Hulman Motorsports CFO Jay Frye is leaving that position to become the new Verizon IndyCar Series President of Competition and Operations, as announced by the league last week. Frye starts his new job Nov. 16, replacing Derrick Walker, who tendered his resignation after two and a half seasons.
Frye had served as CFO for the league’s parent company for the last two years, but he has an extensive background around motorsports that will reach 25 years in 2016. That includes more than a decade in NASCAR with Red Bull Racing and MB2 Motorsports. He joined Miles on a recent media conference call to explain why he was a good fit for IndyCar’s most difficult – and most crucial – job and what his vision will be for the league.
“I’ve always tried to have a common sense approach to everything: don’t complicate what doesn’t need to be complicated,” Frye said. “Bottom line – I am a racer. I grew up in racing the past 25 years. Very fortunate to have a lot of great friends and connections in the motorsports world.
“One of the things we tried to think about was really just kind of top line goals, what we would like to do. It’s very simple. Be a sanctioning body that great racers and race teams want to participate in and are proud to be a part of. We are making great progress in that, but there’s still more work to be done.
“Another goal that we’d like to work on is harness the power of the paddock,” he continued. “We have a phenomenal amount of talent, knowledge, experience in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock. We need to tap into this on a more regular and consistent basis. We also need to build consensus with clear and defined goals for the league, which is something we’ll work on.
“We need to create more value for our teams. Smart and well thought cost containment initiatives. There’s many different ways to do that without affecting the great racing product we have. That could be schedule, testing days at the track, league buying power, work with our great partners, Chevy, Honda, Firestone, to offer efficiencies to the team.
“Then really a third top line goal would be race control as a whole,” Frye concluded. “Officiating for any league is a challenge, always has been and always will be. Every night on television you see some sort of debate on officiating. Even with instant replay and challenges that the coaches have, there’s still debate on whether the result was conclusive or not.
One of the things we want to try to do as a league is minimize the debate. What we can do and will do is this. We’re going to hire the best and most respected people to be part of our steward system. We’re going to provide the best possible tools and regular and consistent training to the officials and stewards. We’ll create a consistent platform where the infractions have a clear and concise consequence that the competitors understand and are aware of.”
What made Miles believe that his CFO was the right man to step away from the numbers and into the competition of IndyCar?
“I feel like Jay’s background makes him the ideally suited candidate for this position,” he explained. “He had an excellent 15 years or so at NASCAR and showed as a team manager and part owner that he knew how to assemble talent. While he is not an engineer and didn’t come up through the ranks of the mechanics, as team leader he showed that he understands the technical issues and knows how to pull all the ingredients together to field a successful team. I think that is exactly what we’re looking for here on the technical side of IndyCar.
“He also obviously, insofar as he was an entrant in NASCAR’s competition, understands from a particular perspective how race control affects racing. He has a lot of experience looking at the officiating of motorsport from different perspectives.
“Finally, I think he has enormous goodwill with the rest of his team members on our staff with whom he’s worked for the last couple of years and within our paddock with our sponsors, with Honda and Chevy, our stakeholders,” he added. “In leading up to this appointment, I spent a lot of time getting advice from team owners and others… I had a lot of opportunities to get input, and I think Jay is very widely supported and respected by our stakeholders.”
Frye takes over for Walker, who announced his departure in July and officially left IndyCar after the season finale in August. His stated reason was to pursue other opportunities, but his tenure had grown increasingly rocky with some questionable decisions from Race Control and the institution of a driver conduct policy that many fans and critics interpreted as an attempt to stifle criticism of IndyCar.
To make it a good transition, Frye will have to prove his own mettle with IndyCar fans. While the quality of racing was remarkable and TV ratings continue to be on the rise, race fans questioned a number of things in 2015, including the conduct policy and Graham Rahal not being penalized for a fuel nozzle coming off his car in Fontana, in a race which Rahal ultimately won.
It’ll be Frye’s job to hold up the standards, and hopefully he will be in the position for more than a few seasons and also help create some consistency at the top of IndyCar as it enters a highly anticipated 2016 season.
Replacing Frye as CFO is Rod Davis, previously of Davis Sports Marketing.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.