“The reality is it is very difficult to attract (IndyCar engineering and crew) talent outside of Indianapolis," Bobby Rahal said. “Everybody is dug in there, they have families, they have kids in school, wives that work, and to ask them to move to Ohio, it’s tough."
The team’s championship-winning BMW effort in the American LeMans Series is still based in the Hilliard shop. But when Rahal rolled his company’s IndyCar effort out of semiretirement this past winter, he opted to take it to where the skilled labor was.
“You look at stock car racing. If you have a NASCAR team, you’re in the Charlotte (N.C.) area," Rahal said. “If you have an IndyCar team, you’re in Indy."
Tax breaks and other incentives for motorsports teams offered by Indiana and the local municipality helped persuade Rahal to make the move, but he only was joining the crowd.
“Economically, there are some definite benefits," Rahal said. “But the big thing is that’s where the talent pool is."
Of the teams prepping for Saturday’s run for the pole for the Indianapolis 500, only three base their full-time operations elsewhere. Roger Penske’s team consolidated its NASCAR and IndyCar efforts in a huge shop in Mooresville, N.C., in 2006. A.J. Foyt’s team is still located in the Houston area, and Dale Coyne Racing is in Plainfield, Ill.