Within sight of the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the two-acre lot immediately north of Dallara, manufacturer of the cars that run at the famed oval, a new race shop is taking shape.
Work on the new headquarters of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing began Aug. 22, 2012 with dirt moving. By late October, the exterior walls of the 37,000 sq. ft. (3,437.4 sq m) building were in place and braced. The 72 precast concrete panels, each of which weighs 35,000 lb. (15,875.7 kg) were lifted into place by an 85-ton (77 t) track crane. “We set them in three days,” said Tim McGovern, president of McGovern Construction Inc., out of Danville, Ind. “We recommended precast because it’s economical.”
But McGovern considers the project’s start date to be much earlier than August. “It really began two years ago, when I started talking with Andy and Sarah,” he said. Andy O’Gara and Sarah Fisher, husband and wife co-owners along with Kansas businessman Wink Hartman, have guided the project, working with McGovern and Blackline Architects in Indianapolis to create a state-of-the-art racing shop with details designed to impress sponsors and fans. McGovern was introduced to them by Chris Huser, of Lamping & Huser — a heating and cooling subcontractor he has used for 19 years, including on this job.
In February 2008, IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher announced plans to become the first female owner/driver — and the youngest team owner. The team has always ran an abbreviated schedule, but in 2010 they also fielded a second car for an additional driver.
After Fisher retired as a driver at the end of the 2010 season, the team fielded driver Ed Carpenter in 2011. He scored the team’s first victory that October at Kentucky Speedway. In December, Fisher announced a partnership with Hartman to form the SFHR team, with Josef Newgarden piloting a new Dallara in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
The team has been operating out of a 12,000 sq. ft. (1,114.8 sq m) leased building a couple mi. from the track. Relocating the team’s headquarters from rented digs in Indianapolis to their own building three times bigger on Speedway’s Main Street symbolizes growth, according to Mike O’Gara, team manager. “We’re not running more cars, but the team is getting bigger. This move helps us be seen as a more established team,” he said.
“The excitement in building a new shop in Speedway for SFHR is yet another step in becoming a top tier IZOD IndyCar Series team,” Hartman said.
The move helps the town of Speedway as much as it does SFHR. “Speedway wanted Sarah here,” said McGovern.
“We are thrilled to welcome Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to Main Street,” said Vince Noblet, president of the Speedway Redevelopment Commission. “Sarah saw the potential of the prime, development-ready sites located here on Main Street and has already created an excellent vision for her new facility that is directly in line with the goals of the SRC. The SRC, with Speedway businesses and residents, extend a warm welcome to our newest neighbor.”
Fisher’s new building is part of a major transformation of Main Street that includes a $10 million streetscape project and the new $7 million Dallara chassis facility, both of which were finished last year, and two big projects that broke ground in 2012.
The Main Street project is the first milestone in the town’s Redevelopment Area One and is part of a $500 million investment intended to breathe new life into 400 acres (161.9 ha) of multi-use property. Funded by both private and public investment, the redevelopment zone is intended to foster growth of existing businesses and encourage development of new ones.
O’Gara said, “Sarah is a big pull, even though she’s out of the car.” He anticipates their new shop becoming a draw. “When people visit Dallara, they can come to us too. Main Street is creating a big buzz,” he said.
That buzz will be amplified by an outdoor entertainment area that was added to the plans in late October. “The plaza was going to be done in the future, but they just decided they want it now,” McGovern said. At the southern end of the building, the plaza, designed by Kruse Consulting in Avon, will incorporate concrete, exposed aggregate and brick pavers. During May a show car and possibly a simulator will be featured.
It’s one of the interactive opportunities SFHR will offer fans. Another is the Gallery, or gift shop, which will sit adjacent to the two-story lobby where two race cars will be suspended from the ceiling, almost as if they were art. A 6,000 sq. ft. (557.4 sq m) gym dedicated to fitness and restrooms with showers featuring ceramic tile will flank the other side of the lobby.
An entertainment and kitchen area will feature granite and Corian. Floors will be epoxy and interior walls will be dry walled. Exposed and iron railing on the stairway lead up to the second floor, which features a conference room overlooking the gift shop and offices overlooking the shop floor. The exterior will feature many windows and a brick front.
High-end finishes are being incorporated because of plans to make certain areas available to sponsors and rented for group events. “We are excited to handle most any size party or meeting needs for our sponsors,” Hartman said. “The new shop will provide our sponsors with a great place to become a real part of the team.”
“We’re using this building as a marketing tool,” O’Gara said.
The new facility has a more immediate purpose than marketing. Because they plan to bring as much work in-house as possible, the $3 million shop will feature space for composite and paint departments, allowing the team to perform carbon fiber repairs and change the color of the car from race to race. There also will be a machine shop, complete with a CNC machine to make more parts in-house. “That allows us more control over quality and timelines,” O’Gara said. “It also protects our ‘industry secrets.’ The more you send stuff out, the more eyes that see it.”
“The new shop will allow SFHR to control most aspects necessary to win, including engineering, service, an expanded machine shop, paint and composites, a family-friendly home-style kitchen …” said Hartman.
Work is a little behind schedule due to permit issues, according to O’Gara. They also had to deal with some soil contamination, said McGovern. SRC cleaned that up and environmental checks are good to go.
Nevertheless, these minor issues pushed back the deadline a couple times. “We had hoped to be in by January,” O’Gara said. “We’re shooting for May now. We’d love to have a May party at the shop.” More immediate goals include getting the roof on by Thanksgiving. “Our goal is to make progress over the winter.”
McGovern believes he can beat that deadline. The 12,000 sq. ft. (1,114.8 sq m) asphalt parking lot is done. The footers are done. “Once we get the roof on, we’re good to go,” he said. Three trucks brought 20 tons (18 t) of steel for columns and bar joists in late October and by the end of the month, he expects to have the roof on. Then the crew can get to work on interior finishes, including pouring 200 cu. yd. (153 cu m) of concrete for the floor plus an additional 5,000 sq. ft. (464.5 sq m) of concrete for the semi turn-around area just outside the large bay doors. “If the weather is good for the next three weeks, we’re home free.”
In fact, they’ll hit their schedule deadlines, barring bad winter weather and any unexpected surprises. There haven’t been any so far. “We worked on the plan so long, there were really no surprises.” McGovern said.
Already, Fisher’s fans are excited about the new building. So far, according to McGovern the biggest challenge was closing the sidewalk to keep onlookers safe.
Their enthusiasm is shared. “We couldn’t be more excited for all the different layers of impact the new facility will bring to SFHR,” said Fisher. “It will be a tremendous asset to us on the competition side, enabling in-house development of many of our current procedures. The new facility also will bring the opportunity to interact with our fans one-on-one with a retail and experiential area open to the public.