Michael Andretti recently added a one-time college baseball pitcher to the ownership group of his large motorsports empire, but this was no ordinary former athlete. Dan Towriss (second from left, photo above) is CEO and president of Group 1001, a technology-driven financial services company based in Zionsville, Indiana, with Indianapolis 500 presenting sponsor Gainbridge among its brands.
Towriss, 50, plays the role of businessman in this enterprise, purposely staying clear of decisions related to on-track activities. Thus, the native of Muncie, Indiana, who pitched at Indiana University, won’t call fuel strategy in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he is a prominent figure when he sits on the pit stand of Colton Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Earlier this week, Towriss spoke with INDYCAR.com’s Curt Cavin about his rise to relevance in this sport.
Question: You have been involved with Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, later, INDYCAR, in one form or another since 2016, but you recently – and somewhat quietly – became a co-owner of Andretti Global. How did that happen?
Towriss: It’s an interesting question. (When) Michael (Andretti) was looking to get into Formula One -- they were working on a deal with Alfa Romeo – we were looking to become a small part of that (as an investor), like 10 or 20 percent. As things progressed, some of the investor syndicate that was going to lead the deal turned out to be not as solid as advertised. One day I called up Michael and said that some of the deadlines weren’t being met, and we’d like to take the whole thing – we’d become the sole investor if you want us to be, along with you. We negotiated that deal (with Alfa Romeo), Michael and I did. We had terms and a term sheet, and at the very end there was a discrepancy on voting rights. That deal ended up falling through. So, when we started to look at possibly a new team in Formula One, one of the things that was important to me was that I never wanted there to be any appearance whatsoever that we were somehow saying we were taking our ball from INDYCAR and looking (only) to Formula One. I said if we’re going to partner with you on this, I want to (remain) all-in with INDYCAR so that our interests are aligned and we continue to invest in everything across the board, and that gave rise to Andretti Global, and that’s now the parent company. Michael and I are partners across the board, and INDYCAR remains a significant part of the motorsports platform.
Question: Which one of you initiated the discussion?
Towriss: It just kind of happened. We’ve really been on the same page across the board, so it was an easy conversation. I do think we brought (the topic of team ownership) up first, but he was very open to that. He was like, ‘Of course,’ and he was very welcoming. So, we’re partners in the truest sense. That’s a very easy relationship, even on the hard days. There’s just so much respect (between us), and we’ll talk about his perspective and my perspective. My (strength) is business, not racing, so I don’t offer opinions on setups and drivers and tire strategy, those kind of things. I’m very involved in the business side, and Michael and I talk multiple times a week. There’s never a week that goes by that we don’t speak on the phone. It’s definitely a lot of collaboration back and forth. It’s been fun; we’ve learned a lot from each other.
Question: I understand that your wife, Cassidy, has a strong connection to INDYCAR and has been a longtime fan. How has she influenced your commitment to the sport?
Towriss: Cassidy worked for Octagon when I decided to do the Indy Women in Tech golf tournament (sponsorship) at Brickyard Crossing (announced in 2016), which is actually how the whole racing thing started for us. We had signed up to do the tournament in August, and in April I got a call from (INDYCAR driver) Zach Veach talking about a (possible) deal with AJ Foyt Racing. I started the phone call with, ‘Hey, kid, I don’t sponsor race cars and race car drivers, but go ahead and tell me your story.’ I was trying to find a way to connect the racing community with what we’re doing on the golf side, so I got the idea that the golf tournament could sponsor the race car. The LPGA loved it, its commissioner loved it, (IMS President) Doug Boles loved it, and (current Penske Entertainment President & CEO) Mark Miles was very supportive. We talked on Friday, and I called Zach on Monday and said, ‘Hey, kid, you’re going to the show!’ To show what I knew about racing at the time, when I first talked to Larry Foyt, I said I don’t care about what happens on Race Day (in 2017), just make sure that car is at the golf course in August. Of course, the (Foyts) were very nice, and it was a great experience. That’s what kicked everything off, and three days after the race Michael called me to say he wanted Zach back on his team as he had grown up (with that team in the junior categories). Cassidy was working with Octagon – a sports management company – and I needed all the help I could get. (Octagon) realized that Cassidy was a big INDYCAR fan as her dad had sponsored cars (Simona de Silvestro at KV Racing Technology). I like to joke that in the early days if I were to speak about (INDYCAR) and acting like I knew what I was talking about, she was my earpiece telling me what to say and I was just repeating it, not having any idea if it was correct or not.
Question: Growing up in Muncie, how much did you know about the ‘500’ and IMS?
Towriss: Not as much as you’d think because everything in Muncie was basketball and baseball, and the first Indy 500 that attended was in 2011. I sat up in the Turn 3 bleachers. I was playing golf the other day with the person who took me to that race, and I told him, ‘This is all your fault.’ We had a laugh about that.
Question: How much of your work time each week is focused on motorsports?
Towriss: It’s probably approaching 30 percent – it’s a significant amount – and some weeks it is more than that. I think the plan with Andretti Global is to be in every major motorsport series on the planet, so there are a lot of things happening, and we’re in a lot of series in addition to INDYCAR. We’ve got the partnership with Wayne Taylor that we put in place last fall with sports cars. So, yeah, there are a lot of interesting things happening.
Question: It would seem there’s a lot to keep up with.
Towriss: And there is also a lot happening here on the Group 1001 side, from Gainbridge to all of our other businesses that have gone very well even though it’s been a turbulent time with markets, recession and businesses shrinking. We’re growing both in terms of balance sheet and head count. All of our numbers are up, so we’re pushing ahead. It’s busy on all fronts.
Question: Where will you spend Race Day?
Towriss: Splitting my time between the timing stand and on (the 10th floor of the) Pagoda. We have about 100 guests coming in, and they’re excited about the race. So am I, obviously.