People power: How Arrow McLaren attacked IndyCar hiring challenges to add its third car Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto debut Title 24 podcast

Arrow McLaren IndyCar team hiring started on the 21stst. the social media version of the corporate bounty hunter’s cold call of the century.

Kate Gundlach, performance engineer at Arrow McLaren, was browsing a sports car magazine a couple of years ago when she came across an article about Grace Hackenberg, an Oregon race engineer.

“I texted her on Instagram, ‘Hey I think you’re super cool, you’re really killer and if you ever want to work for IndyCar let me know,'” Gundlach told NBC Sports. “I’ll see what I can do to help you.” She’s like, “Absolutely.” ”

Gundlach passed on Hackenberg’s contact information to Arrow McLaren’s hiring manager, and the match turned out to be perfect.

At Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Gundlach and Hackenberg (a damper specialist who also works on pit stops) will begin their third year together in Arrow McLaren’s engineering department as the team enters its most critical season in an attempt to become a perennial championship contender.

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“Gracie is a rock star and she can do anything,” Gundlach said. “She is a complete unicorn and very hardworking. And I found her in a magazine and just contacted her.”

As in any industry, networking and recruiting are the cornerstones of motorsports, where success in the big leagues depends on both the driver and the car, as well as the countless people who back the stars and build cars behind the scenes for any IndyCar, NASCAR or Formula 1. .

And this is especially true during the season with the kind of expansion Arrow McLaren has taken for the 2023 season.

By adding 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi as a teammate to Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenquist, the team will use three full cars for the first time (and a fourth Indy 500 entry for Tony Kanaan).

Starting last season with 61 employees, Arrow McLaren’s payroll mushroomed in the off-season. By mid-February, the workforce had increased to 94 and is expected to reach at least 100 by the end of March.

Over the past year, the team has received tens of thousands of resumes—sometimes hundreds specifically for an open position—as they transform their staff.

Some of the new faces are at the very top.

Race director Gavin Ward, who oversees day-to-day operations as a direct report to McLaren Racing CEO Zack Brown, began work last July after serving as Joseph Newgarden’s chief engineer at Team Penske.

Staffing was a top priority at Arrow McLaren for Ward, who says he was “naive at first about how hard it is to recruit talent in the sport right now. So it was a challenge, but I am very pleased with how we managed to achieve success in a short period of time.

“It was a time of tremendous growth for the team, and most of that growth came towards the end of last season,” Ward told NBC Sports as many of the team’s new members ran past him with fresh details and data during the break. pre-season testing at The Thermal Club in Southern California last month. “And this is in all areas, both commercial and operational. Obviously, we are very pleased with what we have been able to bring together in hiring talented people at a time when talent is in short supply.

“We have an ethos that we don’t necessarily want to do things the way they’ve always been done in the IndyCar world. We want to bring out the best in the world of motor racing and beyond. Whether it’s capturing a cool mechanic from World of Outlaws and introducing him to IndyCar. We’ve done a little of that. We pulled the #1 mechanic from F1. In addition, we have really experienced guys from other IndyCar teams.”

The team was also aggressive outside of racing. The new hires come from Fortune 500 companies, big brands and other professional athletes – an eclectic list of former employers that includes Disney, SalesForce, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Rays, Republic Airlines and Boeing Defense, Space & Security (to name but a few). of them). ).

While building a broad hiring network is in line with McLaren’s progressive vision, Ward said it was also necessary because “certainly the whole paddock was fighting to recruit the best people.”

With sponsorship dollars on the rise at IndyCar in general, and manufacturer money pouring into competing series like IMSA and F1, it has probably never been more difficult to hire employees in US motorsports.

As in the US business world after the 2020-2021 Great Retirement, one of the biggest narratives in the race has been the difficulty of hiring and retaining strong staff since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the global workforce.

“It’s definitely not a rumor,” said O’Ward, who is starting his fourth season driving the No. 5 McLaren Dallara-Chevrolet. “I feel like it was so hard to find people in all departments. From conversations not only with people from our team, but also with other drivers and friends, they say: “Dude, it’s hard to find people.”

“I trust the team. A group of responsible people that joins the team, I think they know exactly what we need and I believe that they will make the right decisions. To be honest, there was already so much talent in the group and I feel like a lot more has been added that will just help us really achieve what we want.”

Jody Scott, McLaren’s chief of staff, who joined the team a year ago from Anthem, Inc. (now Elevance Health), said there was no hiring target outside of motorsports.

“Our leadership team was just looking for the best,” Scott, who also worked at Stanley Black & Decker, told NBC Sports. “But we’re also pretty realistic in that you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul, so we won’t always be able to hire employees from motorsport and especially from other IndyCar teams. So we’re just thinking strategically about how we can find candidates with applicable skills outside of our industry, if possible. I think it also helps to diversify the talent portfolio we have inside and the opportunity to learn from each other and grow as a team.”

The team has drawn from a large pool of international candidates thanks to its affiliation with parent company McLaren Racing, a UK-based Formula One team that also posts Arrow McLaren IndyCar job openings on its website.

Scott said more than 50 percent of entries come from outside the United States, which has helped the team hire staff from Canada, Australia and England (including Chris Stafford, who left his position as Williams F1 team lead mechanic).

Arrow McLaren uses applicant tracking software to identify the most suitable candidates based on their background, education and experience. This helps reduce the number of candidates for hire by the executive team, which includes Ward, Competition Director Billy Vincent, COO Max Neuron, Performance Director Nick Snyder, VP of Marketing Mo Murray, and General Manager Brian Barnhart (Murray and Barnhardt also joined to the team). the last few months).

“We tried very hard to find the best and smartest wherever they lived,” Scott said. “This is definitely an exciting company to work for because the brand is well known around the world and it certainly helps in terms of hiring. We are not shy about hiring a visa candidate” who may need extra effort to obtain a work permit.

Due to the explosive growth and importance of computer simulation in racing, software development is now receiving the same attention as traditional mechanics once were. Ward noted two important additions from the world of big data and analytics to data and strategy: Michael Gethers (from Salesforce) and engineer Eric Hestekin (from Boeing Defense).

“If you want to build a powerful racing team, software is very, very important,” Ward said. “When you invest in software, you are investing in the efficiency of many of your people. From the very beginning, it was a top priority for me to try to get myself in order. It doesn’t happen overnight. To be honest, this team comes from the humble world of IndyCar. Obviously we have the resources to draw on and the general knowledge of the larger McLaren Racing group. But there are teams in this paddock that have been investing heavily in software for a decade, and now you want to catch up in a year. It requires some investment.”

Arrow McLaren was known as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports before McLaren gradually became the main owner in mid-2021. Since then, the IndyCar team has been integrated with the operations of McLaren Racing F1, which has naturally led to some growth issues. During a recent episode of his ‘Off Track’ podcast, Rossi noted that the heat tests had some difficulty as the IndyCar team learned to interface with McLaren’s software systems in England.

“We have all these new people, all this new equipment,” Ward said. “We have a lot of new things that we are now teaming up and figuring out how to work together and build on processes. But also building a racing team car that can develop all year round rather than racing in the season and developing in the offseason.

“Now we are not where we would like to be, but this is normal. This is racing. No one will ever say that we figured it all out. The process is always painfully slow, but then when you look back over a longer period of time, you think, “Oh hey, we did a hell of a lot.” ”

Arrow McLaren’s organizational hierarchy was restructured last year. taylor keel’s departure (who left to become Ganassi’s team manager). The role of President of the Kiel team was essentially divided between Ward…


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