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Notes & Quotes: Indianapolis 500

James Schnabel, an employee of Team Penske, is working as the race engineer for AJ Foyt Racing as part of the technical alliance the two teams forged last year. Schnabel works with Santino Ferrucci and the No. 14 Chevrolet which carries the Homes For Our Troops red, white and blue livery in this year's Indianapolis 500. A native of Indianapolis, Schnabel, 30, lives in Mooresville, N.C. with his wife Mariel. We asked him a few questions...


How did you become interested in motorsports?

JS: "Since I was born, I was always in love with cars, and it slowly turned towards race cars specifically. My dad and I would watch racing on weekends and the sound of the 90’s/00’s F1 cars was like music."


What is your educational background?

JS: "Earned bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering and motorsports engineering from IUPUI (now called Purdue University). [Note on the Purdue website, Motorsports Engineering is described as: The perfect blend of engineering curriculum plus vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, data acquisition, and other motorsports-specific courses, Motorsports Engineering offers students a Purdue University engineering degree—right in the heart of the racing capital of the world. Purdue University is the only university in the United States to offer a bachelor's degree in motorsports engineering."

"Finished 3rd at the Purdue Grand Prix here, an endurance kart race where I drove for my school team. 55 qualify, 33 make the race. 160 laps with a pit stop for fuel!" - J. Schnabel

What was the first race you attended?

JS: "We watched every Indy 500 on TV but we never went to races in person. The Moto GP in Indianapolis is probably the first major one."


Have you ever raced cars yourself or had a desire to do so?

JS: "Not really… I did some autocross, some track days, but nothing wheel to wheel. In college, I did race KT100 karts for the school team. I have a ROK shifter kart that my coworkers and I take out and have fun with, but mostly just like to drive… don’t have enough time to commit to doing race weekends on my off-weekends!"

"Malcolm Finch in the kart, but this is the shifter kart that he and I own together." - J.S.

When did you start your career as an engineer in racing?

JS: "In 2014, I started as a engineering intern with Team Penske. I had a good variety at the beginning, working with IndyCar then DJR V8 Supercars remotely, then the startup of the Acura Dpi, then back to solely on IndyCar."

Schnabel was race engineer for the Force Indy team with Ernie Francis Jr. (far left). Next to Schnabel and Roger Penske is Rod Reid, the president of Force Indy.

Which teams/series have you worked in and please specify the roles you held there.

JS: "Team Penske since 2014 starting as a design engineer, then transitioning to a performance engineer. In 2022 I was the race engineer for Force Indy (Indy Lights) team with Ernie Francis Jr, and 2023 was also his race engineer at HMD Motorsports. During this time I was also Newgarden’s performance engineer for the ovals while training up the new performance engineer on the nuances of oval racing. Now I work with Santino as his race engineer and my job is to bridge the technical alliance between Team Penske and AJ Foyt Racing."


What is your most significant achievement to date?

JS: "Making the Fast 6 at the 500 this week was probably the most rewarding. From where we started the week to where we ended was a pretty impressive rebound, as a full team. Super proud of everyone. Special shoutout to the other 14 car performance engineers Adam Kolesar and C.J. Nielsen, and crew chief Didier Francesia as this is a rockstar group."

James shares a happy moment with crew chief Didier Francesia.


How do you establish communication with your driver?

JS: "Each driver is different to what they need. It starts with just listening to the driver and understanding where their confidence comes from. For some, it comes internally and some it is external. Drivers are just human and athletes – as a driver there are up and down days and times when you are filled with confidence and when you are down on performance. Learning the driver specifically is important as they all need something a little different to extract the performance. The car setup part just comes with learning how the driver feels the car and how he needs to feel to extract lap time."

What are the biggest challenges of working in the INDYCAR Series?

JS: "The pace of the schedule is difficult for everyone, especially April – July. Keeping sane during that period is important! Off days are pretty far between in that period and you miss your family."


What do you think are the most important characteristics a race engineer needs to succeed in IndyCar?

JS: "To understand that you are not just an engineer! You are a leader, a decision maker, a physiologist, a driver coach, etc…. you also do some car setup which is the easier part."


What do you enjoy most about working in the INDYCAR?

JS: "The competition level is so high. The number of entries that have a realistic chance of winning each week is what makes it so exciting. It’s so common to be good one week and struggle the next, that I think the challenge of being competitive everywhere you go is quite exciting."


