In their own words: Taylor Kiel, President, Arrow McLaren SP
This is the biggest motorsport event in the world and the marquee event of our racing series, one of the three races, alongside the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix known as global motorsport’s Triple Crown.
Personally, there is nothing like the Month of May in Indianapolis.
I have a ton of memories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from when I was a kid. However, my first Indy 500 was before I can remember, at six months old, when my mom brought me to the race in 1986.
Our family lived on the west side of Indianapolis, I went to high school four miles from the Speedway and I graduated from Indiana University. My mom worked for Bell Helmets and my stepdad works at Chip Ganassi Racing, so I vividly remember being at the Speedway, being a part of the event and sitting in the stands behind pit lane when Arie Luyendyk sat on pole in 1993.
In retrospect, man, what a cool time to be around in the early 90s which was very much the heyday of Indy car racing and the Speedway. I used to sit in the Bell Helmets suites, where the Gasoline Alley suites are today. A lot of drivers would come in trying to fulfill their helmet needs, and I never thought twice about it.
Being a part of the paddock, I think, is what really grew my love for the sport. Meeting the people, being around that environment at the racetrack just reminds me of how close knit this paddock is. Even though you are competing on track, the family atmosphere made me want to be here all the time.
After graduating from Indiana University, I needed a job. This was during the 2007-2009 period when jobs were hard to come by for everyone.
So, here I am, fresh out of business school and just trying to get my foot in the door at a race team. I interviewed at three places: Vision Racing, which was expanding, Andretti and lastly with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
Admittedly, what I wanted to do is work on an INDYCAR team to do pit-stops, be on TV, and all the other cool stuff you think about when you are younger. But, for whatever reason, those didn’t work out and I went in to interview with Arrow McLaren SP and sat down with the team manager at the time, Chris Griffis.
They called me back later that afternoon and asked when I could start. The rest is history.
Since I started, I can confidently say that I’ve been a janitor, driven a truck, been a mechanic, crew chief, and a car manager. I’ve done basically everything that you can do for a race team.
Day after day, and still to this day, I’ve tried to put myself in a position to never be too proud to ask a question.
Even today, being President of Arrow McLaren SP, I still go out on the shop floor to ask people questions to stay in touch with what’s going on, learn what people are dealing with and potentially struggling with, and know what’s going well. That way I learn something every day, and I think that was something instilled in me at a very early age as a person, but also professionally.
One thing I was told early on was, ‘keep your mouth shut and keep your eyes and ears open and you’ll figure it out.’
It’s all about absorbing as much information as you can, and that’s what those early days were for me. One of the best lessons I have was a small one. One of the more experienced mechanics gave me a 10-gallon bucket of bolts and told me to sort them based on size and shape. What that forced me to do, even though it took me like a week, was effectively teach me about hardware and bolts.
An important part of any job, I’d say, is you need to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
I came into this team and worked under a team manager in Chris Griffis that, at that time, had 20 years in the sport and had been a mechanic his entire life.
He was very humble, unassuming and worked his butt off. I think starting your career with someone like that teaches you some of the foundational aspects of what, in my opinion, creates a great professional. That includes: great work ethic, pride in your work, professionalism, and doing the little things right. He taught me that daily.
None of this would’ve been possible without somebody really helping me and caring about my success.
Indianapolis is the true measurement of car preparation and speed, while the championship is the measurement of a team over the course of an entire season.
To win the Indy 500 is second-to-none, even more so than the championship. It’s obviously a huge target for us. The 500 has significant commercial reach and can do so much for a team from a financial and marketing perspective.
That doesn’t even take into account the legacy, the history and the immortality of an Indy 500 win. Those things are what legends are made of.
This one moment on the schedule is the most pressure, anxiety and stress that you’ll feel all year. Performing in these conditions is tough, but it’s what makes it so great.
Personally, I’ve grown up and dreamed about winning this race since I was kid. It would be life changing for everyone, including me.
At first, my total focus was on being a driver, obviously. Like who doesn’t want to do that, right? But, as time goes by, you start to become a little more realistic in your views. For me, I knew my parents weren’t going to buy me a go-kart when I was 10 or 11-years-old.
I was smart enough to know that if I wasn’t racing by then, I probably wasn’t going to be a professional race car driver. Now, as I’ve started my professional career, it’s been 12-13 years thinking about what winning would be like as a team leader. It would be absolutely fulfilling and would be one of the highlights of my life.
I’m a huge history and sports fan. When you combine the two, there’s only a handful of events that really capture the historical magnitude like the Indy 500 does.
Those events solidify legacies and create legends.
I want myself and, more importantly, our team to be a part of that. I also want our drivers to be featured forever on one of sports’ greatest trophies.
I want to look back on my career, hopefully in a number of years, and think, ‘Man, we were able to experience that and achieve our goal. All that hard work was worthwhile.’
That’s why this spectacle is so important. It’s something much bigger than me, it’s about our team and about proving that we can do it. It proves that we are on the correct path and all of our hard work and sacrifice is worth it.
Because this team absolutely deserves it.