Taking Back the Track
By Molly Godby. Photography by JJ Kaplan
The Indy 500 is the greatest spectacle in racing. Two of your neighbors have joined the race, and so can you. While hanging out one night, they were discussing business ideas, like the entrepreneurs they are, and the idea was born. Jason Godby, a Zionsville resident, and Travis Tetrault, who lives in Carmel, have decided it is time to “Take Back the Track.”
And so begins the story of Cutters Race Team, or CuttersRT. Why “Cutters”? Well, any true Hoosier has seen the movie “Breaking Away” and knows how the term was used in the film when local Bloomington kids often were referred to as “cutters” by Indiana University students. It was meant as a derogatory term used to describe locals who worked in the limestone quarries in the area, and use of the term led to altercations between some IU students and some local kids.
A bike race, the Little 500, is put on each year at IU. Thirty-three teams made up of four individuals each race for 200 laps to crown a winner. In the movie, the university’s president invites a local team to enter because of all of the bad blood between the boys. To show their pride in who they are, the locals race in team shirts with the name “Cutters” on them. As you can guess, the Cutters ride to victory, showing that local underdogs can accomplish great things.
Godby and Tetrault have been race fans since they were kids and also love what the race has done for the city of Indianapolis. As Godby says, “When the Speedway is successful, it’s a win for the city and for the people of Indy.” And the love for the race extends far beyond the city or even the state of Indiana. People from all over the world are huge fans of the Indianapolis 500. They cheer on their favorite driver or race team. Families have made attending the race a tradition, and those who can’t attend watch with friends and family from their living rooms. Whether at the track or at home, they buy race merchandise, drag in their coolers full of beer and food, and wait in anticipation for the announcement of “Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!” Then the scream of the engines takes hold, raising goosebumps and cheers from the fans.
But Godby and Tetrault want to cause even more people to be excited about the race. They want to reignite old fans who have lost interest in the race, and to attract new fans who don’t know what they were missing. The corporations and the Speedway have done a great job, but Godby and Tetrault want more — more passion, more fans and more people involved. They also want to level the playing field so that a corporate CEO and a person with a regular job both have the same opportunity to play a part in the Indy 500.
This would seem an impossible feat to most. Traditionally, sponsorship means “big money sponsorship.” How can the average American stand a chance to be involved? The typical person has no chance to provide “big money sponsorship” of a car. The best the typical fan can hope for is simply to watch the race and see the cars and driver through the fences or watch the events at home on TV.
But what if there were a way to pool the money of all these fans so that they could put a car on the track? A way to level the playing field and bring the people of Indiana and fans all over the nation together as never before. To give the fans a chance — an affordable chance — to experience the race up close and personal.
The idea of crowd funding came up. With crowd funding, there could be a monetary goal that one team, CuttersRT, could set so that tens of thousands of fans could join together to have their car in the race. It had to be affordable for working men and women. But most important, the choice to become a Cutter team member had to mean more than a push of the button on a computer. A contribution to the Cutter dream had to be a personal experience like no other.
Crowd funding was doable, this they knew, but how could they take it to that next level, the level beyond mere fundraising. Godby and Tetrault decided to make sure that every person who put his or her money on the line would have the opportunity to say, “See that car? I sponsored it! My name is on that car!” Not only that, they want all Cutters to have the chance to do the things they have always dreamed of doing. To sponsor a car, to go to exclusive parties, to visit the garages and pits, and to wave their rally towels in unison as their car races past! This would be crowd funding for the pure fun of it. Above everything else, it would be fun. This would be the personal experience every race fan wants.
They worked countless nights to build a plan to make the dream come true. After a full day’s work, dinner with the family, and kids were put to bed, Godby and Tetrault sharpened their ideas. First things first. The plan had to include a car. They talked with several race teams. When they talked with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, that team got it — they understood the concept. They were excited about the idea and wanted to be a part of the movement that Godby and Tetrault were creating. SFHR was looking to help longtime race fans get “The People’s Race Car” on the track.
Sarah Fisher, a 25-year racing veteran, is an Indy fan favorite, having been voted “Most Popular Driver” four times in two separate series (Indy and Nascar). She also was chosen as one of “Indy’s Best & Brightest Leaders Under 40.” In addition to being popular and classy, she also was the fastest woman to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Not only that, Fisher was the youngest woman to ever compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now that’s a racing resume.
In 2008, Fisher decided to start her own racing team, Sarah Fisher Racing. This owner wanted to race her own car in the Indianapolis 500, but she was having a hard time finding sponsors. Willis “Wink” E. Hartman, of Wichita, Kan., heard about Fisher’s financial difficulties. Virtually out of the blue, Hartman wired Fisher the money she needed to qualify her car for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and they have been business partners ever since. Now known as Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, this team has enjoyed many successes, such as a podium finish in the Grand Prix of Baltimore and the fastest Honda driver times on four practice days at the Indianapolis 500 in 2013, finishing 14th in points.
On Feb. 3, CuttersRT announced they would be attempting to enter an entirely non-corporate crowd-funded car in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, with the help of SFHR. This car, with a driver yet to be named, will be known as “The People’s Race Car.”
Now it’s time to get down to business. These local, homegrown Hoosier boys are working to create a movement. Their $1 million goal is set and the team is calling on YOU and race fans everywhere to participate in the Indianapolis 500 in a way never done before. You can join CuttersRT and be an official sponsor of the SFHR entry, all for only $100. There are various sponsor packets available. Each packet offers different options for opportunities to participate in trackside events prior to the race.
Let’s do it, race fans! Listen to the sound of the engine, see your car heading out of the pits. Feel the excitement as your car takes the lead on turn four and heads down the straightaway. And as “The People’s Race Car” crosses the bricks at the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, be proud that you helped create race history.
To become a sponsor, visit cuttersrt.com. Visit them on Facebook at CuttersRT and Twitter at @cuttersrt.