Which track is your favorite and why?

JS: "Hmm, Long Beach, St Pete, Toronto and Road America are probably the most fun outside of the track. There are lots of fun ones on the schedule, really. All of these have great weather which is a bonus. Road America is such a cool circuit to see Indy cars stretching their legs on."


Schnabel (far right) with his Team Penske coworkers Luke Mason, Malcolm Finch, Artie Carpenter at PGA West, a golf course they went to the Wednesday before the Thermal Club race this year.

What interests do you have outside of racing? How do you spend your spare time?

JS: "Karting, golfing, and working around the garage are the most common ones. A friend and I have a 125cc shifter kart that we take to Trackhouse Motorplex and rip around on, and we are often found golfing on days off as well. If we get free weekends, I like to go to the next town over with my wife and we go to our favorite BBQ restaurant for Saturday lunch, and we meet up with friends there."

James with his wife Mariel in Alaska, his "new favorite state."


What are your top 3 Bucket List items?

JS: "Ticked off one of them by visiting all 50 states after going to Alaska this past year, which is my new favorite state, so my next two are:

•          Visit all of the US National Parks

•          Go to the Isle of Man TT ('Tourist Trophy' motorcycle races) and Goodwood Festival of Speed."


What is the best advice you've received?

JS: "You only get out of this what you are willing to put into it. You can’t expect results without putting in the work, and there are no long-term shortcuts. Shortcuts at the time may save you some time, but absolutely hurt you in the long run. Do it right, or you’ll do it twice!"

The Homes For Our Troops fund-raising campaign has hit the halfway mark to the $4 million donation goal! ABC Supply donated the livery on the No. 14 Chevrolet to the organization which builds homes and changes lives for severely injured post-9/11 Veterans.

A.J. FOYT will attend his 70th Indianapolis 500 this year after watching his first 500 from the grandstands in 1955. Foyt's first year as a driver was 1958 when he qualified 12th in the Dean Van Lines Offy and was the fastest rookie. He finished 16th after a water hose on his car broke on lap 149 causing him to spin and hit the wall. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of his team's last visit to the Brickyard's Victory Circle when Kenny Brack won in 1999.

 A.J. Foyt, Survivor, Champion, Legend, Volume I, the biography of one of the most dynamic personalities in motorsports, is scheduled for a Fall release. The 620-page book is filled with stories from Foyt, his family, his friends, fellow competitors and the titans of auto racing. Author Art Garner, who wrote the critically acclaimed Black Noon, conducted extensive interviews and poured through decades of newspapers, magazines, books and videos to chronicle the struggle and success of Foyt's amazing career. Volume I begins with the Foyt family tree's roots in Europe, then weaves  through A.J.'s childhood in Houston and his incrediblecareer ending with the 1977 season. With a foreword by Mario Andretti, one of Foyt's fiercest rivals on the track, this book will surprise and delight sports fans across generations. The book is available for pre-order at


SANTINO FERRUCCI will start sixth in the Indianapolis 500 piloting the No. 14 Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet in which he posted a four-lap average speed of 232.692mph on Pole Day. Ferrucci has finished in the top 10 in all five of his Indy 500 starts driving for three different teams. He is the only active driver who has finished higher in 500 than he qualified. Joining Foyt last year, he qualified fourth and finished a career-best third.

How satisfying is it for you to make the Firestone Fast 6 two years in a row?

SF: "I think we've done an incredible job the past two years with our qualifying car, you know, the team has worked incredibly hard. And it's such a cool feat to really make it there back-to-back years and it really helps us during the race to be ultra competitive and run out front all day."


Last year you started inside row two and this year you’re starting outside two. How does that change how you approach the start?

SF: "Well, it's gonna be nice to be on the outside just because I won't get bottled up on the inside and get passed. So looking forward to it, it'll be interesting with Larson in the middle but hopefully we have a good run."


With the changes in the car due to modifications in prep for the hybrid engine, does the car feel the same in race trim as last year? Or did you have to adjust to a different feel and was that difficult to do?

