Come Sunday, veteran race mechanic and strategist Andy O’Gara is going to have a busy day.
But compared to his other business ventures, it’s going to be an easy one.
O’Gara, a 2002 Roncalli graduate and racing jack of all trades, is calling the race strategy for Dreyer & Reinbold racing driver Ryan Hunter-Reay during the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
It’s without a doubt one of the most important jobs on race day.
While Hunter-Reay is battling 32 other drivers on the track for the win, O’Gara and his crew are taking on 32 other race strategists, engineers and crew — and just as Hunter-Reay’s moves and passes are important, so are the decisions on when to come in for a pit stop and when to stay out, all the while rolling the dice on fuel, aerodynamic and tire decisions.
“I’m the main communicator with (Ryan) throughout the month,” O’Gara said. “On race day, I work with the engineer and call tire and fuel strategy, and we try to do the best we can with the scenarios that are given.”
A tricky decision in that an early call on green could put your team a lap down should a yellow come out. Making the decision late could cause your driver to run out of fuel.
It’s not only speed that wins, but the right calls and random chance.
The race, however, can be less complicated than qualifying.
When Hunter-Reay qualified 18th for the race last weekend, the tension on the Dreyer & Reindbold Racing team was released like air out of a Firestone racing tire.
“(Qualifying) was so stressful,” O’Gara said. “The guys on the team work so hard to build the fastest race car possible and anything can happen when you’re trimmed out at Indy. So it was nice to get to the end.
When race day comes everything is in front of you and it’s happening live, and you make the best decisions you can at that time.
“It becomes fun again.”
O’Gara got his start racing by following in the footsteps of his father, John.
The elder O’Gara began in 1980, working on the late Tim Richmond’s car. Moves to A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers and Team Menard were next. Andy watched his dad and, like many sons, decided to follow his father in the same business.
Andy began with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the Indy Racing League. It was in the IRL that O’Gara met his wife, race car driver and team owner Sarah Fisher.
Fisher had the highest finish for a woman in the IRL when she took second at the 2001 Infinity Grand Prix in Homestead, Fla.
After marrying in 2007, O’Gara and Fisher, established Sarah Fisher Racing, where O’Gara spent most of his career until a 2015 merger with Ed Carpenter Racing. O’Gara, like his father, also worked with Foyt.
And while Sunday’s Indy 500 race will be the 24th for O’Gara, racing isn’t his only passion. Along with Fisher, he owns and operate O’Gara Enterprises, a multi-business company that includes Speedway Indoor Karting, Business Art Designs, O’Gara’s Irish Pub in Beech Grove, Metal Fabrications Plus and the nationally known Whiteland Raceway Park.
“We started Speedway Indoor Karting in 2016 and then bought Whiteland Raceway Park in 2018,” O’Gara said. “We revamped it and finished a multimillion-dollar expansion there. On top of that, we’re trying to establish a foothold for industries that we utilize within motorsports as a whole.”
And they juggle family life, too, with two children.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s also the “other” race team they direct, which runs on the short ovals of the Midwest.
“We have two USAC midgets, one USAC sprint car, one USAC Silver Crown car and one USF2000 car, so we’re busy racing those non-stop as well,” O’Gara said.
May might be busy for O’Gara, but so is the rest of the year. For now, though, concentrating on Sunday is the focus.
“(Qualifying) was a good day,” O’Gara said. “We missed it a little bit, but we’re happy with where we are.
“Ryan’s won from back there before. We’re confident.”
IF YOU GO
When: Sunday, 12:45 p.m. (gates open 6 a.m.)
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Tickets: $45 general admission; reserved seats $65 and up
TV: NBC (blacked out locally)