Hickey: Top 10 Accomplishments by Jay Frye
#InJayFryeWeTrust is a hashtag that was born during one of our episodes and it has stuck ever since. Jay Frye joined IndyCar in 2013 as Chief Revenue Officer before being promoted to President of Competition in 2015. His quickly established himself as a successful leader within IndyCar with his ideas and level-headed leadership, eventually earning another promotion to President of IndyCar right before 2019.
I made a list of my top-ten accomplishments that Jay Frye directly led or has been involved with since his elevated promotion in 2015:
10. Signing Laguna Seca, Richmond, and Phoenix
Yes, I know Phoenix is gone, and many are mad that Richmond replaced Pocono, but Jay Frye has still done a great job at bringing IndyCar back to venues that have hosted them before. The racing and crowds at Phoenix were both poor, but to get them back to the table was a win. Replacing Sonoma with Laguna Seca was a huge win, as the finale in 2019 was a tremendous success. Richmond (I think) will surprise some people with how good the racing will be. IndyCar has not been back there since 2009. Frye’s connections really helped make these deals happen.
9. Bringing Stable Leadership in IndyCar
IndyCar has had some peculiar leaders over the years. Some were decent, some were not great, and some were straight-up destructive. Jay Frye has managed to buck the trend of self-indulged, egotistical leaders and has brought in a new style of leadership that the sport hasn’t seen for some time. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Mike Hull described Jay Frye’s best attribute as his “ears”, stating his listening abilities have made for fantastic leadership.
8. Replacing the Boston GP with Watkins Glen
In May of 2015, IndyCar announced a deal with the city of Boston to host a Labor Day weekend race in downtown Boston. The announcement was fraught with drama and was never going to end well. When Frye took over in November of 2015, the race was still on the books. In April of 2016, the Boston GP was cancelled for too many reasons to count.
Only a few weeks later in May, Frye and IndyCar had managed to turn a horrendous situation into a “win” for IndyCar. While Boston was and still is an embarrassing defeat for IndyCar, finding a replacement so soon and for that replacement to be a track like Watkins Glen was a huge success for Frye.
7. Stabilizing Race Control
Race control has been a contentious issue for many years. Inconsistent calls that often ruined race results has been a hindrance for IndyCar. Frye’s solution was to have two stewards instead of one, with Race Director Kyle Novak overseeing all elements of race control, and veteran IndyCar drivers Max Papis and Arie Luyendyk handling infractions and penalties (stewards). If Luyendyk and Papis were to disagree about an incident, Frye would step in and cast the deciding vote.
This new model has seen much more consistency in penalty enforcement, as well as the openness from Papis, Luyendyk, and Frye as far as what their expectations are each weekend has seen a sharp decrease in unnecessary drama during the race weekend.
6. Introduction of the Aeroscreen and AFP
In an effort to increase driver safety, IndyCar and Jay Frye announced the introduction of the AFP device that was added to IndyCars starting at Indianapolis and every following race in 2019. While this was a temporary fix to a larger problem of trying to keep drivers safe from debris.
Frye led efforts in conjunction with PPG and other vendors to develop their own screen. After some trial and errors, it was apparent they may need more assistance in developing the screen. I appreciate Frye taking a step back and realizing that rather than rushing something that may not work. Insert Red Bull Technologies, who introduced a screen that could fit to the IndyCar.
We are only in November and there is still a ways for the device to go before St. Petersburg, but so far, the reviews of the screen in the test have been really positive. Early signs showed the screen would not be a success. When Red Bull was signed, early delays and difficulties were encountered. Jeff Horton, IndyCar’s Directory of Engineering/Safety was let go by IndyCar, and one day later, a plan was in place to test the new screen. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Frye likely stepped in and saved the day.
The aeroscreen is a huge step forward in driver safety and, by all accounts (after the signing of Red Bull), testing has gone incredibly smooth.
5. Aiding in the Addition of New Teams
IndyCar long had a giant problem of only having a small amount of teams fielding a huge majority of the field. Since Frye has taken over, new teams have been popping up left and right. Current teams like McLaren, Harding Steinbrenner, Meyer Shank, Carlin, DragonSpeed, and Juncos, and associate teams like Thom Burns, Clauson-Marshall, Stange, and Belardi have all made appearances/re-appearances since Jay Frye took over.
Elton Julian, owner of DragonSpeed, said this of Jay Frye when it came to assisting his team starting an IndyCar operation (via RACER), “I have been in steady contact with Jay and he’s been super supportive with everything I’ve asked. I’ve asked him to make some formal introductions on the engine supply side because that’s going to be the best way to go forward in this process.”
Jay has and will continue to help the IndyCar grid grow, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.
4. Signing NTT as Title Sponsor
Verizon leaving IndyCar was a predictable yet disappointing loss for IndyCar. Without even missing a beat, Mark Miles, Jay Frye, and IndyCar landed a great company in NTT. The global information and communications giant brought optimism, a vision, and plenty of financial help to IndyCar. We’ve seen some great things happen already, including the reigniting of the IndyCar app to peak capabilities. This is a partnership that should lead to many successful years.
3. Signing NBC as TV Partner
Just like signing of NTT, landing NBC as the primary broadcaster of IndyCar was a huge win for Miles, Frye, and IndyCar. After many years of ABC handling the Indy 500 and a couple of other races, 2019 marked the first year of NBC broadcast almost half of the races including the Indy 500. All other races would be on NBCSN or another NBC affiliate. NBC is fully committed to IndyCar and racing in general and produce a fantastic broadcast product. This deal should help IndyCar for years to come.
2. Announcement of the New Engine Formula
In a dramatic shift to normative IndyCar behavior, Frye’s pursuit of a third engine manufacturer and the current climate of automotive manufacturer production led to the decision of introducing a plan for hybrid technology engines that is set to be introduced by the 2022 IndyCar season. The 900 horsepower mammoths should increase acceleration and top-end speed, while also helping IndyCar find a third OEM. Since Frye is leading the charge, testing should go very well. This is an excellent step forward for IndyCar, especially if it leads to a third OEM.
1. Introduction of the New IndyCar Chassis
Frye’s most resounding success was ditching the ugly aerokit cars of yesteryear and building a new, fast, entertaining, and ultimately beautiful new IndyCar that has wowed on and off the track. The Dallara chassis has been brilliant, and there’s really not much more to say other than thanks to everyone who got this one right.
Keep up the great work Jay #InJayFryeWeTrust