SF: "Our car was definitely not as easy this year as it was last year; there was a lot more tuning involved and it wasn't just the modifications to the car. It was modifications to the tires to accommodate the car. And it just took a little bit more work to get it to be comfortable. But overall, we are in a better position. I feel like with our 'race' car I am more comfortable this year than I was last year with our 'race' car even though our Q car last year was quicker with raw speed. But you know with qualifying and race trim, it's always a little bit different. Qualifying you're on your own with everything that's going on, the car does have its own top speed which this year for us was a 233.2 (mph). We could not go any faster than that versus with our race car this year, I can run closer in traffic than I could last year and that's more due to the setup changes that we've made."


What is your favorite Indy 500 tradition?

SF: "The coolest track tradition is definitely the flyover. There's nothing cooler because we get to witness the flyover (practices) all week long because we live at the track or at least I do. But it's real different when you're in the race car because you can't see it coming. You just feel it because the Thunderbirds fly over us. It just shakes the hell out of the cars on the grid. So it's so cool."


Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25, turns 26 on May 31...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Married Renay Moore in January, 2024...Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013...Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018...made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh...13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500...drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)...Scored career-best finish to date with his 3rd place finish in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 to continue his string of consecutive top-10 finishes in the 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.


STING RAY ROBB joined AJ Foyt Racing this season. Qualifying 23rd with a four-lap average speed of 231.827mph in the No. 41 Chevrolet, he will be making his second start in the Indy 500. 

Having one Indy 500 under your belt, what are the biggest differences you’re experiencing this month of May?

SRR: "There was a lot to learn as a rookie last year during the month of May. With that experience, I have been having a lot more fun this year. Also, I have a lot more confidence this season compared to last. The team is strong, and despite not having the cleanest qualifying, we were solidly in the show so that we can fight hard on race day. "


Starting in the middle of row eight, there will be a lot of turbulence when the green flag waves. How will you approach the start?

SRR: "Well, we are in what we like to call the chaos zone. I'm sure I'll be very busy in the cockpit for the first stage of the race, until everyone settles in. My approach will be aggressive and smart. Everyone in this year's field is very competitive and rightfully deserves a spot to fight for a win. It'll be difficult to move forward in such a competitive field so we will have to be methodical and consistent.

Were you happy with the progress that was made with the car’s race trim setup from where you started this month? 

SRR: " To be honest, we had no reference for our race car until Monday, post-qualifying. So, yes, I guess you could say I was happy to finally get some time running on track and trying a couple of changes. There is still a lot more to learn and look at before race day unfortunately, but we have some good data and hopefully we will have a rain-free Carb Day."

What does it mean to you to be driving for A.J. Foyt in the Indianapolis 500?

SRR: "There is a pressure that comes with that name, but a very welcomed one. This is the event that people remember and this is the event where he left his biggest mark. Everyone on the team, including, myself, is excited to perform at high level to live up to the A.J. Foyt name."


What is your favorite Indy 500 tradition?

SRR: "The flyover is one of the coolest things on race day, along with the playing of the taps. I know the traditional answer might be to say "Back Home Again in Indiana" is the best part, but racing on Memorial Day weekend and honoring our troops and their sacrifice stirs the patriot in me."


Sting Ray Fast Facts: Age 22...Grew up in Payette, ID....Lives in Indianapolis...Engaged to Molly Mitchell...Began racing karts at age 5 winning several national titles over the next 10 years. His transition to cars began at the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout where he won the Bryan Herta Scholarship which put him on the Road to Indy and into the NTT INDYCAR Series at age 21. In his rookie season, he scored a career best finish of 12th in the season finale in Monterey, Calif. A devout Christian, Robb will be active as a spokesman for his sponsor this season. Off track, Robb enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, rock-climbing, golf, tennis, pickleball and basketball.


Past Performance in the Indy 500: Ferrucci has competed in five Indianapolis 500s and has finished in the top 10 in all of them. His best finish in the 500 is third in 2023. Robb is making his second start in the Indy 500 and first with AJ Foyt Racing. AJ Foyt Racing has won the Indy 500 three times, twice with Foyt driving ('67 and '77) and most recently with Kenny Brack driving in 1999.


Peacock Streaming and NBC Broadcast Information: NBC's Peacock will stream Carb Day's (Friday) practice from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. The 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on NBC with race coverage starting at 11 a.m. and will be streamed on Peacock and INDYCAR Live. All times are Eastern.


Radio Broadcast Information: The Indy 500 will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 218 and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85, and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.

Four diamonds, four Indy 500 victories, One Legend.



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