Graham Rahal Performance a decade ago. He has expanded his portfolio several times, now owning motorcycle dealerships in addition to his multiple touch points in the automotive industry. Soon, he plans to break ground on a new company headquarters in Zionsville, Indiana.
Rahal said he learned from a business master: His father, 1986 “500” winner Bobby Rahal.
“My dad’s not Roger Penske, but of all the drivers of his generation, no one has businesses like he has, and he was the best at thinking down the road,” Rahal said. “Where do I want to be? Where am I going to be? I’m trying to do the same.”
Leading Bobby Rahal’s portfolio are 14 car franchises in Pennsylvania.
Said Graham: “There are no guaranteed contracts or anything like that in this sport, and I tell all of our (series) young guys that they need to be prepared if things go south. Even if you have a long career like Helio has had or I’ve had or (Scott) Dixon has had, there’s still a lot of life to live.”
Graham is also one of the scheduled successors of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which has three cars competing this weekend. It’s also not surprising that Castroneves and Kanaan are interested in team ownership since so many drivers have entered the fray, including Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Gil de Ferran, Adrian Fernandez and Jimmy Vasser in the past.
A.J. Foyt has owned a race team since 1966, Chip Ganassi since 1990, Bobby Rahal since 1992, Michael Andretti since 2003. This weekend’s race features a host of former drivers in ownership roles, including Ed Carpenter, who is trying to become the first owner-driver to win the “500” since Eddie Cheever in 1998. Other former drivers owning cars in this race include Dale Coyne, Bryan Herta, Sam Schmidt and Michael Shank.
Additionally, Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis are working as INDYCAR stewards, and Sarah Fisher will drive the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car after the ceremonial pace laps. Hinchcliffe, Townsend Bell and Danica Patrick will work NBC’s broadcast of the race, while Davey Hamilton is the driver analyst for the INDYCAR Radio Network. Pancho Carter works for Dale Coyne Racing, and he spots for David Malukas. Roger Yasukawa spots for Palou. Charlie Kimball serves as a driver coach for rookie Sting Ray Robb. Robbie Buhl brokers sponsorship packages, and he has a company’s decals on the Foyt cars of Santino Ferrucci and rookie Benjamin Pedersen.
The ”500” is still business for those drivers, too.
Newgarden said it’s the money he’s made as a two-time series champion that has delivered the platform from which to diversify his portfolio. He manages most of the ventures he is connected to, although he said none of them take away time from what puts food on the table.
“My most important income stream is racing, so that’s my priority right now,” Newgarden said. “Of course, I have a Plan B, a Plan C if things fall through, but I think it’s important to be laser-focused on your primary objectives. You have to understand and be committed to your bread and butter – that’s the business opportunity that’s right in front of you.”
Scott Goodyear famously said he knew it was time to stop being a driver when his focus wasn’t 100 percent on being in the cockpit. Today, he runs businesses in Toronto in addition to being the racing director of SCCA Pro Racing.
Castroneves said his business interests took hold in 2004 when he invested in new Burger King franchises in his native Brazil. For years, Kanaan has derived income from being his own business, which includes giving “about seven speeches a month” and streaming content on the internet.
Kanaan said there is one thing holding up that possible race team with Castroneves: While Kanaan has announced this will be his final “500,” his boyhood friend has shown no signs of wanting to slow down as a full-time race car driver.
“Maybe when Helio decides he’s done we can talk again,” he said.